New Passages: From Edinburgh to Kolkata

Last August we launched New Passages, a special year-long project commemorating the 70th anniversary both of Indian independence and partition and of Edinburgh becoming a Festival City, in partnership with An Lanntair’s festival of South Asian arts and culture in Stornoway, Purvai. As the next stage in this project, and in collaboration with the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival, the Book Festival is supporting an exciting creative exchange between authors from Scotland and India.

Following an initial writing residency on the Isle of Lewis in August 2017 – reflections on which you can read on this site – this month novelist Abir Mukherjee and poet Nalini Paul travel to Kolkata to work with two India-based writers: poet Sampurna Chattarji and novelist and journalist Sandip Roy. The authors are encouraged to creatively respond to items from the Mackenzie Collection, a rich and renowned collection of Asian art collected by Stornoway-born Colonel Colin Mackenzie during his time in India as its first surveyor general. Already this week they have visited The Asiatic Society to see illustrations gathered by Mackenzie, as well as South Park Street cemetery, where he is buried.

Travelling with the writers is our Projects Manager Casi Dylan, who writes back: “It’s such a pleasure to be here on the ground in Kolkata representing the Book Festival and our New Passages work. Developing New Passages has been a truly collaborative experience from the get go. Exploring the city this week, seeing sights like the incredible ancestral home of the Tagore family, Jorasanko Thakur Bari, supporting our Scottish and Indian authors in their residency, visiting local schools and participating in the festival, shows in vivid colour the lively, living connection between our countries and our cultures.”

Through the filter of this ancient art collection, and the current reflections inspired by the 70th anniversary, the authors will give new voice to the ongoing relationship between Scotland and India. What can or should be built as these nations continue to define and redefine their contemporary relationships?

Abir Mukherjee is the bestselling author of the Sam Wyndham series of novels, including the award-winning Kolkata-based debut, A Rising Man. The son of Bengali parents, Abir grew up in the West of Scotland and now lives in London.

Read Abir’s First New Passages Response

Nalini Paul was born in India, raised in Vancouver, and moved to Scotland in 1994. She is a 2017 Robert Louis Stevenson Fellow. Her latest pamphlet, The Raven’s Song, explores raven and crow myths from Orkney, Shetland and Canada.

Read Nalini’s First New Passages Response

Sampurna Chattarji is a poet, novelist, translator and children’s author of fourteen published titles. She is the editor of Sweeping the Front Yard, an anthology of poetry and prose by women writing in English, Malayalam, Telugu and Urdu; and co-editor of forthcoming collection What is Time: An Anthology of Contemporary Indian Writing. She is currently the Poetry Editor of The Indian Quarterly.

Sandip Roy’s debut novel Don’t Let Him Know won the APALA Honor title in the USA and was nominated for awards in the UK and India. He has been a longtime commentator for National Public Radio in the US where his audio dispatch from Kolkata airs weekly. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, BBC, the Telegraph and other major publications. He lives in Kolkata.

Time spent with the Mackenzie Collection on Stornoway during the first phase of the New Passages residency highlighted to me the continued and continually-charged nature of this relationship. Abir Mukherjee
They will present their initial work and impressions at a special event on Sunday 14 January at the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival, before returning to Charlotte Square Gardens and Stornoway in August 2018 to present finished work and discuss their experiences of the whole exchange.

Our Associate Director Roland Gulliver said: “I am delighted that we are embarking on this next phase of the ‘New Passages’ exchange, in partnership with An Lanntair and Apeejay Kolkata Literature Festival.

Being invited to be part of New Passages seems like two magic words came together, India and Scotland, enabling me to turn new keys that open secret doors into the relationship between faraway Stornoway and familiar Kolkata, between the colonial and the contemporary; a chance for me to investigate new links in “chains of circumstance and blood”.Sampurna Chattarji

New Passages is not only a reflective project marking 70 years of Indian Independence and of Edinburgh as a festival city: it is a forward-looking exchange which, through the filter of Colin Mackenzie’s ancient art collection, allows contemporary authors and artists to give new voice to the ever-developing relationship between these nations.

The Book Festival is always working to broaden access to such vital conversations. Building the work into our year-round programme of projects and events is an expression of this commitment to reaching new audiences in Scotland and beyond, whilst developing and deepening relationships with our partners, authors and artists.”

Follow us on Twitter for the latest updates from Kolkata: @edbookfest.

This partnership is supported by the British Council and, as part of the Book Festival’s Booked! programme of events, by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

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