City of Literature Kozhikode gets lit as Kerala Literature Festival 2024 begins 4-day celebration

Kerala Literature Festival 2024 is back for its 7th edition in Kozhikode, India’s first UNESCO City of Literature.

ByJoshua Eugine

Published Jan 11, 2024 | 9:00 AMUpdatedJan 11, 2024 | 9:00 AM

Renowned as one of Asia's largest literature festivals, the KLF organises a variety of sessions. It features veterans, professionals and new voices from diverse fields of art, media and culture. (Supplied)

On the sandy shores of Kozhikode Beach, tents have been erected and banners unravelled to welcome authors, delegates and lovers of the written word from around the world. From 11 to 14 January, the city of Kozhikode will revisit a beloved chapter of its recent history – the annual Kerala Literature Festival (KLF). 

Renowned as one of Asia’s largest literature festivals, the KLF organises various sessions. It features veterans, professionals and new voices from diverse art, media and culture fields. 

While Kozhikode readies itself to host almost half a million literature lovers, South First scopes out the highlights of this year’s event and the many reasons why its 7th edition is so special. 

Also Read: Kozhikode in Kerala becomes India’s one and only ‘City of Literature’

Meet the team

The Kerala Literature Festival is organised by Kerala-based publishing chain DC Books and the DC Kizhakemuri Foundation (DCKF), formed as a tribute to the chain’s founder, the late DC Kizhakemuri. 

“He was one of the revolutionaries of publishing in India,” shares Hitha Haridas, assistant editor at DC Books who is part of the organising team at KLF. 

The Kerala Literature Festival is organised by Kerala-based publishing chain DC Books and the DC Kizhakemuri Foundation (DCKF). (Supplied)

The KLF is organised by the publishing chain DC Books. (Supplied)

DC Kizhakemuri’s life was intrinsically linked with literature and politics. As a freedom fighter, he played a crucial role in abolishing the sales tax on books in the former state of Travancore.  

“DC Kizhakemuri was responsible for the paperback revolution in India and for bringing books to the masses,” Haridas tells South First. “That was the spirit that started DC Books.” 

The 2024 edition of KLF holds a special place in the hearts of its organisers as DC Books turns 50 years old.

“This year, we’re celebrating 50 years of a legacy in publishing,” shares Haridas. 

As one of the largest bookstore chains in India, DC Books has made significant contributions to the distribution of Malayalam literature, building a community of readers across the state. 

KLF’s annual gathering proves that this community has grown far beyond Kerala’s borders. 

Guests from across the globe

KLF has always supported new voices in literature and aims to promote inclusivity. Haridas says, “The pen can take a country forward by doing the revolutionary act of writing.” 

Recognising this spirit, KLF has chosen Turkey as this year’s guest country to celebrate its 100th year as a republic. 

Haridas states that literature serves as the window through which one can examine an era of any civilization or people.

KLF aims to promote inclusivity. (Supplied)

“KLF 2024 is focusing on Turkey its culture and Turkey-India relations,” she says. The festival line-up features cultural performances like the Sufi Whirling Dervishes and sessions by Turkish authors and academics including Firat Sunel, the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to India. 

“Literature speaks for everything. It is the books that make the conversation,” Haridas says, as she awaits a sea of bookworms that will soon flood Kozhikode beach. 

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City of Literature

In 2016, KLF commenced on the same sands where it is held today.

However, this year marks the festival’s inaugural occurrence in Kozhikode after the city earned its designation as a UNESCO City of Literature.

“Kozhikode was always a city of literature,” shares Haridas. 

This year marks the festival's inaugural occurrence in Kozhikode. (Supplied)

This year marks the festival’s inaugural occurrence in Kozhikode. (Supplied)

With a road named after Malayalam literary icon Vaikom Mohamed Basheer Road and a bust of celebrated author and Kozhikode native SK Pottekkatt resting at the entrance of SM Street, the city’s love for literature is one for the history books. 

“So many authors have come from Kozhikode and have written about its streets,” says Haridas.

“Kozhikode fits into all of these things perfectly,” she says. “The literature is just brimming here.”

Also Read: All about the two letters that make Malayalis swell with pride 

Festival faces 

Bringing the entire community together is something that Haridas and her team aspire to achieve. 

With almost 5 lakh attendees last year, the KLF is now a coveted festival for literature lovers across India. 

“It’s lovely to see this community grow,” shares Haridas, who has seen other such festivals emerge across Kerala.

The four-day-long KLF is a free and open event.(Supplied)

The four-day-long KLF is a free and open event. (Supplied)

“It’s inspiring to know that being one of the first lit fests in the state, we’ve helped others think beyond and overcome their restrictions to organise such gatherings,” she says.

The four-day-long KLF is a free and open event, witnessing people from different age groups and backgrounds in attendance. 

“The event is literally taking place on the beach. You can’t restrict people from coming,” laughs Haridas. Entire college departments from different states too have become regular festival attendees. 

Next chapter

“While there are many literature-based sessions this year, we are also celebrating debut voices,” reveals Haridas. 

Writers like Sohini Chattopadhyay, Radhika Iyengar and Devika Rege share the stage with veterans like MT Vasudevan Nair, Gurcharan Das and Shashi Tharoor. 

With a melange of cultures, backgrounds and experiences, KLF 2024 aims to bring critical thinking across generations together. 

“I think promoting good literature and new voices together are very important,” shares Haridas.

Moreover, KLF is laying the foundation for the continuity of this culture. The festival plans to host an award ceremony for the winners of their children’s novel writing competition.

This year also features a 4-day children’s programme conducted by actor Manu Jose and his team.

“We want to start the conversation going about the next generation of literature lovers and artists,” Haridas says.

Returning for its 7th consecutive year, the Kerala Literature Festival has firmly nestled itself in the hearts of both young and old bibliophiles. The festival stands confidently on Kozhikode beach, steadfastly testing the sands of time.

KLF 2024 will be held from 11-14 January at Kozhikode Beach. For details, visit the Website. Instagram @KeralaLiteratureFestival

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