The Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) was launched in March 2010 and has been a resounding success right from the start. Inspired by the first two KLFs (2010 and 2011), the Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) was launched at the end of 2011. The momentum begun in Pakistan with the KLF led not only to the CLF but also to the Lahore and Islamabad Literature Festivals (LLF, ILF), both launched in 2013, and the Teachers' Literature Festival (TLF) which launched in 2014. This momentum reflects the depth of our historical literary and cultural roots, and the great desire and energy in Pakistan -- irrespective of the city in which the Festival is held -- to seek knowledge, understanding, and creative growth.
The KLF and ILF are directed by Ameena Saiyid, founded by Ameena Saiyid and Asif Farrukhi, and produced by Oxford University Press. The KLF, ILF, CLF and TLF are open to all and free. The first of a kind in Pakistan, the KLF and ILF bring together and celebrate authors writing in diverse languages, genres and traditions. They feature debates, discussions, lectures, mushairah, a book fair, book launches, readings, signings, comedy, satire, theatre, music, and children's sessions such as storytelling, puppetry, painting, singing, and creative movement. Since 2014 the KLF and ILF have featured parallel art programming, curated by ArtNow this year.
KLF attendance rose from roughly 5,000 in 2010 to 10,000 in 2011, to 15,000 in 2012, to 50,000 in 2013 to 70,000 in 2014. In 2010 we had 34 sessions with 35 speakers/performers; in 2011, 46 sessions with 104 speakers/performers; in 2012, 62 sessions with 139 speakers/performers; and in 2013 we had around 129 sessions with over 200 speakers/performers (individuals and groups) in Karachi. This year we have cut back on the number of sessions, but still feature over 200 speakers/participants.
Three literary prizes are awarded at the KLF. The KLF - Coca Cola Prize goes to the best non-fiction book originally written in English by a Pakistani or Pakistan-origin foreign national, published anywhere worldwide, and it comes with Rs 200,000. The KLF Peace Prize which comes with 4000 euros is a joint project of the KLF, the Consulate General of Germany in Karachi, and the Embassy of Germany in Islamabad. It goes to a fiction or non-fiction book that promotes peace, tolerance and international understanding, published anywhere worldwide in any language translated into English, and written by a Pakistani or a Pakistani-origin foreign national residing anywhere worldwide, or any foreign national who is a resident of Pakistan. The KLF – Embassy of France Prize promotes fiction originally written in English. The author (a Pakistani or a Pakistani-origin foreign national residing anywhere worldwide) of the best novel or short story collection, published anywhere worldwide or self-published, wins an official invitation for a fully-sponsored visit to the Paris Book Fair.
Each year, the speakers / participants have been outstanding, including, but not limited to, the following keynote speakers: Shamsur Rahman Faruqi (2010), Karen Armstrong (2011), William Dalrymple (2012), Nadeem Aslam and Intizar Husain (2013), and the Indian historian, Dr Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of the Mahatma Gandhi (2014). This year's keynote speakers are Indian author Nayantara Sahgal, niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, and Zehra Nigah along with many other outstanding speakers/participants. We hope to see you at the Beach Luxury Hotel on February 6, 7, 8, 2015. There's no need to register in advance: just turn up!
"I attend a lot of Festivals, but I have to say that this one's sense of urgency and the desire of people to speak about literature, about politics, about their country, about their country in relation to other people's countries -- has been particularly urgent and necessary here. I felt a real buzz and a real excitement in this place. And if I wonder -- as all writers do every day when they get up and sit at their desk -- if I wonder what the hell we're doing this for, when you actually come to a festival like this and meet readers and meet other writers, you get a real sense that writing is important and that writers matter..." Hanif Kureishi in conversation with Susie Nicklin. Susie mentioned that Hanif had travelled back to Karachi after 25 years to attend the 3rd KLF in 2012.
"Different ideas and assessments emerged in every session. In a gathering of such gifted minds, the quality of discourse is sure to be high." Ghazi Salahuddin in The News, March 28, 2010, reprinted in Jahan-e-Rumi