Friday, February 12, 2010

"Polyphony and Contradictions Are Considered Indispensable in India"

Ever since Salman Rushdie's novel Midnight's Children won the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 1981, there has been a whole series of very successful Indian writers. Hans Dembowski discussed the significance of bestseller writers such as Aravind Adiga, Arundhati Roy and Shashi Tharoor with Anant Kumar.

Who is the audience of Indian authors that write international bestsellers?
Well, on the Indian subcontinent, there is only a small stratum of society that has a sufficient command of English to read these books in their original version. Authors who write in one of the Indian languages reach a much larger number of people. In India, the authors of international bestsellers are often only known by name, either from the newspapers or the radio – yet the books themselves are hardly taken notice of. Commercial success is something that the authors in question primarily enjoy in English-speaking countries abroad.

Indian authors attract global attention to critical observations about their own country. Are they considered with scepticism? Only recently, I listened to an Indian literary critic who was upset about Aravind Adiga's White Tiger. I, for my part, appreciated the vivid depiction of the violence-prone relationship between rich and poor.
Indeed, many Indians feel that people abroad are only interested in India's poverty and the country's immense social disparities, and both phenomena, of course, are real. Whenever writers choose such topics, some people are swift to accuse them of slander. Often, they merely notice that dark sides of Indian reality have become the subject of literature, and they fear for the country's image.
These topics, however, actually cry out for literary attention. The tendency was obvious in the late 1990s, when Arundhati Roy won the Booker Prize for The God of Small Things. Her book tells of poverty and violence between religious communities – and straight away, she was accused of denigrating India. The book itself, that I happen to rate quite high, didn't play a major role in India

Full interview here

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