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Literature epiphanies this year

Anees Salim hopes more literary fiction will be celebrated this year. Photo: H. Vibhu  

When I first heard about it, I was sceptical about its chances. But in a country, where there are about 160 million smartphones in use, mobile publishing looks like an extremely interesting idea. And why not? When you depend on your smartphone to decide, among many other things, what to eat, when to eat and where to eat, why not let it give you some food for thought? Juggernaut will probably set a new trend in reading by starting mobile publishing this year. But it is not going to be easy to change reading habits in a country where physical books are still very much preferred. I think the real challenge lies in getting people to prefer literature over social networking sites on their smartphones. It is one behavioural change that can make a big difference.

Translations could be bigger this year, and I think they should be. There is more to good literature than just works by Marquez, Kundera and Tolstoy. Literary gems are scattered across the globe; their appeal and magic limited by the language they are written in. I think in 2016, we are going to discover more of them, as more books will be translated from other languages to English and vice versa. There are many books in regional languages like Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada that deserve to be read by a wider audience and recognised with bigger awards.

Like in the West, we are going to see a lot of celebrities turning authors this year. Last year, we saw Twinkle Khanna and Shilpa Shetty publishing books to considerable success. I am sure lots of Bollywood stars are going to take after them, writing about their lives or about topics they have a fair idea about. Some books by the bigwigs of Bollywood have already been announced and are eagerly anticipated. But what would really interest me is a book on Bollywood by someone who failed to make a mark there: a bitter and unrestrained account of the film industry, penned by a failed actor or someone who tried to direct a movie or score music in vain. The print version of a spy camera. That would be a breath of fresh air among those highly predictable books about hard work, sacrifice and the eventual success, glamour and glitz.

I think commercial fiction will continue to do well in 2016, and we will probably have new stars in that genre. But I see a welcome dip in the demand for college and school romances. With a huge fan following for J.K. Rowling in India, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone manages to strike gold with fantasies with desi backdrops and characters.

It is going to be a good year for short stories as well. Of late, short stories are being widely read across the world, and they are being acknowledged with accolades too. Probably, short stories and novellas are the genres that can be richly benefitted out of innovative publishing initiatives like the one Juggernaut is going to launch.

I have a feeling that the New Year will flood you with explosive tell-all memoirs by politicians, kingpins and bureaucrats. There should be a long line of them waiting for you at bookstores: the retired, suspended, convicted, acquitted, sidelined, defeated… there is a long list of aspirants. And no matter if their memoirs are cooked up or real; they are such entertainers and crowd pullers.

Let me wrap this piece up with a wish, not a prediction. I hope literary fiction will do exceptionally well this year. I hope writers of literary fiction, especially debutants, will find it easier to get publishing deals. I hope they will be read more, discussed more, celebrated more and rewarded better. I hope literary fiction will be promoted with the same zest with which commercial fiction is often promoted.

Am I asking for too much?

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2020 4:14:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Literature-epiphanies-this-year/article13982729.ece

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