12 May 2007

Linguistic lines

How can the Indian novel do well in a world where the novel, and literature itself, is dominated by the English language? If it’s not English, then it’s French, Spanish, German or Russian. The world of literature favours the more popular languages of the larger cultural powers, with English having established itself as the world leader.

There are affinities too, like Latin American literature, a strategy that seems to be set firmly to woo readers from countries speaking the same language. In this case, it’s Spanish. There is still the rigour of translations, of course, but I can confidently say that, today, Latin American literature is growing in leaps and bounds, and will soon become a force to contend with.

The truth of the matter is that the world of literature is divided along linguistic lines, with the smaller cultures edged out by virtue of their languages being less popular than a few others. Few in number these languages may be, but their reach and their might are phenomenal.

With such polarisation, there is very little chance that a novel from India can get an edge in. Added to this, India’s own problem of twenty-two official languages (besides English) and five times as many dialects gives Indian literature a sort of provincial or local bias. Leading to the important question: what exactly is an Indian novel?

No comments: