Recent predictions suggest India will surpass China as the world’s most populous country as soon as 2050. So what does that mean to authors and readers half a world away? Since India is already the third largest market for English-language publications, that means a whole lot of readers keeping authors busy publishing 80,000 new books within India each year, not to mention imported titles.
No wonder India was the toast of the Frankfurt Book Fair last fall. At the time, The Hindu’s Hasan Suroor claimed that India’s international publishing profile had not changed much since India enjoyed its first star turn in Frankfurt in 1986: “The kind of Indian titles that sell abroad today remain mostly the same that sold 20 years ago — namely, spiritualism, religion, yoga, coffee-table books on maharajahs and palaces, and, lately, a bit of Bollywood.”
Well it’s not quite 2050 yet, but signs of change are already appearing in the book world. Vikram Chandra’s highly anticipated (and highly paid by publisher Harper Collins, at $1.3 million) 900-page novel Sacred Games has an international readership throwing around Mumbai mafia slang like Bombay Bogarts. As The New Yorker’s Pankaj Mishra points out, Chandra’s untranslated street talk can be tough, but it sure is catchy: “And so for American dollars, we said choklete, not Dalda like the rest of our world; for British pounds, lalten, not peetal; for heroin and brown sugar, gulal, not atta…”
Talk of turning Sacred Games into a Deadwood-style television series coupled with the recent Booker Prize win by Kirin Desai has media pundits in Los Angeles conceding the limelight to India (for a moment, anyway). So when you’re planning your Blurb book tour, you might as well leapfrog L.A. and head right to where the highly literate action is: Bangalore. Next stop? The Abu Dhabi Book Fair, of course.
Where in the world are you headed with that Blurb book of yours? Let us know below.