March 29, 2020
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Book-Shook, anyone? Firangis turn desi, or is that the Future of Freedom?

illustration by Jayachandran Carrying coals to Newcastle? No, it’s only English books that will travel all the way from here to London to give the Brits a taste of Indian publishing. Come July, Indian publishers will be heading to Nehru House in London for a book fair with a difference: it’ll exclusively showcase made-in-India books. When Delhi publishers began bidding for the title of World Book Fair a few years ago, even Unesco didn’t credit their claim to be a boombook town. But having won their bid, publishers are now dreaming big. "In 20 years from now, our fair can rival Frankfurt’s," brags one publisher. Meanwhile, they’re making the most of it, bending the ever-obliging English language to tap new readers. The most original thing, for instance, about the book fest Rupa is holding with the British Council from June 2-8 is its name: Book-Shook.

illustration by Jayachandran There was a time not so long ago when Indian writers thought the only route to fame was to find a foreign publisher. But for the last few years, there’s been a reverse flow (well, a trickle, at least). Indian publishers who haunted international book fairs hoping to bag Indian rights to the next Great Indian Novel are now ending up selling rights. When Abraham Eraly first wrote his book on the Great Mughals, no UK publisher would touch it: his book was too fat for their taste. But having found an Indian publisher, Penguin India, Eraly managed a UK book deal (Weidenfield and Nicolson). There’s a price to pay, though: some of the London reviews have been quite scathing. Like the London Telegraph, which wrote: "Lucidity is not Eraly’s most notable quality and his approach to chronology is often idiosyncratic."

illustration by Jayachandran One Indian writer who’s famous in India even before his book has hit bookshops is Fareed Zakaria. And instead of hunting for an Indian publisher, he has them queuing up. Penguin India has got him and they’re now rushing The Future of Freedom manuscript to printers hoping it finds shelf space by next week.

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