Pride of place for vernacular Indian writing at London Book Fair

March 6th, 2009 - 1:34 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 6 (IANS) The London Book Fair, which is focussing on India as an emerging market and literary hub this year, will take a look at not only English writing from the south Asian nation but also other vernacular languages, said Alistair Burtenshaw, group exhibition director of the event.The April 20-22 fair will also introduce new Indian writers to publishers and sellers from 67 countries, said Burtenshaw, who was here Thursday to promote the event.

Nearly 50 leading Indian contemporary writers and an equal number of publishers and print industry stakeholders are taking part in the fair, which primarily caters to the needs of the publishing industry.

“The thrust is not just on writing in English from India, but also on the vernacular languages that have official seal but have not reached international standard,” Burtenshaw told IANS.

“For us, the cultural and linguistic diversity of the country which we are focussing on is very important. The fair will represent 16 of the 23 Indian official languages in terms of literature,” he said.

Works in many Indian languages will be presented at the fair. It will also have five literary sessions that will explore fiction writing in India, literature and identity, writing trends in contemporary India, literature of the cinema and literature of ideas.

“More than opening up writers to new audiences, we are creating new opportunities for new authors - vis-�-vis sale. One of the crucial components of the London Book Fair is the sale of copyrights. We do a huge amount of work in this area,” Burtenshaw explained.

“Reputed literary agents, like those who represent J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, will be present at the fair. They may spot Potter-style books in other languages. Last year, 560 tables of agents and publishers sold book rights at the fair.”

The group exhibition director said the scope of the fair was so wide that an Indian writer could be sold to a Korean or a Swedish publisher.

“It will also enable Indian publishers to export works by Indian authors overseas,” he added.

Burtenshaw said over the last few years “great writing had been finding new home overseas, be it UK or elsewhere. It can be attributed to the internationalisation of literature. This year, publishers, booksellers and industry representatives from 67 countries will set up 117 counters to facilitate global exchange.”

The London Book Fair has grown over the last few years, Burtenshaw added. “Now, we have at least 50 percent exhibitors from overseas. It is an international fair, rather than a UK-specific fair.”

In tandem with the focus of the fair, translations will play an important part.

“Growth in the translation segment has only been three percent - and that is one of the reasons why it is important. Three percent means you have a huge opportunity for higher growth. Indian books can be translated into several other languages, other than English,” Burtenshaw said.

As part of the fair’s efforts to promote translation, partner British Council will host a translation programme in India (in New Delhi and Kolkata) with Amanda Hopkinson of the East Anglia Translation Centre in Britain.

The popular literary genres that Burtenshaw expects to generate business and interest at the fair - because of their sustained growth over the last three years - are cookbooks and travel.

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