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Indian Writing in English as Celebrity

  • Pramod K. Nayar
Chapter
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Abstract

Raj Kamal Jha, an author whose works are rather difficult to get hold of in a physical bookstore today, was described by India Today as having secured ‘a reported advance of over $275,000 — the largest paid to a first-time Indian novelist since Arundhati Roy and The God of Small Things.’1 This was possible because he was signed up by Picador. Stories of similar advances paid to Vikram Seth, Ramachandra Guha and others are not infrequent in Indian newspapers. We do not now see Jha, he does not figure in discussions of Indian writing today — but wait till the news of his next whopping advance comes along. Demonstrating the power of global publishing, such news items not only tell us that an Indian author is a celebrity because she or he commands this kind of money from a global publishing giant, but also subtly suggest that the advance presents the author as a celebrity even without a word in print — a celebrity in advance, shall we say?

Keywords

Cultural Production Identity Politics News Item Race Critical Theory Celebrity Status 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

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    It is significant that today there are only a few independent booksellers and publishers. Most publishers, academic as well as trade, are now part of massive global conglomerates and publishing chains. Random House thus incorporates in addition Knopf Doubleday, Ballantine, The Dial, Lucas, Crown, Anchor, Everyman’s Library, Pantheon, Vintage, Schocken and others. A perceptive study of global publishing (Stuart Glover (2011) ‘The rise of global publishing and the fall of the dream of the global book: The editing of Peter Carey’, Publishing Research Quarterly, 27(1): 54–61) points out that the earlier, traditional link between author, editor and publisher is now no more. Further, instead of a single authorized edition we have competing editions. Massive advances for authors, signing programmes and global publicity have been of great help to Amitav Ghosh, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie of course and the new generation of Kiran Desais, Aravind Adigas and others, partly as a result of the push towards globalized publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    In an interview Shashi Deshpande states: ‘One of the things one is always asked is “why do you write in English?” for a person like me, whose father wrote in Kannada and who lives very much in this kind of a middle-class milieu, it’s always asked of me, and it’s asked in a kind of accusing tone, as if I’ve done something wrong. There was no choice in the matter. That’s what I always say. It’s not like I sat down and said, “Look, I’m going to write in English.” That was the only language I could write.’ Shashi Deshpande (1998) ‘Interview with Sue Dickman’, Ariel, 29(1), p. 131.Google Scholar
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    See Christa Knellwolf (2002) ‘The exotic frontier of the imperial imagination’, Eighteenth-Century Life, 26(3): 10–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See Tim Barringer and Tom Flynn (eds) (1998) Colonialism and the Object: Empire, Material Culture and the Museum, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
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© Pramod K. Nayar 2014

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  • Pramod K. Nayar

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