New Delhi: In a first
showcase of Indian indigenous writing, a literary panorama
featuring works by over 30 language writers will be on display at
the Frankfurt Book Fair in a pilot exhibition for readers and
publishers from Europe, the US and other countries.
The literary panorama, initiated by the union culture ministry
under the 'ILA: Indian Literature Abroad' project, will be held
The project aims to carry the diversity of contemporary regional
Indian literature from the grassroots to the world through source
translation, which involves creation of original work directly to
foreign languages in an attempt to remove dependence on English
translation, a top ILA official said.
Initially, the focus of translation is on six UNESCO languages:
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.
"The project requires patience and nurturing. It is (in the) long
term. We want to understand the kind of Indian language books the
international market likes and the market dynamics. We are looking
at source language translations - like from Tamil to French,"
writer Namita Gokhale, the member secretary of Indian Literature
Abroad project, told IANS.
"Translating a regional literary work first into English and then
into a foreign language results in loss of textual matter," she
"Different cultures appreciate different kind of literature," she
Gokhale heads the delegation carrying the Indian literary showcase
to Frankfurt Tuesday.
A discussion, 'Romancing the Languages: Indian Literature's
Journeys' will debate on the future of Indian regional language
writing and its global positioning Oct 13.
Gokhale, along with writers Urvashi Butalia, Michi Strausfeld and
Prayag Shukla, will address the session.
Gokhale said "with 22 official national languages, 122 regional
languages, four classical languages (Sanskrit, Tamil, Kannada and
Telugu), 1,726 mother tongues and countless dialects, India can
boast of a unique literary heritage".
While around 45 percent of the titles published in India are in
English, it is time for the rest of the languages to reach an
international audience, she said.
Regional language writing is not accessible to the rest of the
world because of lack of quality translations and focused
promotion, Gokhale said.
The literature has been selected under four broad categories -
poems, short stories, novels and plays, a culture ministry
An advisory committee is overseeing the project. The panel has
noted author U.R. Ananthamurthy as chairperson and Gokhale as
The members include chairperson of Lalit Kala Akademi Ashok
Vajpeyi, poet and Nobel nominee K. Satchidanandan, feminist writer
and editor Mini Krishnan and publisher Urvashi Butalia.
"Our books should be known all over the world. The legacy of
Indian language (bhasa) writing is not only rich but also has new
material about people in the villages. The different facets of
Indian literature have to be translated and put on the global
map," noted Kannada writer and scholar U.R. Ananthamurthy told
IANS from Bangalore.
Ananathamurthy, whose novels "Samskara (Samskara: A Rite for a
Dead Man)" and "Bharatipura", are part of the ILA's Frankfurt
panorama, said "ILA was working on several translation commissions
and translation workshops to put together the second lot of
Indian language books can be translated to foreign languages
either by source language translation or through creative
translation, Ananthamurthy said.
"Creative translation involves English as an intermediary
language. First, the book is translated to English and then
creatively re-written into a foreign language by an language
"Translated masterpieces have to be re-translated every 10 years
to keep up with the changing nature of global languages," the
Kannada writer said.
The maiden ILA showcase includes language icons like Rabindranath
Tagore, Rahi Masoom Raza, Ismat Chughtai, Mahashweta Devi,
Maitreyi Devi, Sunil Gangopadhay, O.V. Vijayan, Dharamvir Bharati,
Bhabendra Nath Saikia, Ambai (C.S. Lakshmi) and K. Satchidanandan.
"In 2006, India introduced a translation subsidy to pay foreign
translators at international rates when it took a selection of
books to Frankfurt Book Fair where it was the guest country. The
introduction of the subsidy eventually led to the project," said
publisher Urvashi Butalia.
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)