Spotlight on Indian writers at Paris book fair
Books on India are displayed at the 27th Paris Book Faiir
PARIS, (AFP) -With Indian writers reaping awards and topping best-seller lists worldwide, this year's Paris book fair is putting the spotlight on the country's literary output. "Indian authors are based everywhere, express themselves everywhere, publish everywhere, and the entire world is beginning to take interest in this immense reservoir of talent," said Dominique Vitalyos, an advisor at the National Book Centre (CNL).
Some 30 Indian novelists, both from the diaspora and India, have been invited to take part in discussions on Indian literature during the five day fair, to March 27, which last year attracted 174,000 visitors.
Among those invited are Vikram Seth, a poet and novelist often cited as the star of India's new generation of novelists, who wrote "The Golden Gate" set in California, and "An Equal Music" set in contemporary Europe.
Journalist-turned-writer Tarun Tejpal, whose "The Alchemy of Desire" won rave reviews worldwide, will also be in Paris, along with Abha Dawesar, author of "That Summer in Paris" and "Babyji" (being released in French at the fair) and Shashi Deshpande, whose novels include "That Long Silence".
Western interest in Indian writers grew in 1989 when Iranian clerics issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his "Satanic Verses," said Marc Parent, a foreign literature editor at French publishing house Buchet-Chastel, which specialises in Indian works.
Readers and publishers alike, he said, then discovered contemporary Indian writers who differed with novelists from the post-colonial period.
Eight years later, when Arundhati Roy carried off the Booker prize for "The God of Small Things," both English-language and French publishers intensified efforts to find new Indian writers.
Interest grew even further in 2001, the year the Nobel literature prize went to V.S. Naipaul, and currently even small French publishing houses offer Indian works.
"There is a huge demand for foreign writers. Readers enjoy the narrative tradition, they want a good story, and that is part of the tradition of the great Indian novels," Parent said.
A French translation of Tarun Tejpal has sold 60,000 copies and the success in France of works by Vikram Seth and Amitav Ghosh testify to cultural globalisation.
"Writers from the diaspora (such as Seth) most often write about immigration, which is another reason why Westerners are interested in the books," Parent said.
Women are prominent among India's new generation of novelists, with Kiran Desai, 35, winning the 2006 Booker prize for her second book, the novel "The Inheritance of Loss" which chronicles several generations living in India, Britain and the United States.