Meet The Guests
Around 15 Indian publishers and 30 leading and budding Indian authors from most Indian languages, will be invited to Paris to meet French readers and participate in events, talk and debates. “Livre Paris will aim at creating a special ”Indian moment” in France, with cultural and lecture side programmes in libraries, bookshops and cultural landmarks in Paris and other cities in France.” The Paris Book Fair, dubbed Europe”s most important literary and publishing appointment, will be a showcase of the country”s new authors, works and the large publishing industry. France is keen to engage with India in the publishing sector in all its diversity, through translations, publishing incentives, literary exchanges and more, the French spokesperson said. The Indian contingent at the Fair will be represented by the iconic Oxford Bookstore pavilion led by Priti Paul, Apeejay Surrendra Group. The partner is National Book Trust, while the India pavilion will be designed by the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.
Prajwal is a Nepali-Indian author whose works focus on Nepali-speaking people and their culture. Prajwal has an in-between life. He is between two worlds (Western and Indian), two languages (English and Nepali), two meals (he is a gourmet) and two hiking trips. He is a consummate globe-trotter. Land Where I Flee translated as Fuir et Revenir (Emmanuelle Collas Editions), is the crisp, inventive and marvelous story of Chitralekha’s Chaurasi – her 84th birthday. Her grandchildren have come especially from New York, London and Colorado to be with her in Gangtok, the capital of the state of Sikkim. Gathered in her big house, the characters discuss gender, fluidity in sexual identity, and schizophrenia between the Indian caste system, their roots and the Western lands in which they live. The language is humorous, the colours vivid and the smells intense. You soon discover a host of contradictions between them despite the fact that they are blood relations. The story is like a house of cards, which collapses when a mischievous young boy (Prajwal) pulls out a card from the middle of it.
Short sentences, sharp words, a breathless rhythm, like the last hurried words uttered just before dying. Meena Kandasamy‘s writing is an act of survival. In her novel, When I Hit You (Juggernaut Books), translated as Quand je te frappe : Portrait de l’écrivaine en jeune épouse (Actes Sud), the author gives a vivid account of what legitimised conjugal violence is, through the institutionalised submission of an Indian woman to her husband and the social pressure that suppresses individual freedom. The character’s marital rape is trivialised and denied by even her parents and friends. Accused of exaggeration, feminism, rebellion – anything goes in order to clear a husband thought to be too good to be wrong: a respectable, progressive university professor, handsome and educated, who could not hurt a fly. Reading When I Hit You makes your heart capsize. You are free diving, preparing for the next blow. It’s hard, violent, raw. Reality goes beyond fiction. We cannot help but be reminded of the novel L’amour et les forêts by Eric Reinhardt, a story on the same subject, but told by a man, echoing from West to East, like a piercing wave that hits women around the world.
When you meet Anuradha Roy for the first time you are mesmerized by her doe eyes. The very discrete writer and publisher lives quietly in Ranikhet near the Himalayas, more at home among dogs, trees and flowers than people. All the Lives We Never Lived (Hachette) / Toutes ces vies jamais vécues (Actes Sud) shows an ability to reveal awful consequences of a mother who abandoned her 9 year old boy and husband to pursue her impulsive passion of painting. The novel feels more like a rumination of Myshkin, her son who is now an old man in his 60’s, the narrator of the story. The historian skill of Anuradha is to move from the delicacy of horticulture to the violence of Second World War (1937) through the Quit India Movement (1941). Her written style awakens all the senses and conflicting emotions. The women characters in Anurada’s novels hit where it hurts and might make you question your own attitudes. The writer explores individual stories in the History with the themes of childhood trauma, the pain of separation, loneliness, lovelessness and guilt.
Versatile, sensitive to history and conscious of his responsibilities as a writer, Perumal Murugan is a star in contemporary Tamil literature. An award-winning writer, poet and scholar, he has garnered both critical acclaim and commercial success for his vast array of work. Pyre (Penguin India), translated into French as Le Bûcher by Stéphane Marsan (published by Emmanuelle Ghez), glows with as much power as his previous book, One Part Woman, did, and adds immeasurable value to contemporary literature. From a gendered lens, the book highlights the struggle of inter-caste couples and the difficulty to survive such marriages in rural India. With spare, powerful prose, Murugan masterfully conjures a terrifying vision of intolerance in this devastating tale of innocent young love pitted against chilling savagery. It is a curious paradox that even though progressive Indians would like to abolish the caste system, they have little or no understanding of the lived reality of specific caste groups in their traditional homelands. Hopefully, his French admirers will not have to wait too long before they can read One Part Woman
Geetanjali Shree is an author who escapes categories. She draws from all literary genres – novel, poetry, theatre. She explores and re-imagines fiction writing. After a doctorate in history, she taught Hindi before devoting herself entirely to writing fiction and drama in her mother tongue, Hindi. Her first collection of short stories and her novels were immediately noticed and most of her books have been translated into other languages, while her plays have been performed in India as well as Tokyo, Toronto, Berlin and Seoul. Ret samadhi (published by Rajkamal Prakashan ) has been translated as Ret samadhi: Au delà des frontières (published by Des Femmes – Antoinette Fouque) and is her third novel translated into French. In Geetanjali Shree’s writing, inner monologue, dialogue and polyphonic narration intermingle seamlessly. Humor, tragedy and poetry overlap, playing on sounds and rhythms in a sometimes dizzying way, which the remarkable translation of Annie Montaut was able to convey.
Aanchal Malhotra is emblematic of the new generation of Indian intellectuals and writers who are fearless, at once perfectly at ease with her traditions and directly connected with the most modern world: polyglot, multicultural, mestizo, wanderer. In her first book, she faced a real challenge, that of telling the story of Partition, the founding drama of modern India and some of its current problems (Kashmir, for example), with the seriousness of a historian, combined with her emerging talent as a novelist. As the co-founder of the Museum of Material Memory, a digital repository dedicated to India’s cultural artefacts, she tells the story through objects that Indians who fled their countries, India and Pakistan, had to leave behind. From precious jewels to the most humble household utensils, such as a book, a shawl, a pair of glasses, Aanchal Malhotra has reconstructed, in a very vivid and humane way, this page of inhuman history of which the British coloniser was the instigator and protagonist, with the help of Pakistan’s future leaders. The book, which reads like a novel, is a work of non-fiction. In France, we could refer to such a work as a document. We should add: a personal history.
Amit Chaudhuri is of Bengali origin and spent his youth in Mumbai, in a privileged bourgeois milieu. He then went to Oxford University to study literature, and lived in Great Britain for a long time before returning to Kolkata, while still moving around a lot for various professional engagements. He is an academic, literary and music enthusiast: one of the few gharana singers in India. The starting point for Friend of My Youth was his return to Mumbai, somewhat reluctantly, to promote one of his books. Everything has changed so much in the city, even if his childhood area, Marine Drive and its art-deco buildings, is still relatively preserved. For a few days, the narrator will attempt looking for his past and of time gone by, in places where his parents used to take him, the Taj Mahal Hotel, for example. But, above all, he will reunite with his friend Ramu, who had all the talents but did not put them to use, and became a sort of celestial tramp, adept at artificial paradises. The heroine of this novel is, in fact, a city, Mumbai, which Chaudhuri speaks of with a lot of nostalgia and tenderness. Will he go back there? And will Ramu still be there to welcome him?