France is keen to engage with India in the publishing sector in all its diversity

Dr Bertrand de Hartingh, the Counselor for Education Science & Culture of the French Embassy in India, having completed his assignment in India for 55 months, talks about his experience being completely exhilarating, full of learning and marked with initiatives to improve and strengthen bond and exchange between the two nations.


Having spent more than 4 years, it has been an incredible journey,” says Dr Bertrand de Hartingh, “I always think that each month spent in India is like a year. I learnt, received and shared a lot. When I arrived, my objective was to strengthen the partnership, to increase exchange in number of students, number of books published, number of movies etc. Our strategic partnership has been strong for more than 20 years and we felt a need to facilitate growth in each aspect. We worked towards building a bond of mutual trust, cooperation and work in all areas – science, technology, culture”.

A connect which is important…

“This exchange is very important and it started with tackling a number of issues together like students going to France to study in English, read French books published in Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam,” he added, “The reason we are so easily connected to India is that we share the same kind of approach with India, which is a mix between culture and technology.”

“I am very happy with the shift in the way work is happening with India, the French Book Office has been working very actively for many years and has strong relations with publishers which has improved in many ways and made the interaction both ways,” he added. “Publishing houses in France understand that the French language community is roughly 3 lakh million people. But, if a book is translated in Hindi, it reaches out to 5 to 6 lakh million people.”

Initiatives lead to improving ties…

Started in India in 2018, Romain Rolland Book Prize aims at awarding the best translation of a French title into any Indian language, including English. “It is amongst more than 100 projects which we developed during Bonjour India and we now need to enlarge the jury and partners as translations will increase.”

Talking about training programmes, Dr Bertrand said, “We are on our second phase of a training exchange programme for students from both countries. We will like young French students in publishing to come to India, to learn about Indian market and get training here. We shall also develop a programme for the young publishers in the industry so that, publishing houses know and trust each other, as there are so many projects which can be achieved together.”

To mark the annual “Rentrée Littéraire,” a major event in the world of literature in France, an online webinar was conducted, wherein three French Publishers were in conversation with three Indian Publishers. “These exchanges are strategic too,” he said.

Focus on languages and translations…

Besides, the French Institute in India, in collaboration with ATLAS-CITL and Sangam House is organising a translator’s factory from French into Indian languages, which is currently an online programme. “The objective of this training programme is to encourage translators to translate from French to Indian languages and vice versa. This programme aims at giving young translators at the beginning of their careers the opportunity to work with other more experienced translators and to gain a better understanding of the translation and publishing landscape in both countries,” he told. For the years 2020-2021, the first series of sessions will be for translation from French to Malayalam from October 15, 2020 to June 2021 and from French to Hindi from November 5, 2020 to July 2021. The years 2021-2022 will be dedicated to translation from French to Bengali, Marathi and Tamil.

“Our focus is to embrace India in its diversity and wider audience. When we ensure a good translator, it helps the exchange between the two publishing houses,” he added.

Joining the missing links with connections…

“India has great writers and very professional publishers, what is missing in the landscape is the lack of direct knowledge of the French social and human sciences in India. We have a lot of books from French to English but they do not come to India. That for me still is the missing link,” shared Dr Bertrand.

Book fairs and cross cultural connect…

For Livre Paris, India is Invited as Guest of Honour in 2021 and the France is Guest of Honour at the New Delhi World Book Fair in 2022. “Since the situation is so volatile, for March 2021, we will put more online sessions, to allow more number of Indian writers to participate. France is keen to engage with India in the publishing sector in all its diversity, through translations, publishing incentives, literary exchanges and more,” he shared.

Building the bond…

Publication Assistance Programme in India, called Tagore, is a support programme for Indian publishers who wish to publish a French book translated into English or into any Indian language. “Besides, we also provide good translator and invest money on training,” he said

Dr Bertrand also hopes that more Indian students go to France so that they know France much better. “Currently we have 10,000 Indian students in France and we aim to have over 25,000 students by 2025,” he said.

On a personal note…

“For me, India is a paradise for readers, because of importance attached to spirituality and the Indian way of thinking, which is not linear but a more complex one because of the ancient influences. One can go into depths of concepts and I understood that when I re-read certain books, I understand them much better now, more so during the current pandemic,” concludes Dr Bertrand.

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