Some of these follow the trend towards superhero narratives and indeed, several authors in the genre fiction market have also published comics , often with a nod toward Indian mythology, mentioned with reference to genre fiction above. There is no doubt that the market of Indian fiction in English has been evolving in recent years, and there are good reasons to expect it to continue to evolve. The steady growth in the number of English-language readers in India, the advent of mass-market Indian authors like Bhagat, and the proliferation of genres in recent years, suggest that there are reasons to be optimistic.
However, the advent of digital marketplaces, widespread piracy, and the increasing pervasiveness of a middle-class culture increasingly addicted to social media and digital devices leave some uncertainty regarding the future prospects for authors, publishers, and booksellers in India. The new urban realism in Indian fiction features a highly realistic style that gives precedence to local details and often an emphasis on regional cities like Patna or Hyderabad, rather than national metropolitan centers i.
The style also tends to feature an encounter with themes of criminality, violence, corruption, and an open-eyed acceptance of liberal Indian hypocrisy especially in an era of simultaneous wealth accumulation and urban slum growth and double standards around topics such as caste and religious biases. Bombay Lost and Found That book, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in , caused a sensation both among western readers and readers in India.
Many of the authors we associate with the New Urban Realism are also interested in the tension between state violence and various forms of religious radicalization that feed terrorism.
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Adiga has a typically complex personal history that speaks to the globality of his approach to modern India: He worked in India as a journalist for several years, and has indicated that his travels, especially to rural India, were what inspired him to write The White Tiger. Open our skulls, look in with a penlight, and you'll find an odd museum of ideas. Such a person could not be at once defined by his ad hoc grasp of the world and self-conscious about it. Uday Prakash, in his Hindi short stories, is extraordinarily attentive to the everyday lives of working-class people often invisible to English-language writers.
Not even memories of them will remain.
The Association of Small Bombs is more ambitious, exploring the effects of the bombing of a public marketplace on a group of survivors, including a Muslim boy, Mansoor, whose two Hindu friends were killed in the attack, and Deepa and Vikas Khurana, the parents of the boys killed. Shockie is a young man of modest means who is motivated more by a desire for revenge for past Indian government atrocities against Kashmiris than he is by religious zeal. Mahajan is not so much interested in exploring the inner psychology of a terrorist; this terrorist, for the most part, refuses introspection with regard to the human costs of his actions.
He is brought in to investigate the death of an extremely violent and dangerous gangster named Gaitonde with links to a global criminal underworld as well as a terrorist plot involving a nuclear bomb to be set off in central Mumbai. The dominant ethos is a kind of amoral survivalism, which leads Sartaj Singh to make ethical compromises in order to succeed in his investigation: Without us, there would be nothing left, there would only be a jungle.
While the genre of the New Urban Realism tends to be dominated by male writers, some women novelists also might be seen as writing in this space, especially Samina Ali. But the most important figure to enter into this space is Arundhati Roy, whose novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness , has a definite emphasis on urban life and adult perspectives that were less evident in her earlier The God of Small Things , a novel that had a decided atmosphere of tragic pastorality and a focus on the experiences of young children.
Another major plot takes the novel into the politics of Kashmiri secessionism and the intensely repressive state response to that movement. The emphasis on political violence, the urbanized aesthetics, and the sense that moral judgment in contemporary India is hopelessly vexed—Roy suggests, in an echo of Chandra, that we are all complicit in unspeakable violence—all support The Ministry of Utmost Happiness as an instance of the urban realist aesthetic.
The founding principle of secularism—defined, in distinctly Indian terms, as equal treatment toward all religious communities—has been in crisis in the Indian public sphere since the late s. At the center of many of the fraught public debates is the status of women in Indian religious communities. One of the first serious controversies involved Shah Bano, a Muslim woman who had been divorced by her husband under Muslim personal law; the emerging Hindu right took an interest in her case, though secularists saw their involvement as a self-serving gesture designed to put pressure on the minority Muslim community.
Subsequently, a prolonged campaign from the Hindu right led to the disruption of the razing of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in December , followed soon thereafter by a wave of bombings in Bombay Mumbai , and subsequent religious riots that left hundreds dead.
Another terrible incident of communal violence occurred in Gujarat in , an event that continues to have ramifications into the present moment. Despite that intense social and political focus, there has not emerged a new body of fiction in the 21st century that deals primarily with issues of religious tolerance and intolerance, though many novels including several already mentioned deal with these topics in some way. That said, since , a number of novels have been published that bring a particularly feminist sensibility to the secularism debates.
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The city was settled more than five hundred years ago by the Qutb Shahi kings, and remained an independent small kingdom for nearly years, when it was conquered via a siege by the all-powerful Mughal Empire. Within Old City, it is not uncommon to see women in Burqas or to hear the Azan, or call for prayer, from several different Mosques.
Ali definitely aims to use her novel to make a feminist argument about the challenge of finding feminist agency in the context of a strongly patriarchal minority community, but importantly, many of the agents of repression in the novel turn out to be women. Basava was a critic of religious orthodoxies in his day, but also a bit of a religious prophet himself.
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He is credited with starting a sect, the Veerashaivas Warriors of Shiva , but he is nevertheless held up by some Indian secularists as an early example of a critic of Brahminical authority and religious dogma in general. The Chair of the department and the Dean are spooked by the national media attention, and attempt to strongarm Shiv to revise the lesson and sign the apology. Engagement with globalization has permeated quite broadly into Indian fiction since the early s, and several of the novels described could very well also be understood with reference to globalization as well The White Tiger , for instance, is deeply interested in the topic.
But while the theme is now commonplace, the conceptual territory entailed is not necessarily so simple. Some writers have opted to explore the impact of globalization via an aesthetic of acceleration and cultural simultaneity: Indeed, in his essay from Imaginary Homelands published soon afterwards, Rushdie described his novel with a credo that very well might be that of the globalization aesthetic more broadly: Against a presentist, deterritorialized globalism, since a number of Indian novelists have been exploring an aesthetic that melds the theme of globalization with a deep attention to place, and the ways in which history—ancient and modern—continues to exert itself in the contemporary moment.
Here, hybridity is occurring, but so are strong forces of reaction, nationalist assertion, and cultural retrenchment. Rather than breathlessly celebrating globalization as an era when everyone and everything comes together, this new set of novels attempts to find a way out of the impasses and disjunctions that continue to keep us apart.
The primary characters are a group of various displaced Indians from other parts of India who have relocated to this area, many of them with global connections in their pasts, and locals who sometimes view the outsiders with suspicion. Sai, the primary protagonist, has been educated for years in Europe before returning to India to live with her grandfather, Judge Jemubhai Patel. As the various competing constituencies in the plot come together, Desai seems to be making a point that even in an era of globalization local identities and the personal histories that go with them remain paramount.
And yet we are all intimately connected, as Sai realizes in a meaningful meditation towards the end of the novel: It is a method he initiated in a highly influential nonfiction work, In an Antique Land , and then expanded in his novel The Glass Palace.
In the s, he has produced some of his most accomplished writing in this vein with The Hungry Tide and the Ibis Trilogy. My Son Pika, now a volume series, has sold more than two million copies since its launch. Another emerging segment that Zhang has waited out patiently over the years is the higher-priced novelty market. Now, of course, the competition has heated up with the entry of many translated or copublished novelty products.
With the animated movie coming soon to China, the book sales will certainly go up significantly. For Zhang, increased rights sales aside, closer and direct collaboration with major book markets is crucial. To subscribe, click here. Simply close and relaunch your preferred browser to log-in.
The Indian Novel in the 21st Century
Purchasing the On Demand version after the live event will not include a critique. Carly Watters is a VP and senior literary agent with the P. She is a hands-on agent who develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.
You can find Carly online at carlywatters.
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