The Bookwallah: A unique train journey for Australian and Indian authors

“The Bookwallah, the first roving writers’ festival in India, is an exciting initiative which will see Australian and Indian authors travel 2000 km across west and south India by train” said Mr Peter Varghese, Australian High Commissioner to India.

“Literature builds strong cross cultural understanding between people from different backgrounds,” added Mr Varghese.

“As they travel across a wide swath of India, these five talented writers will engage with different audiences, from students to writers, learning about each other and the audiences they interact with” said Mr Varghese.

The Bookwallah will take the writers, and an ingenious travelling library, through Indian cities and towns in search of stories, conversations and connections.

The Australian travellers are Kirsty Murray, a successful author of nine novels including The Lilliputians, a gripping true story set in India, Australia and Southeast Asia in 1910; and writer, journalist and media personality Benjamin Law, whose work is published in books, magazines and websites in Australia and worldwide.

The Australians will be joined by Indian poet Sudeep Sen, named by BBC Radio as ‘one of the finest younger English-language poets in the international literary scene’; novelist and literary critic Chandrahas Choudhury, whose novel Arzee the Dwarf was shortlisted for the Commonwealth First Book Award; and journalist and fiction writer Annie Zaidi, author of Known Turf, short-listed for the Vodafone Crossword book awards (non-fiction, 2011).

The writers are accompanied by some unique luggage: a portable, pop-up library. Veteran Indian designer Soumitri Varadarajan and emerging Australian designer Georgia Hutchinson have created a series of exquisite custom-made suitcases that open and transform into bookcases, filled with hundreds of new Australian books. Part library, part art installation, visitors can browse, sit and read, or take part in intimate library events. Books from the library will be donated to universities and local libraries along the way.

The Bookwallah is touring India as part of Oz Fest, the biggest Australian cultural festival ever staged in India, and is organised by Asialink’s International Writing Program at the University of Melbourne.

The tour begins at the Literature Live! Mumbai LitFest, stops in Goa at Literati bookshop and the Bangalore Literature Festival, before heading to Chennai and finishing more than 2000 km away on the coast in Pondicherry.

Bookwallah will visit the following cities:
Mumbai 31 October – 4 November
Goa 5 – 7 November
Bangalore 8 – 13 November
Chennai 14 – 16 November
Pondicherry 17 – 21 November

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