Oct 222012
 

I read an interesting piece yesterday about the sales of Ayn Rand’s work in India.
This was the headline: :
“Why Ayn Rand outsells Karl Marx in India by 16 to 1 (and what else she tells us about countries)”

Here’s more from the article:

Rand’s minor cult status in India has been noted before. According to one report, Indians searched Google for Ayn Rand more often than anyone else until 2007, when a Tea-Party obsessed America took over the top spot. It’s typically read as a reaction to the country’s stratified social hierarchy and heavy, lumbering government, anathema to the fiercely self-sufficient heroes of Rand’s novels. Indeed, one Indian libertarian, writing a few years ago—before the rise of the Tea Party—argued that she was even more respected in India than America because Indians actually live in the “collectivist, pseudo-statist, tradition-bound, mystic society” that she would have decried (unlike American Rand fans, who only think they do.)

The Google citation presumably is based upon this Economist article, which the article cites.

What does all of this tell us about India? May I humbly suggest that the answer is nothing.
After all, it’s a country where you can buy Mein Kampf and the anti-Semitic hoax Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but where you still can’t legally buy a copy of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses.
The availability of certain books and the lack of availability of others may provide a hint about reading tastes of certain groups of people, but little else.
Are there Indian who worship at the fountainhead of individualism? Sure.
Are there those who want to set up a Maoist regime? Absolutely.

Of course, is it possible that the sales of Rand’s works means the growth of individualism in India, a country where even today notions of self-expression and privacy are practically nonexistent outside the major cities. The real story would be if Rand’s works outsold Marx and others in Hindi or any of the regional languages. English, after all, is confined to a tiny sliver of the nation of 1.2 billion people. What’s 100 million people — especially when they don’t vote.

Oct 102012
 

While looking for information on crime fiction in India, I came across this article published in May in Tehelka magazine.

These two sentences in particular caught my eye:

Hachette publishers say that while their international detective fiction titles sell 50,000 copies in a single edition, Indian counterparts sell a tenth of that in total.

As readers of this blog know, my book, Murder in Mumbai, was released as an ebook by Dutton Guilt Edged Mysteries in July. I’m still hopeful that there’ll be an Indian edition — hopefully in paperback (Penguin, Are you listening?). But the numbers cited in this story suggest why Indian publishers may be reluctant to publish mystery novels set inside the country.

This isn’t true only of mysteries. Arvind Adiga’s excellent White Tiger only got traction in India once it won the Booker Prize.

I’m as guilty of this as any Indian reader. As a child, I read Enid Blyton, an English writer. As a teenager, I read Agatha Christie. As an adult, I read Scandinavian mysteries. Even my first introduction to a mystery set in India was written by an Indian — H.R.F. Keating’s highly enjoyably Inspector Ghote series (talk about a colonized mind).

It’s not as if there isn’t crime fiction published in India. The fact is, however, that much of it is published in regional languages. And unless, it’s one of the major languages — Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil (if I’m leaving out any, please forgive me, it’s not to suggest that all Indian languages aren’t important) — there’s little chance of it being translated into English.

This is how I read Satyajit Ray’s charming Feluda stories, and Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s Byomkesh Bakshi books. More recently, there have been translations of Tamil pulp novels by Blaft publishing, which is also behind the translation of the Urdu best-sellers Captain Hameed and Colonel Faridi (there are new , and I haven’t read them yet).

But as the Tehelka article notes there are new Indian writers setting mysteries in India. Here’s more from the article:

“Says Nandita Aggarwal, publishing director, Hachette India, ‘That the genre is becoming popular is not statistically gaugeable but one can sense a certain interest in the market. There are more authors writing. Last year, we published five books in the series as opposed to none before. It is not a paradigm shift. But the market is exploring the genre.’”

Hopefully, the “market” will be able to sustain more translations as well as more works in English.

Apr 202012
 

My book, Murder in Mumbai, is being published July 17 by the Penguin Group’s new digital imprint, Dutton Guilt Edged Mysteries. You can pre-order it here 

Gateway of India
Mumbai, Chaotic, confusing and pulsating with life has fascinated writers. There is something about the city that, even those of us who love it, can never comprehend. In most books, the City of Mumbai – with its crowded alleys, its overflowing drains, its overworked public transport system its maddening traffic, its’ people who never stop to star – is as much a character as any of the protagonists. A city which despite all its warts still has heart of gold – but that heart is hidden away under layers and layers and layers.

While writing “Murder in Mumbai”, i tried to get some of the quirks of my city – especially the way it moves seamlessly from Bombay to Mumbai

Here are, in no particular order, some excellent books on the city:

Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found — Author Suketu Mehta returns to the city of his birth in this brilliant work of narrative nonfiction. Mehta examines life in Bombay, its people, its businesses, its crime and its prolific film industry. But the chapter that left the biggest impression on me was the final one, about a Jain diamond merchant who renounces his material life and family in search of enlightenment.

Midnight’s Children Salman Rushdie’s most-famous novel is one of my favorites. Much of it is set in the city he loved, one that perhaps sadly no longer exists, except in the realm of memory.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers — Reporter Katherine Boo’s telling of life in a Mumbai slum can be daunting reading, but it provides stark and necessary relief to much of the narratives emerging from India in the Western media about India’s growing prosperity.

Mumbai Fables — A recent discovery, this book by Princeton professor Gyan Prakash is a historic telling of how a group of islands that were gifted by the Portuguese to the British as dowry eventually became India’s commercial powerhouse. It tells of Bombay under the British, the rise of the communists, of the Shiv Sena and the city today. It’s surprisingly one of the few historic accounts of Bombay’s growth.

Bombay, Meri Jaan — The title to this collection of essays — which translates to Bombay, My Love — says it all. With essays by Kipling (he was born in the city), V.S. Naipaul and, perhaps my favorite one in the collection, Duke Ellington.