24 July 2008

A nation and its literature are closely tied

A new book award has been announced in India. It’s the Golden Quill Book Award from www.indiaplaza.in. I learnt about it a couple of days ago when a blogger, named Stephen, wrote a comment on my blog and provided some relevant information about the award. On inquiring about the Golden Quill Book Award, I found that this year’s shortlist contains five books, all written in English, by writers who are domiciled in India.

This made me wonder about another recently-held award ceremony… about Salman Rushdie winning the ‘Best of the Booker’ prize. I wondered what this may mean to us in India. Would we feel elated because Rushdie and his ‘Midnight’s Children’ have championed the Indian nation? Would we feel it’s a great achievement for the Indian people and Indian literature? After all, though born in India, Rushdie is a British author, writing in English.

To quote from a quote in my previous post (with a little modification), does “It thus ably represent the excellence and diversity of narrative traditions and literary approaches in a multilingual, multiconfessional country” that India truly is? Or, does Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’ reflect a globalised India where everyone speaks English?

I raise this point for two reasons: One, people across the world have begun to view Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’ as the quintessential Indian novel, ignoring many more-suitable examples from Indian literature (such as the earlier Bengali novels of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay or the more-recent novels of R K Narayan). And two, Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’ seems to have drowned out the rich, as well as complex, heritage and repertoire of Indian literature in her 20-odd regional languages.

Don’t you think, to appreciate Indian literature, one has to understand her people – a great many of whom aren’t Midnight’s children – and her culture – which is steeped in thousands of years of traditions, superstitions, myths, philosophy, logic and social structures? Perhaps, as a nation, we need to impress upon the world what Indian literature truly is. After all, a nation and its literature are closely tied.

The shortlist of books and authors in the Golden Quill Book Awards 2008 can be found here.


Anonymous said...

Hi I have voted for this. I checked the site and found it has interesting books. I have also asked my friends to vote as it recognizes our Indian authors.

binny said...

This is just another attempt by these guys to get some attention. The awards are just an excuse. They will never stop such gimmicks and start focussing on the customer.

runawaysun said...

@ anonymous
I'm not sure why you've written this comment on my blog.

@ binny
You may be right!