Writing from Modern India: Introduction
Guest edited by Sudeep Sen
To celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of India’s Republic, the current issue of World Literature Today showcases some of the best cutting-edge modern Indian and Indian diasporic writers who write in English and some of India’s other major languages—Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Oriya, and Malayalam. The list of authors on display is by no means comprehensive; it is just an introductory show window to the vast array of fine Indian writers and literary practitioners. There are contemporary works here by both established and newer writers, old and young, men and women.
Two poems, in new translation, appear here by the celebrated Urdu poet and lyricist Gulzar, who won the Oscar for the song “Jai Ho” from the recent film Slumdog Millionaire. There are poems in Hindi by Ashok Vajpeyi, Mangalesh Dabral, and Anamika; as well as others by K. Satchidanandan, Subodh Sarkar, and J. P. Das in Malayalam, Bengali, and Oriya, respectively.
The English-language section is spearheaded by the literary star Vikram Seth. There are finely engaging pieces by Amit Chaudhuri, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Meena Alexander, Amitava Kumar, Anita Nair, Daljit Nagra, Ravi Shankar, Beena Kamlani, and many others.
Samaresh Basu’s and Premendra Mitra’s evocative stories in Bengali add a rich texture to the overall anthology.
As a special tribute to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of India’s Nobel Laureate in Literature, Rabindranath Tagore, there is a bonus section online containing an unusual selection of his poetry and poem-songs. There are short poems from Tagore’s book of nonsense verse called Khapcharra, a book that is surprisingly not yet fully translated, and subtle English renderings of a clutch of Tagore’s songs from his vastly varied oeuvre.
Permissions & Acknowledgments
Grateful acknowledgments to all the authors who appear in this special issue of World Literature Today for granting permission to publish their work. While the majority of the texts that appear here are unpublished, a few have appeared earlier in the following publications:
Vikram Seth’s in Granta, The Guardian, A Suitable Boy (Orion), From Heaven Lake (Abacus), and The Poems: 1981–1994 (Penguin); Sudeep Sen’s in New Writing 15 (Granta), Language for a New Century (Norton), Prayer Flag (Peepal Tree/Wings Press), and Postmarked India: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins); Vijay Seshadri’s in the New Yorker; Amit Chaudhuri’s in The Observer and Insomniac (Aark Arts); and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s in Leaving Yuba City (Doubleday).
Some of the English poetry is slated to appear in The HarperCollins Book of Modern English Poetry by Indians, The Yellow Nib Contemporary English Poetry by Indians, Atlas, Agenda, and others, at the end of this year and early next.
The Tagore translations will appear in The Essential Tagore, edited by Fakrul Alam and Radha Chakravarty, to be published by Harvard University Press (Cambridge, Mass.) and Visva-Bharati (Santiniketan, India) next year.
Some poetry translations from Bengali, Hindi, and Urdu appear in Aria (Yeti Books/Monsoon Editions, India / Mulfran Press, Wales).
My relationship with World Literature Today is nearly two decades old. Grateful thanks to former editors Djelal Kadir and William Riggan as well as the current editor, Daniel Simon, and his wonderful team. Further thank-yous to David Shook (Molossus), Jane Draycott and Jenny Lewis (Oxford University), O P Jain (Sanskriti Foundation), Prabhu Guptara (Wolfsberg UBS), Chandrika Grover (Pro Helvetia), Janet Pierce and Patricia Donolon (Tyrone Guthrie Centre), Ciaran Carson (Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry), Joseph Woods (Poetry Ireland), Kwame Dawes, Bernardine Evaristo, and others who wish to remain unnamed.
Most importantly, thank you to all the authors, translators, and artists for their participation and kind permission to use their work in this important international forum.
Monsoon 2010 / New Delhi
Table of Contents
|Writing from Modern India headlines the November 2010 issue of WLT, guest edited by Sudeep Sen, with contributions by over 30 writers, including Amit Chaudhuri, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Amitava Kumar, Arundhathi Subramaniam, and Vikram Seth as well as a list of 60 essential English-language works of modern Indian literature in the print edition. The issue also includes the following web exclusives:
To complement the focus on India, join the WLT Book Club discussion of Rajmahal, the second novel by Kamalini Sengupta. As the executive director of the Surya Trust, Sengupta filmed documentaries aiming to correct misconceptions about Indian life. In this month’s book club, you’ll find an interview with the author.
Additional highlights of the print edition include new poems by Clemens Setz (Austria), interviews with Aharon Appelfeld (Israel) and Rayda Jacobs (South Africa), and a short story by Sefi Atta (Nigeria/US). In an online bonus, Clemens Setz discusses the in-betweenness of writing both poetry and fiction in an interview with Peter Constantine.
In another online exclusive, the first two chapters from The Scale of Maps, Mark Schafer’s translation into English of Belén Gopegui’s La escala de los mapas, can be read here. The full translation is forthcoming from City Lights in January 2011.
In the final installment of our year-long series “Emerging Authors,” in which we asked world-renowned writers to introduce an author whose work they think deserves attention – and will gain prominence – in 2010 and beyond, Maxine Hong Kingston presents an excerpt from Benjamin Bac Sierra’s forthcoming novel, Barrio Bushido.
As always, we include notes on new books and book reviews from around the world, along with “Nota Bene,” a listing of recent and recommended titles in our book review section, and the next installment in our Editor’s Choice selection, a series of recommended readings by WLT’s editorial staff.