KARVAN: travelling the world through literature and poetry

By | August 6, 2014

New Guest post from author E. Dawson Varughese!

The author of Bloomsbury’s Reading New India doesn’t simply keep her world literature interests between the covers of her books. E. Dawson Varughese takes her literary arts installation the KARVAN to literary festivals, schools and libraries so that people can travel the world through poetry and fiction.

In July, the KARVAN went to the Poetry International Festival at the Southbank Centre in London. During the three days that the KARVAN was installed on the riverside, people travelled to Jamaica, Sri Lanka, Iran, Malaysia and visited mountains, forests, took city breaks and relaxed by the sea.

The KARVAN draws upon Emma’s love of travel and time spent living abroad as well as her PhD in World Englishes literature. From the outset, Emma wanted the KARVAN to be participatory in nature and to get people reading outside of their usual fiction or poetry worlds. Often, we’re keen to read something different but we don’t know where to start and just as we might browse the internet for blogs, travel advice or pick up a brochure in a travel agent’s, the KARVAN acts as a space for advice and inspiration.

During the Poetry International Festival, a visitor asked Emma about her own favourite literary travel destination. A simple question to answer, surely? but she hesitated.  In India often and when not in India, she is usually reading India; it seemed obvious that her answer to the question should be ‘India’. Emma’s Bloomsbury publication, Reading New India launched its India edition in February this year with a series of university lectures and a book signing at Bahri & Sons, New Delhi. The book charts the various types of fiction which have exploded in the Indian markets since the turn of the millennium. From Chick Lit to what she calls Crick Lit, Indian graphic novels and ‘young India’ narratives, Reading New India is a journey in itself. But given that she reads, writes, breathes Indian fiction in English, India isn’t necessarily her chosen literary destination, instead she enjoys wandering the streets of Cairo with Mahfouz or Al Aswany, hanging out with the Chinese communities of Kingston Jamaica with Kerry Young or hopping into a dystopian South Africa with Lauren Beukes.

Literature has always had the power to take its readers to other worlds, people and cultures and Emma believes that World Literature is especially powerful in offering its readers new social, cultural and geographical encounters. The KARVAN literally takes itself to people to offer them this kind of journey. A 16ft caravan, renovated both inside and out, the KARVAN takes its name from the Persian: kārvān. Traditionally, this would be a group of people travelling together, experiencing the open road together, encountering the new, and often challenging together. The kārvān would embrace the changing landscape, unknown people and their trades, it would taste different foods, learn new skills and acquire languages from other cultures. In an echo of this ancient journey and related discovery, Emma’s KARVAN only asks that you have a desire to travel off the beaten track and to follow a compass which never settles for long in a single direction.

Welcome to the KARVAN: ‘together we travel’


Check Out Emma’s Book, Reading New India: Post-Millennial Indian Fiction in English

Reading New India Blog Post


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