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Contemporary Indian Literature in English and the Indian Market


Collaboration with the Independent Publishers Group, New Delhi, India, and a research group from the University of Delhi.

Coordinated by Suman Gupta (Ferguson Centre) and Tapan Basu (University of Delhi), with the assistance of postgraduate researchers from the University of Delhi, support and input from the Independent Publishers Group (IPG), and with Harish Trivedi (University of Delhi) as advisor.

It would appear that the patterns of publishing and distribution of Indian writing in English (including English translations of writing in Indian languages) have undergone a change in the course of the last two decades. This is symptomised by the currency enjoyed by Indian literature at the present moment – in terms of its unprecedented accommodation in school and university curricula, its easy availability in both big-city and small-town libraries and book shops, and the engagement of many mainstream India-based publishers with it. In brief, it seems that a niche has been created in India for Indian writing in English, both in translation and in the original, published by Indian publishers for a predominantly Indian market - a niche that is unrelated to Anglophone Western markets. The Indian publishers involved include both Western publishers with Indian set-ups (e.g. Penguin, Harper Collins) and independent Indian publishers (e.g. Ravi Dayal, Rupa). The books promoted, as mentioned earlier, fall into two categories: original writings in English by Indian writers (like David Davidar, Anurag Mathur, Chetan Bhagat, Sarnath Bannerjee, Arundhati Roy) and writings from the Indian languages translated into English (writers like Rabindranath Tagore, Munshi Premchand, Mahesweta Devi, Vijay Tendulkar, U.R.Ananthmurthy). In India, with a social context in which English has traditionally been the language of a privileged elite, the circulation, sometimes in admirable proportions, of these categories of Indian writing in English, deserves special attention. This is a post late 1980s/early 1990s phenomenon, subsequent to the successes, via Western markets, of a Rushdie or a Ghosh or a Rohinton Mistry. Clearly a hitherto non-existent or semi-existent internal market for Contemporary Indian writing in English has now come into its own.

This is a matter of significant research interest. A range of informational and investigative issues arise from this observation which impinges upon our understanding of the state of English Studies not just in India but in other wider locations as well. Perhaps, more importantly, this observation has implications for recent developments in postcolonial studies and formulations of World Literature and in book history which call for debate and discussion.

This project will address the following questions, divided here between "Informational" and "Analytical". For further information on these please go to the Project Statement page.