Khadija A. Malik
Lahore-based writer Khadija A. Malik recounts her favourite moments from LLF 2023 in this photo essay.
The first time I saw Mr Abdulrazak Gurnah was in a line up of LLF heavyweights seated together at the Welcome Address marking the 10- year anniversary of the festival.
I waited with great anticipation to hear what he would share with us. The talk was titled Oceanic Journeys, synchronous with his writings about colonisation and displacement.
What he said about the role of memory still lingers with me weeks after. There is a sense of the ineffable when he speaks—I am as yet unable to find the adequate vocabulary to describe it.
The next day he spoke of his own experience as an immigrant, moving from Tanzania to the U.K. with his brother; his long standing association with his publisher Alexandra Pringle who moderated the talk; his writing process; and language.
These made me smile, but less than Mr. Gurnah did when he fielded the Q&A’s after both his talks.
Below is a sketch in the archives of the Museo del Prado in Madrid. This talk featured Alejandro Vergara Sharp, the curator of the museum. It stood out for me as a beautiful summary of how LLF felt this year. Aun Aprendo translates as “Still I Learn.” Humbling, as the words hang above the portrait of the ageing artist, Goya (1746-1828).
Alejandro Vergara Sharp, delivering his excellent talk facilitated by the Embassy of Spain.
This was another session that got my attention. Shahbaz Taseer shared the story of his abduction in his own words. The two images that have stayed with me are: how he had forgotten how to smile, and his cheeks hurt at the reaction of his facial muscles when he saw a small child —his captors son— after months of incarceration and torture; and how, after many months had passed when he was made to speak to his mother for the first time, he could not recognise her voice.
Marina Fareed’s talk was a delight. Writers, poets, and artists transcend national boundaries and speak of humanity as a united whole. Marina Fareed’s table appears to do the same, as it brings people from both sides of our complicated border together over a hearty home cooked meal.
Side note: Suvir Saran could not have been a more chat-patta moderator. Between the two of them, all of us in the audience felt the intimacy of a drawing room conversation
Before the festival ended and the delegates went home, I had the pleasure of sharing a meal with Mr. Gurnah. I felt a lot of disbelief at my good fortune. I knew Mr. Gurnah had written the Cambridge Companion to Salman Rushdie and I could not help steer the conversation towards that. “To be born again, first you have to die,” says Rushdie in his opening line from the novel that is his treatise on the immigrant experience. How could I resist leading with that as I sat next to this authority on colonisation and migration. I am happy to share that the conversation went very well and I earned this treasured image at the end of the evening.
I also got to know his witty wife, Denise Narain.
The gracious hosts, whose home is now a Pensieve for this cherished memory.