On the ground of the Park Mansions, Kolkata, the fourteenth edition of Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF) was inaugurated by Priti Paul, Director, Apeejay Surrendra Group in presence of Maina Bhagat, Director, Oxford Bookstore and AKLF and Anjum Katyal, Director, AKLF.
The festival was inaugurated with the unveiling of the 100-year logo of the Oxford Bookstore. Priti Paul, Director, Apeejay Surrendra Group said, “Today marks the start of our joyous celebration of books and readers in honour of Oxford Bookstore’s 100th anniversary. After being severely impacted by the pandemic, it is heartening to see Oxford Bookstore rebound to a healthy and vibrant state, brimming with book lovers and buyers. We intend to continue the centennial celebration of Oxford Bookstore throughout the year, and AKLF 2023 is a great place to start. The 14th AKLF will be a four-day literary festival that will feature the best in fiction, translations, poetry, cinema, history, mental health, mythology, gastronomy, dance, history, art, and culture. We also have a dedicated children’s literature festival, the Oxford Junior Literary Festival, for young book and reading enthusiasts. I hope that the 14th AKLF has an impact on everyone’s life in Kolkata and beyond and fosters a love of literature.”
On the occasion Maina Bhagat, Director, Oxford Bookstores and Director, AKLF said, “As the 14th edition of AKLF unfolds a yearlong celebration of the Heritage Oxford Bookstore’s Centenary, it is important to recall and record the iconic institution’s journey over the decades – a journey which reflects the life, times and rich history of our great city. Oxford Bookstore has enabled generations of book lovers, to bring the world closer through books, to express their own vision of the future at the bookstore’s various platforms, to celebrate the diversity and richness of human experience. It has enabled our stories, our culture, and our history to be passed on to future generations. You see, bookstores are dreams built of wood and paper. They are time travel and escape, Knowledge and power. They are, simply put, the best of places (Neil Gaiman). As it steps into the future, Oxford Bookstore continues to strive for excellence, and to be, simply put, the best of places.”
Speaking at the inauguration Anjum Katyal, Director, AKLF said, “I welcome you all to AKLF with a sense of hope and faith. I see AKLF, a festival of books, writers and ideas, as a space of hope for a more inclusive society, a space of faith in humanity’s ability to connect as human beings. Reading connects us across the world, across class and colour and religion, across history and geography, across time and space. . . . In celebrating 100 Years of Oxford Bookstore, AKLF celebrates the infinite and inclusive world of a true bookstore, which makes space on its shelves and in its heart for debate, dissent, and contrasting points of view; and which welcomes writers of every race, caste and creed.“
The inaugural session was followed by the session named “Much More than a Bookstore” where celebrated Kolkatans shared their relationship with the century-old Oxford Bookstore. The speakers were Anita Agnihotri, Dhritiman Chaterji, Jawhar Sircar, Sugata Bose, Suvaprasanna and Barry O’Brien.
There was a hybrid session regarding ‘Restore, Renovate, Re-use’ which was on the occasion of 100 years of Oxford Bookstore, a discussion on the value of built heritage with the Director of Alliance Francaise du Bengale, Nicolas Facino, Director of Apeejay Surrendra Group, Priti Paul and State Convener of INTACH Kolkata, GM Kapur. The session was moderated by Mukul Agarwal.
The Oxford ‘Para’: The presentation was on the revival of Park Street which was presented by Monica Khosla Bhargava, followed by Barry O’Brien (The Anglo-Indians: A Portrait of a Community) on Anglo-Indians, ‘Calcutta 16’, and the city. The session based on Park Street and its surroundings, with its rich built and intangible heritage which can be considered the heart of the city.
The inaugural day also hosted the international best-selling author Jeffrey Archer. “Jeffrey Archer Unplugged” saw the celebrated author in a virtual conversation with Barry O’Brien.
Poetry Café, a trademark segment of AKLF, began with “Verse and Converse: Poets in conversation, with readings” presented with IPPL was coordinated by Ananya Chatterjee, Nabanita Sengupta, and Sanghita Sanyal across three sessions.