By Dr Meenakshi Malhotra

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Toni Morrison

What can you say about a writer who gave a voice and identity to a whole people — a group and a community whose silences are made to speak and sing in her books? A writer whose voice rang out with passion, courage and conviction  to detail the sub-human conditions in which her people had lived?  A trailblazer whose works depicted the toils and travails of a long suppressed people whose experiences were unrecorded in history books? A writer whose passionate courage helped her to articulate her convictions about the dehumanisation of a whole race?

Morrison was born in 1931 and grew up in a family atmosphere which provided a context for arousing a keen interest in the stories, narratives, folklore, myths and rituals of the African American community. This early interest is evident in the rich oral quality of her writings, its lyrical cadences and it’s measured and “layered polyphony’’. Later, she studied English and Classical Literature from Howard University in Washington D.C. where she acquired her BA degree. This was followed by a Masters from Cornell University in 1955.

Subsequently, she taught at Howard  University for two years. She also got married to a Jamaican architect named Harold Morrison in 1958 and they had two sons, before divorcing in 1964.The next few years Morrison wrote, juggled teaching assignments and also did a twenty year stint with Random House as an Editor. This platform enabled her to identify writing talent and she was able to help many aspiring young African American writers to get published.

It’s not Random House, and it’s not a specialized indie outfit like Europa Editions or New Directions. It’s Amazon.com. Last year, the company’s translation imprint, AmazonCrossing, brought out 44 new English translations from a diverse slate of literature, including Icelandic, Turkish and Korean. That’s more translated titles than any other American publisher, according to data from Three Percent, a literary translation blog at the University of Rochester.

The Literature Translation Institute (LTI) and Random House Korea are launching an ambitious project aimed at helping Korean literature go global.

LTI president Kim Seong-kon said he and Eric Yang, Asia Pacific Publishers’ Association president and RH Korea CEO, have agreed to publish a collection of selected East Asian literary works as part of efforts to draw Western readers’ attention to Korean literature.

While the definition of the book itself is up for grabs, the move from the printed page to the screen is not a particularly significant thing: Tehelka

The book, since Gutenberg built his press in 1450, has remained essentially unchanged. But might technology render books obsolete? There has been plenty of speculation, plenty of hand-wringing. Ewan Morrison, writing in The Guardian two years ago, argued that “within 25 years the digital revolution will bring about the end of paper books.” It sounds dramatic, apocalyptic — books are dead, wiped out. And what of publishers? Penguin and Random House merged in July, to form a buffer against the blustery, squally winds of the changing market for books.

Sonora Jha
Sonora Jha

“When I was 11 months old, on a train journey with my parents from Patna to Deolali, my temperature hit 104 degrees. At the end of the journey, doctors announced that the fever was just a symptom; I had polio. “But I must congratulate you,” the doctor told my mother. “Your child has survived,” writes Sonora Jha, 45, the author of Foreign, her debut novel published by Random House India. The novel was recently shortlisted for 2013 Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize.

“I walked with a limp all my childhood, my right leg shorter, thinner and weaker than my left. I needed corrective padding on my right shoe and spent hours on physiotherapy,” Jha writes in Tehelka. “No other child in my convent school had polio — in the ’70s, people like us, sons and daughters of middle-class, urban officers of the Indian Army, had better access to medical care. I was an aberration, a curiosity.”

Bertelsmann, the German media company, and Pearson, its UK rival, are merging Random House and Penguin, their respective publishing units, in order to respond to the rapidly developing challenges of the ebook revolution.

In a move that is likely to trigger more consolidation, the companies on Monday said 53 per cent of the merged entity, Penguin Random House, would be owned by Bertelsmann, with the other 47 per cent held by Pearson, which also owns the Financial Times.