A group of book lovers in Mumbai want to gift the wealth of Indian literature to a new generation of English readers.
These days there are plenty of studies purporting to show that reading is a dying habit; especially for a generation addicted to smartphones and social media. However, a group of people in Mumbai are betting that a good book will still cross the generational divide.
The group, called the Indian Novels Collective, has set themselves the mission of bringing 100 non-English Indian novels to English readers. The members of the group are Sangita Jindal, the chairperson of the JSW Foundation, Ashwani Kumar, a poet and a political science professor at TISS, Anuradha Parikh, the founder of the G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture and Amrita and Samir Somaiya, who own the Kitab Khana bookstore in Fort.
“We are driven by the belief that books that have survived the test of time and been loved by generations of readers in their original languages will be equally loved by future generations reading them in English,” Kumar said.
The group picked novels because it is a popular form and the number 100 to give them a framework within which to focus their efforts. “We are going for the classics, not hidden gems. We are looking for the best loved books in that language,” Kumar said. The 100 novels will be broken up into five categories: Hindi, Eastern Languages, Western Languages, Southern Languages and Northern Languages. Hindi gets its own category because it is the most widely spoken language in the country, and the first list of 20 Hindi novels will be released this Friday, with readings by Neena Gupta, Shekhar Gupta, Prabodh Parikh and Sangita Jindal.
The novels are being selected by a specific list of mentors for each language. Among the mentors who have already signed up are poets Mangalesh Dabral, K Satchidanandan and Prabodh Parikh, novelists Kiran Nagarkar and Amit Chaudhuri, and artist Jatin Das. It was Dabral who curated the Hindi list.
The group is not going to reinvent the wheel. If quality translations in English already exist, they will use them. Where English translations either don’t exist or were poorly done, then the group will commission a contemporary translation.
The other aspect of the project is to create a community that will want to discuss these books with each other, beginning with social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “The idea is to have a democratic dialogue among Indian languages,” Kumar said.
Jindal, who said she loved reading books in Hindi when she was in school, will sponsor the translations. “We are not looking after our virasat,” Jindal said. “I would like to support these treasures of India.”
Parikh is the “design fairy” of the operation and will ensure that the translations are contemporary in voice, design and publishing, as well as offering the G5A space for hosting readings. Likewise readings will also be held at Kitab Khana. “We strongly believe that children and the youth should read Indian language books to be able to retain our values as Indians,” Amrita Somaiya said.
The group made a point of stating that though the translations will eventually be for sale, the initiative is strictly non-commercial and their list is not intended to be a definitive one, or an exercise in literary criticism. “We are doing this for the next generation of readers. It is being done out of love and affection,” Jindal said.
The launch and readings from the first shortlist (Hindi) will be held at Seven Islands Cafe, Jindal Mansion, Peddar Road. Sept 22, 7 pm. VISIT: www.facebook.com/IndianNovelsCollective
Source : Mumbai Mirror