This year, too, brings with it a healthy dose of journalism, taking it one step further, featuring those of the investigative journalists whose nonfiction books provide you with the best of the contemporary world
An increasing focus on journalism was evident at the Dhaka Lit Fest last year, offering insights into the political and social makeup of the modern world, with British journalist Jon Snow as one of the headliners. This year, too, brings with it a healthy dose of journalism, taking it one step further, featuring those of the investigative journalists whose nonfiction books provide you with the best of the contemporary world, revealing a world that is raw and real and yet verging on the fictional with its perfect balance of poetry and prose.
British journalist Ben Judah’s work has been considered Orwellian by many. Starting his career as a reporter for Reuters in Moscow, he has travelled extensively in Russia, Central Asia and the Levant, and has covered the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, 2010 Kyrgyz Revolution and 2011 Tunisian Revolution as a conflict reporter. Like Orwell, he has used his appetite for fieldwork to gain insight into the parts of society that are often overlooked and “othered,” and evaluate existing institutions with a heavy dose of scepticism. His first book, Fragile Empires, uses interviews with President Vladimir Putin’s friends, foes, colleagues, government officials, business tycoons, mobsters and ordinary Russian citizens to paint a vivid portrait of the current Russian political order. In his latest book This is London (2016), Judah delves into the lives of the immigrants living in the city of his birth, often travelling in disguise to blend in, and takes apart the utopian image of contemporary London of glittering glass and post-work pints in smart suits. His work has been lauded not only for its research but for the intimacy of his portrayals. He was recently chosen as one of Forbe magazine’s 30 under 30 in European media.
Bee Rowlatt is another writer and journalist one should be on the lookout for at the DLF 2016. Her book In Search of Mary is inspired by the life of pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who Rowlatt has described in her blogs as her hero and inspiration. Wollstonecraft was an intrepid traveller and journeyed to Scandinavia with her baby daughter and nanny in the 18th century. Rowlatt’s book is a travelogue of Wollstonecraft’s mission to retrace her childhood hero’s steps with her own baby in tow, and is full of humorous and insightful anecdotes on feminism, motherhood and emancipation. Rowlatt is not afraid to criticise her own privilege and positionality in the modern world, and her refreshing and enthusiastic take is reflected in her personal blog, which she describes as ‘feminism. But fun.’
In Search of Mary won the UK’s ‘Real Life Reads’ 2016 and made the Independent’s Best Biographies list. She also co-wrote Talking about Jane Austen in Baghdad and is one of the writers in Virago’s Fifty Shades of Feminism. She is a regular guest on BBC Woman’s Hour and has reported for BBC World Service, Newsnight, and BBC2.