Wednesday, January 24, 2018 | ePaper

South Asian writers are getting picked up by publishers

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Life Desk :
Gone are the days when readers would look up to international authors who had earlier set a benchmark for sophisticated literature. With Indians picking up more and more desi literature in English off the shelves, the sale of South Asian books has shot up over the decade.
South Asian writers, apart from harking their original, authentic and rooted voice, call for a diverse set of readers who not only relate to the regional synergies, but also crave for elegant storytelling. This is one of the reasons South Asian writing has increasingly become more popular among readers as well as publishers.
Bookshops across India and publishing companies report that readership for South Asian literature is constantly on the rise, making it one of the most popular genres at the moment, the sixth largest in the world and second for the English language.
Modern Indian literature: Mystic themes of hybrid identities
What makes the new wave of literature popular is the wide range of exotic themes unique to the geographical construct, such as, inter-generational conflicts, multiculturalism, religion, mixed identities etc. South Asian writers are almost shaping the psyche of present society and the Indian book market has tapped the opportunity well.
Mahesh Dattani, the prolific playwright of modern India, tells us in an exclusive interview, "South Asian writers are at a distinct advantage combining their writing skills with rich memories of lost ancestral homes or growing up in feudal villages."
Indian literary bigshots like Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Aravind Adiga, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Anita Desai, and others have all been accoladed in the international platform tremendously well. Their fan-following spreading across the globe testifies that people love to read about the real voice of people through a more authentic form of storytelling from the Indian subcontinent. India, for the white reader, is no more just the land of snakes, mangoes, monsoons and an oppressive colonial society, and we owe it to these writers for changing the dynamics.
Arundhati Roy's Man Booker Prize winner The God of Small Things spellbound readers with its linguistic charm and established a bar too high for international writers.
Pakistani literature: Human feelings encased in the socio-political milieu
With more and more Pakistani literary figures seen at international festivals and with their books charted as favourites by the international intellectual audience, it is certain that the scene for the Pakistani English writers has changed and for the better. Ajay Mago, Publisher of Om Books describes the scene of literary festivals as "extra-political, artistic twin-track diplomacy to keep a healthy exchange alive against a backdrop of political hostility".
Some of the famous Pakistani names among international honorary prize lists are Mohsin Hamid, Mohammed Hanif, Kamila Shamsie, S.S Mausoof, and Nadeem Aslam. Their writing emphasises on the pains and predicaments of belonging and longing, caged in the socio-political environment and dwells around moving tales of loss and diaspora.
Pakistani author Feika Mansab Jehangir, who also writes under the pseudonym, Zeenat Mahal, says, "People are hungry for stories that reflect their lives, their struggles and achievements. People want to get in touch with their roots and reclaim their identities through literature that has been neglected for years. Art is how we establish identity."
Author S.S Mausoof, the Pakistani-American author of The Warehouse , says, "Current South Asian writers circumvent the English Literature debate on cultural appropriation. Authenticity is much desired by the publication industry. And today's readers enjoy language vernaculars within the framework of an English novel from authors who craft their postcolonial narrative."
Mohammed Hanif's A Case of Exploding Mangoes received the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book Overall. A riveting thriller written beautifully, the book set an exemplary literary standard internationally.
Meru Gokhale, Editor-in-Chief, Penguin Random House India shares, "A lot of good writing has come out of Pakistan over the last decade or so, but a brilliant author can really pop up from just about anywhere. Talent knows no boundaries."
The 'local' flavour of Sri-Lankan literature
Blessed with a repository of stories and narrative techniques, Sri Lankan English literature has carved its robust niche in the global platform. The critically acclaimed South Asian writers like Michael Ondaatje, Shyam Selvadurai, Punyakante Wijenaike, Nihal de Silva, Ashok Ferrey, Romesh Gunesekera, and Naomi Munaweera, all hail from Sri Lanka and have well contributed to the immense success of Sri Lankan English literature.
Michael Ondaatje's Booker-winning novel The English Patient brought Sri Lankan literature not only to the international forum, but also got the global reader to recognise the country as an important literary source.
Sri-Lankan author Nayomi Munaweera writes, "South Asian writers are taking on a wide array of subjects and styles. We are versatile, we are vocal and perhaps publishers see that we have a great deal to say that hasn't been voiced yet." Her debut novel Island of a Thousand Mirrors won the Commonwealth Regional Prize for Asia and was short-listed for the Northern California Book Award.
The popularity of South Asian authors can also be accredited to the number of international literary festivals in modern times. Ajay Mago believes, " Starting from the SAARC Literary Festival, South Asian authors travel to the Jaipur Literature Festival, Times Literary Festival, Dhaka Literature Festival, Galle Literary Festival and many more. Literature festivals serve as extra-political, artistic twin-track diplomacy to keep a healthy exchange alive against a backdrop of political hostility,"
Bangladeshi literature: A tale of linguistic loyalty
A country where the struggle for nationhood was stimulated by the freedom of language itself, has a public holiday devoted to a moment of history, Language Martyr's Day. Therefore, Bangladesh, essentially, writes, publishes, and reads in Bengali. But recently, the scene has begun to change with several complex linguistic nuances at work. Bangladeshi English writers like Tahmina Anam, K. Anis Ahmed, Maria Chaudhuri, Shazia Omar, and Mahmud Rehman have emerged and are leading the way.
Tahmima Anam's trilogy, which begins with her debut novel The Golden Age , received the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book and paved the way for a more liberal linguistic front.
-TNN

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