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India

‘India at 70’ at the London Book Fair, 2017

March 22nd, 2017 by Kanika Praharaj | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on ‘India at 70’ at the London Book Fair, 2017
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14th March, 2017: It’s my birthday and I’m at the London Book Fair. I am also nursing a horrible headache. I make my way to the English PEN Literary Salon for what is the first seminar I will be attending at the LBF. Friends and classmates OtienoKatharina, and Lenka come along with me. I sit up front and psych myself up for what I think will be a drab discussion. Boy, am I wrong.

Chaired by Jonathan Morley, the ‘India at 70’ seminar had doctoral researcher Somrita Ganguly, writer and activist Bidisha Mamata, poet Mohan Rana, and translator and editor Arunava Sinha as speakers. The aim of the talk was to discuss the multilingualism that characterises India and the role of literary translation in the Indian publishing sector.

Mohan Rana started off the seminar by talking about growing up in one language and living in another. While he writes in Hindi, he believes that the translation of his poems opened up new worlds for his words. His poems have now been translated into Spanish, Italian, Norwegian, German, Dutch, Marathi and Nepali. He lives in the UK now, and is comfortable with “being a Hindi poet in a space that is totally occupied by English.” He then read out a section of his poem ‘This place is enough’, which is now available as a part of a collection in a bilingual chapbook.

Bidisha took the floor next as she stressed the need to “honour the variety of the world” and a contemporary Indian writing which panders to no stereotypes. She talked of the recent drive amongst Indian writers to write in Indian languages instead of privileging only English. She then cited the examples of writers such as Rushdie and Naipaul who write in English not because they’re trying to increase their readership but because their privileged upper-class educations have made English a language of their own. She also talked of the Indian writers of yore who are now being reclaimed and put back into the Indian literary canon. However, she warned against creating a new hierarchy that replaces English with a chosen few of India’s many languages. According to her, the question that needs to be answered here is “what do we want to say and how do we want to say it?”

Arunava Sinha then provided a history of the sub-continent and its languages, essential for those in attendance who weren’t that well-versed in the same. He pointed out the fact that India is extremely diverse when it comes to its languages and people and that it would make more sense to say the “literatures of India” instead of Indian literature. India makes for a large market for English language content, which brought in major international publishers into the picture. These publishers began by translating Indian writing into English, which isn’t happening that often now. According to him, publishing works with a more utilitarian perspective now, changing books into what he calls “book-like objects”. He believes that smaller publishers (such as Seagull Publishers, whom he works with), however, can afford to be more “whimsical” in what they publish. He finished by saying that English is a very convenient “bridge language”, which makes it the language that is generally chosen when it comes to translation.

Next, Somrita Ganguly picked up where he left off as she talked about the politics of the mother-tongue. English, she claimed, is her first language. While it is important to promote Indian languages in the country, it isn’t an act of betrayal if one chooses to speak in English. We need to be wary of the politics of assigning a mother-tongue to a child who grows up in a region where another language is the lingua franca, as many do in India. She pointed out that English is considered by many to be a “caste-less” language, which meant that marginalised sections of the Indian populace decided to opt for it instead of Sanskrit which they were not allowed to speak. English is no longer considered to be a foreign language in India, with plenty of upwardly mobile people using it in their day-to-day lives.

The session was brought to a close with Mohan Rana reading out another poem of his, ‘The Photograph’.

What all the speakers agreed on was the fact that a single, cohesive India doesn’t exist. Neither should it. The complexities and contradictions that make up the country make it a fertile ground for all sorts of writing and publishing to thrive. While we may not agree with all that the speakers have said, it is important to keep the discussion going. There is plenty of potential in the creative industry in India to fuel decades of successful publishing, if we choose to work towards fulfilling this potential.

Kanika Praharaj

Arundati Dandapani, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2011-12

October 6th, 2011 by Arundati_Dandapani | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Arundati Dandapani, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2011-12
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I hail from India, and hold a bachelor’s degree in English with minors in political science and writing from USA. I have interned in Washington DC, and worked in New Delhi and Mumbai for nearly four years. An MLitt in Publishing Studies seemed like the inevitable next step for someone who is not just interested in long copy, short copy or sales, but has a ghoulish appetite for the book as a commodity. What I love about University of Stirling’s Publishing Studies program are its integrated course modules, hands-on publishing projects, market research experiences, specialized IT workshops as well as the exposure to distinguished speakers and industry insiders. The diverse classroom @stirpublishing offers several opportunities to battle off different viewpoints and attitudes to book technology, media, and the business of publishing across a broad spectrum of cultures. I hope to gain significant work experience in the Publishing World before I open up my own little publishing house one day. In my spare time, I consult at a phone retail bookstore, blog about books and can be tracked in the classroom on Twitter. Other loves include long distance swims and fragrant foods. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn !