“We need even more translated literature”

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A Case of Indian Wonders: Dazzling Stories from the Country’s Best New Writers, recently released by Aleph Book Company, is an anthology of short fiction films by India’s most exciting new writers. Edited by editor and publisher David Davidar, the anthology brings together 40 selected short stories by writers aged 40 or younger from 2020. The collection explores “all aspects of the Indian ethos in original and electrifying ways”.

Some stories are unafraid to explore the current socio-political climate and aspects of contemporary society, while other stories in the collection touch on life as it was lived in villages, small towns and large cities. cities of India.

Some of the writers whose stories are included in the anthology like Kanishk Tharoor, Madhuri Vijay, Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, Meena Kandasamy, Prayaag Akbar, Tanuj Solanki, Samhita Arni, Neel Patel and Avinuo Kire have already published acclaimed books. Other up-and-coming writers whose stories have found space in the anthology are working on their soon-to-be-published first short story collections and novels.

“Some of the stories featured in this anthology already memorably record the times we live in and it is inevitable that the writing of the future, however oblique, will be shaped by what the country’s writers have witnessed,” writes David in the introduction. “Our writers, the writers represented here, and others like them, and still others who will follow them, will record this time in new, unsettling and truthful ways – it is what will ensure that the darkness that shrouds the India today will not be forgotten.”

In an interview with ThreadDavid Davidar talks about the selection process for short stories included in the anthology, why they couldn’t find enough good translations of short fiction by young writers from other languages, and how turbulent times can produce some of the best writing in India.

Edited excerpts follow.

Besides the 40 under 40 criterion, were there other factors to select the short stories that appeared in this collection? Many of these stories have been published elsewhere. What was unique about these stories that merited inclusion in the anthology?

The main criterion was literary excellence. To start with, there was a much more extensive long list that was compiled from multiple sources, which I then narrowed down to the final 40. Besides literary excellence, I wanted the selection to reflect the best work of millennial writers. and Generation Z – so the age of the writers was the second important consideration. Yes, all of these stories have appeared in a variety of publications, but that was the purpose of the anthology – it was meant to showcase the best published work of next generation writers.

Since this anthology was based on the fact that it was a selection of the finest stories by writers belonging to the generations in question, it only made sense to include works that had been filtered over and over again – these stories have been reviewed by various experienced editors (magazine editors, book editors, online journal editors, etc.) since their inception and have passed several tests of excellence, so their quality is beyond doubt.

Additionally, many stories have been edited for publication in this anthology, so they’ve been polished to a high shine.

To answer the second part of your question, in my opinion these stories could only have been written by Indians (or writers of Indian descent) who possessed a very contemporary sensibility, which is what makes them all unique.

A case of Indian wonders
Ed. David Davidar
Aleph Books (September 2022)

You write in the introduction that the stories included in this collection “reflect the chaos of the country and each of them does it exceptionally well. This bodes well for the future of Indian literary fiction. Dark times often make for unforgettable literature. Do you think the space and publications, especially for news that reflects the polarized times and current socio-political environment of the country, is shrinking?

I do not think there is any question at all that in today’s socio-political environment all forms of freedom, including creative freedom, are under threat – either overtly or more insidiously, which leads to things like self-censorship. Will this coercion and bullying stop writers from writing what they want? Will it produce great literature? I think history has shown us that some of the best writing in the world was forged in turbulent times – that will happen here too.

How do you see the future of short stories as a literary form of Indian writing in English? Are young Indian writers increasingly drawn to the form of short stories?

I think the short story will continue in parallel with other literary forms. I have no evidence to prove that young writers are more and more drawn to the short story. Some write short fiction, others write novels, and still others write poetry and plays – in this, the present age is no different from any other age.

How will quality translation of short stories from regional languages ​​into English help writers from all languages ​​of India find a wider audience, as you noted in your introduction?

Well, quality English translations will help writers in languages ​​other than English find a pan-Indian audience to start with. Also, the market for English books is the largest in the country, so they will reach a wider readership, as has happened with some writers.

How are these young writers, whose short stories are included in the anthology, different from more experienced writers in terms of their writing craft, and the themes and issues explored in their fiction?

The themes, issues, and topics that most of these writers explore are not that different from those that came before them. It is in treatment and style that these stories often differ from fiction written by previous generations. There’s a fair amount of dystopian fiction that wasn’t so common in the work of those before them.

The majority of stories included in the anthology are written in English, with only a few inclusions of short stories translated from other languages. How do you explain this disparity?

The answer to this question is simple: all of us who searched couldn’t find enough good translations of short fiction films by young writers from different languages. Although there is far more fiction translated today than in the past, we still need translation more – not just into English but into languages ​​other than the language in which the fiction was originally written. ‘origin.

As editor and reader, did any short story stand out in terms of experimentation, unique theme, or writing style in this collection of diverse stories?

I liked all the stories in the anthology otherwise they wouldn’t have been included. That said, I have a particular preference for stories that are political in some way – which is probably why there are quite a few stories that fit that description in the book.


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