Indian Literature at a High in '08

Zafri Mudasser Nofil, New Delhi
Indian Literature at a High in '08
Be it recognitions at the global level, controversies, visits by high-profile writers, publishers rolling out bestsellers and several new authors spinning stories, Indian literature in 2008 saw them all!

Aravind Adiga brought cheers to the nation when his novel "The White Tiger," an ironic take on the new India with its techno-brilliance and IT prowess, bagged the Man Booker Prize beating the likes of Salman Rushdie ("The Enchantress of Florence") and Amitav Ghosh ("Sea of Poppies") among others.

Earlier in the year, Rushdie's "Midnight's Children" was voted for by the public as the Best of the Booker prize shortlisted from the award's 40-year history. "Midnight's Children" had won Rushdie a Booker in 1981 and also the Booker of Bookers in 1993.

Upamanyu Chatterjee was honoured by the French government with the prestigious Officier des Arts et des Lettres (Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters) for his contribution to contemporary literature.

Eminent poet Rahman Rahi was conferred the Jnanpith Award and became the first Kashmiri to get the country's highest literary honour.

The year was mired in controversies as far as literature was concerned.

"Goodbye Shahzadi", a political biography on slain Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto by Indian journalist Shyam Bhatia raised a storm in Pakistan.

In the book, Bhatia described details of a conversation he claimed he had with Bhutto in 2003 but promised to keep secret during her lifetime. According to him, Bhutto had told him that she smuggled CDs with critical data on making nuclear weapons to help facilitate a missile deal with North Korea besides many more details.

But this did not go down well with the ruling Pakistan People's Party which even mulled legal action against Bhatia.

Farookh Dhondy's book "The Bikini Murders" also brew a storm over the alleged resemblance of its central character with jailed serial killer Charles Sobhraj.

Both Dhondy and publishers Harper Collins said the book was in no way based on the life of Sobhraj.

Celebrated British writer Jeffrey Archer was on a six-city visit to India in May to promote his 14th novel "A Prisoner of Birth".

During a chat, he told PTI that he will make the main character of his next novel "Paths of Glory" pay three visits to the country with a couple of Indians also "adding to the feeling" of the book.

Amitav Ghosh's "Sea of Poppies" (Penguin) also saw a high profile release in India.

Another book which made headlines was BBC journalist Mohammed Hanif's "A Case Of Exploding Mangoes", a black, utterly gripping novel about the last days of General Zia written.

On releases, all the major publishers had a busy year.

HarperCollins Publishers India had more than a dozen successes and three titles - "Netherlands" by Joseph O'Neill, "Northern Clemency" by Philip Hensher and "The White Tiger" getting long listed for The Man Booker Prize with Adiga emerging as the winner.

Other major HarperCollins titles included "The Japanese Wife" by Kunal Basu, Ameen Merchant's "The Silent Raga", PM Nair's "The Kalam Effect: My years with the President", "Smoke and Mirrors: An Experience of China" by Pallavi Aiyar, Karan Bajaj's "Keep off the Grass", "The Zoya Factor" by Anuja Chauhan and Deepak Chopra's "Jesus".

Penguin also had titles like much-hyped Nandan Nilekani's "Imagining India", "Bombay Tiger" by Kamala Markandaya and Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi's "Lost Flamingoes Of Bombay".

Besides "A Case Of Exploding Mangoes", Random House (India) also had "AIDS Sutra", works of about 15 writers on AIDS in India.

With Indian writers making hay, leading publishers of romance Mills & Boon announced a short story-writing contest exclusively for India.
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