Translations: a boon for the publishing industry

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Sridhar Gowda discusses his experience at the Sharjah International Book Fair and more.

Geraldine Rose and I returned to the Sharjah Book Fair in November 2014 to attend as guest of the fair’s Professional Programme. Sharjah International Book Fair had allocated a US $3,00,000 grant to fund the translations this year as well and with the additional support provided for the programme, the Fair managed to attract more than 300 rights professionals from across the world. The programme has become one of the best places for buying and selling world literature and, this year; it was more productive for many of the attendees than the Frankfurt Book Fair. During the programme, Kadalu managed to launch Sethumadhavan’s work Messenger and Other Stories, translated by Prema Jayakumar. Last year, the Sharjah International Book Fair had a record number of visitors—over 1.47 million—and sales of US $48.5 million. On a single day, there were over 46,000 students attending from over 350 schools. Malayalam publishers did well and there was a good attendance for events, including an audience of over 2,000 people for a reading by Malayalam poets.

Deservedly, Sharjah Book Fair has been shortlisted for the Market Focus Achievement Award at the London Book Fair this year.

Sharjah International Book Fair is a fine example of promoting book culture. It was with optimism that I arrived in India after the Fair and spent three and half months promoting translation and cultural studies.

This included speaking appearances at the Goa Literary Festival, New Delhi World Book Fair, Hyderabad Literary Festival, Premji University, Bangalore University, the English and Foreign Languages University – Hyderabad, Kannada University – Hampi, as well as discussions at Mysore Open University and Ambedkar University – Delhi. With the Centre for Translation Studies, St Stephen College, New Delhi, the National Book Trust, India organised a day conference on ‘Translation and the Idea of India’ and it was good to see women taking part in panel discussions—their presence was missing at the Frankfurt and Sharjah events organised by the Sahitya Akademi. I was pleased that St Stephen’s made an effort to organise this event, even though the Centre for Translation Studies is run on voluntary power from the English department. Resources given to translation and cultural studies in the University and education system is meagre, which in turn stifles the publishing industry in India, provides no opportunity for muchneeded translators and creates the risk of India becoming a monocultural society.

It was a delight to spend a morning at Government Kannamangala School in Karnataka, where an inspiring teacher, Kaladhar, has been instrumental in publishing writing and illustrations by primary school students with funds raised by the local youth club. Students wanted to know how their book could be translated into other languages and hope the education system will go through the necessary overhaul to nurture their interest.

Through my discussions at book fairs, universities and festivals with writers, translators and publishing professionals, I have become involved in an informal network which is working on initiatives to bring some of the necessary changes to the cultural sector. In the meantime I am back in the UK and look forward to discussing Indian and world literature at the London Book Fair in April.

(Sridhar Gowda is a literary agent at Kadalu Literary and Media Agency and will be speaking at the London Book Fair on April 14 at 3.30 pm as one of the panelists for the event, ‘Literary Agencies Connecting the Continents’).

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