The Hindu delivers the good news:
Bengali writer Mahashweta Devi, the Grande Dame of Indian literature at 80 years, kicked off the Frankfurt Book Fair on Wednesday….”Sixty years after our hard-won Independence, the khadi sari is India just as much as the mini-skirt and the backless choli is. A bullock cart is India just as much as is the latest Toyota and Mercedes car,” she said. “Illiteracy haunts us, yet the same India produces men and women at the forefront of medicine, science and technology.”
India is guest of honour with a packed programme of readings and debates. The cultural events will feature dance, drama, films and yoga demonstrations. Even the Left-leaning national daily Tageszeitung, recently in the news for creating a political storm between Germany and Poland through its irreverent reporting on Poland’s new leaders, got into the mood, printing its masthead on Wednesday in Hindi.
And Deutsche Welle looks at the other side, in this thoughtful piece by Sonia Phalnikar:
…There was standing room only as Amit Chaudhuri and Shashi Tharoor, both internationally acclaimed Indian authors who write in English, took to the stage. In contrast, only a handful turned up a few halls away to listen to Shafi Shauq, one of the most important contemporary poets and critics from northern Indian Kashmir, who writes in his native Kashmiri….
“Indian literature is still largely seen as the literature of authors who write in English. Regional literature hardly makes a dent in the West’s consciousness even though it’s such a diverse scene,” said Peter Ripkin, head of the Frankfurt-based Society for the Promotion of Asian, African and Latin American literature.
The problem isn’t exactly new. Two decades ago when India was the guest of honor at the Frankfurt Book fair, organizers paid much lip service to promoting regional literature. But since then just about 40 titles have been translated from Indian languages into German.
Phalnikar has another piece here on Indian writers in English at the fair; Ilija Trojanow compares three recent Bombay books (Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City, Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games and Altaf Tyrewala’s No God in Sight).
Indian authors at Frankfurt: Shashi Tharoor talks about his future career options (“Will you become a full-time author now?” “I don’t know if I can afford that, frankly…); Indu Sundaresan explains why Mehrunissa fascinated her to Frankfurt audiences via a webchat; Amit Chaudhuri speaks to Deutsche Welle about the elephants in the living room of Indian writing; Neelesh Mishra takes a look at writers on the margins; and if you read German, here’s an interview with Kiran Desai; and Vikram Seth explains why you can’t have a single “school of Indian writing”.