Golden age of Indian writing: How a new generation of writers is making waves in South Asia
A newly buoyant middle-class, better travelled, more curious and with more disposable income, has been devouring books like never before. Almost every year now it appears that there is a new trend – pulp fiction one year, chick-lit “sari fiction” the next – as Indian publishers find new ways to tap into the market and reach out to more readers.
But more lately, this growth is spilling out across the hot and angry borders of the sub-continent. New writers from Bangladesh are finding appreciative international audiences, while the frisson surrounding the new literary scene in Pakistan that has produced a handful of exiting new authors, matches the buzz that India first experienced a decade ago.
In India, the growth seems more obviously apparent in the sheer variety of genres that now fill the shelves. There is more fiction, non-fiction and travel writing than ever before; between them, the major publishers now annually produce around 600 new titles each year. But within these broad headings there is huge diversity that would not have been imaginable a few years ago. Today’s India is producing crime novels, comic-strip books, and memoirs such as Maximum City, Suketu Mehta’s seminal account of Mumbai. There are books set around the campus’s of the country’s famed technology institutes, and there are books about young Indian women smoking, drinking and falling in love with hapless, inappropriate men.
“I am not sure that publishers are just looking for young writers – after all, everyone is young at some point,” says Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, a journalist and writer of an originally anonymous Sex and the City-style blog whose first novel, You Are Here, was published last year. “But publishers seem to want new things. Ever since I can remember they have been looking for new things. So there are many new genres.”
One change that the market has noticed is that while the expanded literary market place may have been created by economic liberalism and a more globalised India, many among the new stable of Indian writers are not looking beyond their own shores. Indeed, many of the novels and non-fiction works now being produced might be a struggle for international readers to relate to.