India Literature

It is impossible for a single person to develop a map that represents the vast field of literature of India, rich in a variety of cultural material expressing very different sensitivities. However, some aspects of the evolution of the literary field can be highlighted since the beginning of the new millennium, focusing on publishing, the book market and the liveliness of literary production and fruition.

According to, Internet and globalization have expanded the spaces, modifying the possibilities of relationship between the writer and the reader, but publishing has also gone in this direction. In contrast to the global crisis, the Indian book market, with a production of 100,000 titles a year in at least 28 languages ​​by 60,000 large and small publishers, worth over 150 million euros, experienced a great expansion, also thanks to the increase in literacy and schooling rates and increasing urbanization.

With a few exceptions in the upscale neighborhoods, the physical bookstore often remained a dusty environment, with an assortment that was often inadequate and displayed in an impractical way. Secondhand or pirated books have many lives in the bustling chaos of the stalls that crowd the sidewalks of the streets. However, the appearance of Indian books has changed: until a recent past recognizable by the neglect of design, typography and binding, they have been transformed into neat and inviting objects. Although the Internet is a phenomenon mostly limited to the urban environment, the online book trade, practically non-existent in 2000, has slowly flourished, changing the public’s relationship with reading and spreading the culture of best sellers. E-books, e-readers and digital content,

The publishing scene has remained a blend of old, new, independent, multinational and polyglot, and alongside established names new academic and commercial publishers have vigorously entered the market. In this context, literary production in English, in direct dialogue with debates and trends that affect the globalized Anglophone public, has maintained a hegemonic position, even if it is inadequate to represent the entire Indian literary field to the rest of the world. Indian language publishing houses sell more books to the country’s population than multinational publishers, but they do not have the budgets and marketing machinery of the latter. The arrival in the subcontinent of international literary agents, linked to the growing relationship between publishing and the entertainment industry,

The scarcity of translations into European languages ​​is another reason why Indian literatures on the international scene are almost exclusively represented by English texts. This creates a distortion in the perception of Indian literary production and a widespread ignorance of the incredible richness of the literary life of the languages ​​of India. Publishing abroad does not seem to feel the need for original translations from Indian languages ​​because the English material is more accessible; furthermore, poor translations often suffer from excessive academicism or domestication. Conversely, translation between Indian languages ​​is very active. However, it too must be understood as a transcultural translation, in which, if there are no geographical or national borders to overcome, those of class, ethnicity,

The cultural confrontation between languages ​​and the electorate they represent on a political level highlights ideologies that go beyond literary positions and criticisms: the real debate is not about which text is more authentic, but about the type of social and political privileges that each language incorporates. and makes its own.

Every literature in Indian languages ​​has ways of looking at reality that transcend its geographic location. Whoever writes in India, whatever language they use, is part of a world of rich interconnections. There is also a transnational audience for Tamil or Hindi literatures and so on, but those who write in these languages ​​are part of a discourse that tends to be more localized than those who write in English, and generally have no expectations of Western audiences. ‘. All this should not be read according to categories of authenticity, which by their nature are pretexts and counterproductive. Simply put, those who write in Indian languages ​​other than English generally don’t have much interest in what the European or American public wants to hear and follow their own aesthetics.

In the dominant literary circles the belief persists that we must distinguish between a ‘high’ and a ‘popular’ literature, considered inferior. However, the impact of new media has helped to innovate the very idea of ​​literature. Aesthetics transversal to the means of communication aimed at the general public have undermined a consolidated subdivision of genres, stimulating a fluidity of languages ​​that mix classic literary styles with cinematographic codes and music, up to comics or blogs. In all Indian languages ​​the spread of genre literature – from yellow to noir, from chick lit to cookbooks or cricket, from travel literature to autobiography, from graphic novels to blogs – it has created a new audience, larger but perhaps less interested in ‘high’ forms of literature.

The new communication technologies have also influenced the style of writing, so in addition to code switching or hybrids of Indian and English languages ​​(hinglish), the alternation of Indian and Latin alphabets sometimes appears on the printed page, as occurs on the video from a smartphone or computer. The spread of non-classical genres on new distribution circuits has also allowed non-professional writers to enter the literary field, often active in the field of new media and communication, with repercussions on quality that are not necessarily always negative. Many younger authors and authors use the web and established publishing practices in parallel: through social media and blogs cultivate a more direct relationship with the public, while ‘traditional’ spaces allow them to have recognition and legitimacy in the official literary field. The proliferation of literary festivals and awards – the largest literature festival in Asia has been held in Jaipur since 2009 – parallels the abundance of literary magazines, most of which are also available online.

India Literature

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