Literary festival shows India's global role

Tue Jan 18, 2011 1:04am EST
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By Henry Foy

NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - Asia's largest literary festival kicks off this weekend in a historic Indian city, a testament to the growing global influence of Indian literature and its appeal to both publishers and authors.

Regional language novelists and poets will rub shoulders with Nobel laureates and Booker Prize winners at the seventh annual Jaipur Literary Festival as organizers showcase works from India's array of states and dialects to thousands of book lovers.

Nearly 50,000 writers, critics, publishers and fans are expected to pack the historic streets of Jaipur, the famously pink-tinged capital of India's northwestern state of Rajasthan, for the five-day event from January 21.

"This is the one time that the Indian middle class gets to see all of India's literary talent. Jaipur has become the place where people get access to writers they would not normally get an opportunity to read," organizer William Dalrymple told Reuters.

From only 14 attendees in 2005, the festival has grown into the world's largest free literary event, testament to literature's surging popularity in an English-speaking country with a bulging roster of internationally celebrated authors.

"The Indian book market is booming, book sales are going through the roof. And while the cover prices are lower than in the West, you now have a situation where writers in India can make a career from books," Dalrymple said.

"Twenty years ago India imported all of its books."

A row between Open, an Indian news magazine, and Dalrymple has raised controversy over the role of India's former colonial, English-language influence, seen by some critics as overshadowing a myriad of Indian languages.   Continued...