CIBF 24: A true melange of literature and culture

The second edition of the ‘Chennai International Book Fair’, held between January 16 and 18, 2024 was indeed a platform for literary agents, writers and publishers across the globe to know more about Tamil culture and literature. Janani Rajeswari. S presents a quick look at the highlights of the event.

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The bold and royal music played out as brightly dressed performers were busy welcoming the guests with a traditional dance from Tamil Nadu on January 16. Anbil Mahesh, Minister of School Education, M. Subramaniam, Minister of Health and Welfare and P. Anbarasan, Minister of Micro and Small and Medium Enterprises, Dindigul. I. Leoni, Chairman, Tamilnadu Text Book and Educational Services Corporation (TNTBESC), Gajalakshmi MD, TNTBESC, Elambahavath, Director of Public Libraries, Dr. T. Sankara Saravanan, Joint Director, TNTBESC and Gvantsa Jobava, Vice President, International Publishers Association inaugurated the event along with publishing professionals and experts present.

Gvantsa Jobava said, “We are back in Chennai for the second edition this year. We are very happy to see that the state government of Tamil Nadu is supporting the event.” A coffee table book featuring around 50 famous Tamil writers to be introduced to the international publishers was also released during the event.

This was followed by literary sessions on various topics including publishers speaking about taking Tamil to the world. The other session featured regional language writers including Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Oriya highlighting the challenges in translation. There was a special presentation by ‘Guest of Honour’ Malaysia on their literary world on the second day.

The ’Rights Hub’ concept

R. Gajalakshmi, Managing Director, TNTBESC, pointed out the significant role of book fairs in fostering reading culture. In particular, ‘The Rights Hub’ page on the CIBF 2024 website proved to be an invaluable resource in streamlining the process for both Indian publishers and foreign delegates to meet each other. The user-friendly interface made navigation and accessibility seamless, facilitating a comprehensive overview of each participant’s profile.

The flexibility of meeting slots, accommodating individual preferences and convenience of participants was a notable feature. The transparent and unbiased system for requisition, acceptance, and decline of meetings, catered to the specific needs of publishers and agents alike.

“The ‘Rights Hub’ platform not only simplified the meeting process but also enhanced the overall experience and considerable effort went into aligning it to the calibre of international book fair portals,” adds Dr. T. Sankara Saravanan, joint director, TNTBESC.

Taking translation worldwide

Gajalakshmi emphasised on the successful execution of the motto, ‘Taking Tamil to the World and Bringing the World to Tamil’, especially highlighted by the number of Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) signed during the CIBF 2024.

A total of 752 MoUs were signed including 483 for Tamil books to be translated into foreign languages and 230 were for other language books to be translated into Tamil. Different types of books from Tamil literature were available. “There was more demand for fiction, especially novels and historical fiction among the foreign delegates.Non-fiction works were also sought after,” says Dr. Saravanan.

International publishers were drawn to books that represented Tamil history and culture, especially those that were similar to theirs. For instance, renowned historian Tho. Paramasivam’s Ariyapadatha Thamizhagam is going to be translated into seven languages.Burma Vazhi Nadaipayanam by eminent writer Uve. Swaminathanar (who lived in Burma and published a magazine there) and Burma Ramani, collection of children’s stories, have been selected to be translated into Burmese. The renowned Thirukkural has been picked up by countries like Albania, Latvian and Georgia for translation, including Mauri language. Even literary classical books popularised by movies like Ponniyin Selvan (originally written by Kalki) and his other works by the same author were also much sought-after this year.

Other works included nationalised books and books by award winning writers.

Role of literary agents

Further, Ms. Gajalakshmi also appreciated the contributions of the young literary agents. Dr. Sankara Saravanan pointed out that last year out of 100 books, only 52 grants were released. The lacuna was the lack of communication between the Tamil and International publishers. This year, the CIBF team trained twenty literary agents in various aspects related to copyrights law, Tamil and global literary trends and negotiation skills, genre preferences, etc. He added that the work of the literary agents was closely scrutinised by him and Dr. Elambahavath, director, Department of Public Libraries.

Gajalakshmi also commended Mr. Elambahavath, Director of Public Libraries, and Dr. Sankara Saravanan, the Joint Director, TNTBESC, for their effective training, indicating a collaborative and futuristic approach for preserving and promoting Tamil literature.

Rajalakshmi B, a Literary Agent, signed 24 MoUs for translating Tamil books. These include taking writer Bama’s works into languages like Arabic, Albanian, Armenian, French and Slovenian, and writer Karan Karki’s works into 5 different languages, including Russian and Malay. In addition, she has also facilitated the translation of over 100 titles from Malaysia and Tanzania to TNTBESC. These translation works will be sent to school libraries across the state.

Deepak, yet another literary agent, signed 35 MoUs including 26 outward translations. Dinesh has signed a total of 36 MoUs, 13 outward and 23 inward which include Kaviperarasu Vairamuthu’s works into 9 different languages like Russian, French, Turkish, Slovenian, Armenian, Arabic, Bengali and Marathi. Iniya has signed MoUs for 13 outward and 25 inward translations.

International participants speak…

“ I was quite fascinated by the international participation by publishers and literary agents from across the world, the state of Tamil Nadu and also countries from Asia and Europe. I believe this is a positive indicator of growing interest in the Indian book market, especially the Tamil literature.”

– Gejsi Tafa, Literary Agent, Albania


“It’s great chance to learn about the country and it’s literary world. We also get to see how to work from different regions.”

– Arevik Ashkharoyan, Literary Agent, Armenia


“It’s been a great opportunity as we’ve been trying to figure out the Indian market which has been quite unknown to us. It’s very interesting to finally meet the Indian publishers and know more about the literary scene.”

-Viivi Arela, Literary Agent, Finland


“I feel honoured and excited to be at the CIBF, a professional programme, well-organised and efficiently facilitating networking between Tamil language and the world. I would like to congratulate the organisers for this ambitious outreach initiative that brings Tamil to the world and world to Tamil.”

-Nopi Chatzigeorgiou, Thessaloniki Book Fair Coordinator, Greece


“I was very impressed by the organisation of different aspects of CIBF 2024. Booking appointments has been very easy and I have been able to meet different buyers.”

-Intan F. Anggraini, Foreign Rights Specialist, Indonesia


“I am sure this event will be a bridge between Italian and Tamil literature. But I feel that three days are very limited to discover the potentiality as Tamil language is a treasure that we barely know of.”

-Michela Bennici, Literary Agent, Italy


“We were not prepared for this level of organisation, with regards to CIBF 2024. It’s indeed a fresh breath of air to see people interested in the literature. I am sure it will broaden our horizon bringing such distant countries together.”

-Žanete Vévere Pasqualini, Literary Agent, Latvia


“I think it was an excellent experience for me because I got to know many things about the Tamil culture and the difference between Tamil and other Indian languages. I have an idea about the literature from this part of the world.”

-Rana Idriss, Publisher, Lebanon


“CIBF 2024 marks my first visit to India exploring your culture and literary market. I believe it will open a new door and a new territory. It’s great opportunity to see the works of Tamil authors also represent Lithuanian literature.”

-Benas Bèrantas, Literary Agent, Lithuania


“I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the organisation of the event. I am organiser myself and I can see from the very beginning (application, reception etc.) that the organisers are very professional.”

-DejanTrajkoski, Publisher, Macedonia


“I think it’s a very lovely initiative.VI am very interested in Tamil language as many of my friends are Tamilians. I am looking at taking books from here to Myanmar.”

-San Mon Aung, Publisher, Myanmar


“CIBF 2024 has been a voyage of discovery. I am aware of the Tamil literary tradition and want to know about their language history and the passion of the people for the language.”

-Peter Dowling, Publisher, New Zealand


“From online booking to receiving every information, the organised user-friendly approach of the CIBF team really impressed me. It eased our preliminary preparations for the book fair.”

-Alexandra Finogenova, Foreign Rights Director, Russia


“I like to see various cultures. Serbia is not as internationally present when compared to Europe and the US. CIBF has been a chance to make our country more visible to the world.”

-Nevena Milojevi?, Literary Agent, Serbia

Malaysian visitors speak…

“It’s truly an international book fair focused on copyright trading. What really impressed me was the enthusiasm and commitment of the Government of Tamil Nadu and the grant offered for translation. I believe that it’s a very positive effort that is very commendable.”

-Mohd Khair Ngadiron, Director, National Book Council, Malaysia


“It’s my first time in India and I am very happy as Malaysia is the ‘Guest of Honour’. CIBF is very well organised event and such a fest couldn’t be possible without the support of the state government. I have met some wonderful people.”

-Dr. Ivan Hoe Wat Sing, PNI Neuron (M) Sdn.Bhd., Group CEO, Malaysia

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