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Posts Tagged ‘Vikram Chandra’

India’s Publishing Industry Grows up, Expands

Thanks to Kiran Desai‘s Booker Prize win, India has been getting even more attention of late. But not all their notable writers live abroad in places like London and New York, and its homegrown talent, the Guardian reports, is getting further due. But for those who have moved away, Nilanjana Roy, one of India’s foremost literary critics, can understand why. “For the Indian writer working in English, going abroad was one way to reach the marketplace, to lessen the very considerable distance between publishers, editors and agents in the west and the writer at ‘home’,” she says. “Vikram Chandra and Amit Chaudhuri teach at universities abroad; other writers have shifted because they have access to better jobs, more scholarships.”

But the Booker Prize has affected the future of Indian novelists. Arundhati Roy’s Booker prize win in 1997 sparked an interest in Indian writing which has led to many new publishing houses being set up. The fact that this year’s Booker prize winner is yet another NRI does not matter to poet and novelist Jeet Thayil. “There is no difference between non-resident and resident writers now. I see it as one body of work,” he claims. “If you are a 21-year-old writer living in some little town in India and you read everything you can get your hands on and really learn your craft you have every chance of being published in New York.”

And with the recent emergence of the Jaipur Festival, which has attracted expats like Desai, Salman Rushdie, and Sukethu Mehta to return (albeit briefly) there’s a sense India is really coming into its own, and branching out beyond literary borders. “I like the way that other literary genres have begun to open up,” Roy says. “Anushka Ravishankar does excellent children’s writing, Kalpana Swaminathan writes detective stories, Samit Basu spins fantasy Indian-style.” And maybe, English-language publishers will figure it out and publish them elsewhere…

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With this much marketing money, Chandra must be profiled everywhere

New York Times’ profiles of authors are following a particular pattern of late: take a big money deal (preferably seven figures), add a six-figure marketing plan and several easy-to-digest hooks, a youngish author who’s attractive, accessible or available, and voila! No disrespect to Vikram Chandra, whose new novel SACRED GAMES is getting mostly favorable reviews, but all this attention was pre-ordained and designed to save face. Because – repeat after me – this book ain’t making back the money invested.

With that out of the way, let’s turn to Patricia Leigh Brown’s profile of Chandra, who impressed with several years of research in Mumbai (though he lives in Berkeley now) where he met odd characters like a yoga-practicing vegetarian hitman. “They have the kind of power that can shut down a city, but they’re living in constant fear,” Chandra said. “So they construct a comprehensible moral universe for themselves. I asked one of these guys, ‘How can you justify murder?’ And he said, ‘Look, their death is already written,’ pointing upwards. Murder in their view is part of the divine play of the Lord.” And somehow, I’m not surprised to hear that Chandra, like so many authors, started out with a love of science-fiction and other forms of geekery. “I was a nerd, to put it bluntly,” he said. “I would walk around in circles bouncing a ball in a trance and making up stories in installments in my head.”