Tag Archives: Literary Fiction

Looking forward — 2018: When it comes to literature, mythology rules the roster, says Namita Gokhale

Publishing is an unpredictable business. Even so, one of the trends in the world of books that I discern in 2018 and coming years, is mythology. The space for books based on Indian mythology has grown immensely since the time I wrote the children’s Mahabharata and In Search of Sita (2009), and I foresee that it will grow even further in the years to come.

This is because in India, people relate a lot to myth; myths form a reference point for our contemporary lives.The success of books in this genre have led to so obscure figures from Indian mythology being brought into the limelight such as Urmila, Menaka, etc. My latest book is on Ghatotkach, and the response to it has been amazing. Reader or publisher fatigue with mythology space hasn’t started.

I truly think that the dumbing down of the publishing industry is finally being reversed, and this is a trend that will become more evident in the coming year. Until a few years ago, it was believed that the stupider the book was, the more readers you would get. Now, even the aspirational readers want to be challenged now by what they read. They are no longer satisfied with reading material simply because it is easy to assimilate; they want books that will stimulate their minds.

I also predict that speculative fiction, especially quality speculative fiction—a genre that not many Indians wrote in—will take off in a big way. Short, nano stories will also find their place, but provided the writers find the right format. Another trend that will slowly unfold over the years to come is that of enhanced fiction—audio books and the like, which bring into play the other sensory facilities such as voice, even smell, some say and are interactive. These serve to make reading a complete experience.

Many people in the publishing industry say that literary fiction has had its day—I agree with this assessment, but with some reservations. It is true that in many ways, literary fiction had become narcissistic and self-obsessed in recent years. Publishers also liked to play it safe; they need to be a little a less cute and a bit more adventurous.In contrast, genre fiction, especially crime fiction, has taken off in a big way in recent years. But even here, we need more of quality and perhaps, less of quantity.

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Review: ‘Necropolis’ by Avtar Singh straddles various literary worlds

By Elen Turner

Necropolis by Avtar Singh, New Delhi: Harper Collins, 2014. 268 pages.

necropolisAvtar Singh’s Necropolis is very different from a lot of English-language fiction currently emerging from India, a major strength of the novel. Part detective fiction, part literary, and incorporating much history and vampire imagery, Necropolis straddles various literary worlds.

Taking it as a mystery/crime thriller, it would be best not to give away too much of the plot in this review, as it is this that pulls the reader along. It opens with a murder—one in a string of murders—suspected to have been carried out by Delhi’s youth gangs. DCP Dayal and officers Kapoor and Smita Dhingra are on the case, and the novel follows their search for the killers. Further crimes occur, parallel or connected to the opening murder, including the killing of an African immigrant, the rape of a woman from the north-east of India and the kidnapping of a young boy from a wealthy family. Read more

Not to miss: Why great novels don’t get noticed now

‘Dear Thief’ was one of the best novels published last year. So why haven’t you heard of it? Gaby Wood meets its author, Samantha Harvey: The Telegraph

Dear TheiefLast year, when literary fiction seemed to fall either into the category of formal experiment (Ali Smith’s How to Be Both; Will Self’s Shark) or into an essentially 19th-century tradition (Neel Mukherjee’s The Lives of Others; Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North), one book cut through all that by simply being intimate, direct yet oddly mysterious. Last Tuesday, it was longlisted for the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction, a belated flicker of attention for a novel that deserves far more.

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Kitaab interview with Shashi Deshpande: ‘We seem to confuse fast-selling fiction with significant writing’

“It’s true we need all kinds of books, not only because the publisher needs to make money but because of the vast number of readers with a vast number of tastes out there,” says famous Indian novelist and short story writer Shashi Deshpande in this interview with Kitaab fiction editor Monideepa Sahu. “All readers cannot appreciate the same kind of books. The problem, as I see it, especially in India, is that  we seem to confuse fast-selling fiction with significant writing and  then giving it undue importance.”

Shashi

 

Shashi Deshpande’s dignified presence, her innate warmth and grace, can win the hearts and minds of anyone from aspiring writers to intellectual opponents. Her twinkling eyes belie a razor-sharp mind; one which sees through human subterfuges and smiles at the quirks and ironies of life.

This prolific author began her career with short stories and has gone on to pen nine short story collections, twelve novels and four books for children.  She has also written essays on topics such as feminism, literature and language. Translations are another part of her rich repertoire, and her own work has been translated into several languages. Among her many honours, is India’s prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award for her novel That Long Silence. Her latest novel, Shadow Play, has been shortlisted for The Hindu Prize, 2014. She was honoured by the Indian Government with the Padma Shri in 2008. Read more

The genre debate: ‘Literary fiction’ is just clever marketing

In the third of our series on literary definitions, Elizabeth Edmondson argues that Jane Austen never imagined she was writing Literature. Posterity made that decision for her: The Guardian

“Genre fiction” is a nasty phrase – when did genre turn into an adjective? But I object to the term for a different reason. It’s weasel wording, in that it conflates lit fic with literature. It was clever marketing by publishers to set certain contemporary fiction apart and declare it Literature – and therefore Important, Art and somehow better than other writing. Read more

Review: The Shadow of the Crescent Moon by Fatima Bhutto

In this book, possibly because it is literary fiction and her debut in the genre too, Fatima Bhutto chooses to leave a great deal unsaid and sometimes flits over the surface of things, so that many motives seem difficult to understand and many characters not fleshed out enough: Anjana Basu in The Outlook

shadow-of-the-crescent-moon-penguinFatima Bhutto’s debut novel is set in the scarred outer regions of Pakistan, one of those territories that the state looks down on and rules with ‘ox-blood heeled’ violence. Mir Ali is located in North Waziristan and should rightfully have been a place out of a dream with clear blue skies, mountain peaks and rushing streams where the children go to fish with their families in summer. Instead, it is a place where young men and, sometimes, older ones disappear with no explanations given, where families pack their bags and prepare to vanish once their sons are gone. However, Fatima Bhutto chooses to introduce the troubled one-horse town not through straight description, but through three hours in the life of three brothers: Aman Erum, recently returned from studies in the US, Sikandar the doctor, and Hayat. The day happens to be Id and because Mir Ali is the place that it is, there are snipers on the rooftops looking down on the town as the bazaars slowly open.

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Kitaab Audio: Commercial Fiction matters more than Literary Fiction

PB0811112013110801At the Publishing Symposium at this year’s Singapore Writers Festival, the final debate was held on 8 Nov, 2013. The motion was ‘Commercial Fiction matters more than Literary Fiction’. Moderated by Singaporean poet Alvin Pang, the panel consisted of Jo Lusby (Head of Penguin Books, North Asia), Ravi Mirchandani (Editor in Chief, Atlantic Books, UK), Rachel Kahan (Editor at William Morrow, New York), Deepthi Talwar (Editor, Westland Ltd., India) and Romesh Gunesekera (Sri Lanka-born UK-based novelist). Here are excerpts from the debate.