Discussion Post: What do You Think of the Literature of Your Country?

I’ve been contemplating this for a while and what better time to talk about this than when the Indian Lit Readthon (hosted by me and 3 more blogging friends, if you didn’t know) is going on? This might be more applicable to international/non-English readers but I hope everyone can take away something from this. If I take a look at my ‘Read’ shelf on Goodreads, it is abundantly clear that my reading is almost 99% books written by non-Indian authors. While I have been trying to read diversely from last year, I haven’t actively reached for books published in my own country. In this post, I’d like to outline some reasons as to why and talk about my relationship with Indian literature.

Discussion_ Indian Literature

A lot of international bloggers have this issue where English books are not easily available in their countries. While only bestsellers make it to India as well, there is no dearth of books published in India that are written in English (an impact of colonialism, but let’s not get into that now). However, if you’ve been following me for a while, you know that my reading tastes are mostly geared towards middle grade and young adult. I find that Indian authors write a lot more literary ficiton, romance and non-fiction. I don’t think there are many books that have been written exclusively with Indian teens in mind. Part of the problem is that everyone assumes youngsters these days don’t read and hence no demand for YA books. While platforms like Twitter, Instagram and YouTube have stamped out that assumption (at least I’m convinced), the publishing industry has yet to produce a Twilight that will revolutionize books for Indian teens.

giphy

Another problem unique to India is that it is so diverse that although several wonderful books may exist in regional languages, one is limited to the books in languages they can read. Translated works are often not available and even if they are, many are done word-to-word and don’t really make much sense that way as the grammar rules of English and Sanskrit-based Indian languages are quite different. Also, some very old classics have gone out of print and are seriously difficult to track down. Having a very poor public library system just makes matters worse.

giphy1

My third issue is that I use reading as an escape from reality and don’t like to read something that is close to my own experience. I generally don’t reach for books whose blurbs seem like they are describing my life, especially if I’ve heard that it has a sad ending. This is why I had hesitated to pick up Indian books in the past, but I’m slowly coming out of that mindset. Reading about similar experiences as yours can be quite refreshing as I discovered when I read Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag. I feel like I’m finally ready to pick up books by Indian authors and feel a deep connection with the characters whose lives echo mine or those around me. I’m hoping I will have more success stories to report after the Indian Lit Readathon is done!

giphy2

Lastly, I’m of the opinion that there is a real problem with the Indian book scene right now. Self-publishing has made it easy for even a toddler with sufficient computer skills to publish books and this has meant that there is no dearth of quantity but a definite lack of quality. I have heard from other bloggers that they have often received very poorly edited manuscripts and even been harassed by authors who send their copies for review. Check out this video by popular Indian book blogger Manpreet as she talks about her worst experiences with Indian authors. All this makes me apprehensive to start books by authors who haven’t won awards and I also studiously avoid those on the bestseller lists as they are not always a guarantee of good writing. However, since there seem to be many award-winning authors from India or of Indian origin, I’m sure my TBR will henceforth forever include Indian books.

giphy3


Comments

If you’re an international book blogger or a non-native English speaker, are some of these problems relevant to you as well? Do you actively read literature of your own country or translated works? For native English speakers, what are some problems in the publishing industries of your country? I would love to discuss these with you in the comments section below. If you have a lot to say, feel free to write up a post and include a pingback as I’m curious to know your opinions!

38 thoughts on “Discussion Post: What do You Think of the Literature of Your Country?

  1. Beware Of The Reader

    Well as I mostly read romance and YA I don’t find many Belgian authors fitting this category. They do tend to write either thrillers either non romance contemprary so …not much of my prefered genre. We have incredible movie stars and singers but sadly the Belgian authors are not really well known…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely understand! The authors here get famous only if they manage to be controversial and just award-winners aren’t actually living in India (most tend to be immigrants), so authors aren’t well-known here too. It’s sad that such is the case in many countries but in places in like US, a NY Times bestselling author would be given so much respect and privilege! 😞

      Like

  2. I haven’t lived in my native country for 11 years, so not really sure what’s going on now, but back in they i have not found many local authors who wrote stuff i preferred. Crime, thriller, horror.

    There were two really cool ones, but both took up a french pseudonym, so for a while i didn’t realize they were local authors 😂 They wrote sci fi and fantasy, so even the book setting was not a clue for their origin.

    And there was a dude who wrote mysteries w spiritual twist under an English sounding name. I read a few of his books, but usually preferred foreign authors cuz of the genre thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so very much for sharing your experiences! ❤ I completely get the whole genre problem because I face that too! Oh wow, figuring out those authors belonged to your country must’ve been really hard. But I’m glad you did because when someone from your native country asks you for recommendations perhaps you can point them to those authors because their works would be more accessible to them. Also perhaps to others if they’re looking for something different to read within a certain genre as I feel that international authors can offer a refreshing perspective on the same old tropes. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Even when I was younger and in India, I do remember gravitating more towards western authors… there was Enid Blyton… Sir Arthur Conan Doyle… and all the classics to read… I was only interested in our epics, either in Telugu or English…
    it was only after I started working and exploring bookstores on my own was I able to discover Indian authors.. tropey romances mostly…
    And I hate literary fiction, it just goes over my head… so avoid most of the award winning Indian authors.. that’s one reason I’ve read all Chetan Bhagat even though I didn’t particularly enjoy them.. just wanted to read a fun entertaining book by an Indian… I still prefer our epics and retellings though… Ashok Banker and Amish Tripathi are probably the only ones I look for new releases… sometimes even Ashwin Sanghi too coz of his Dan Brown style thrillers…
    I don’t even know if anyone has ever written YA in India… because I haven’t read any… that’s why reading books by Sandhya Menon or Nisha Sharma make me so happy… it satisfies my craving for Indian characters in YA and I also relate to them more because I live here in US now…
    I seem to have gone on a rant Nandini… !!! Sorry 😐😐

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sahitya, I value your opinions greatly so I really don’t mind the long rambles. ❤ I had the exact same experience when I was a kid as well and when I used to write stories at that age, all my characters were white and had Christian names. I also completely understand your preference because romance and literary fiction are still the bestsellers and critically-acclaimed respectively but I don’t enjoy them personally. The fact that Amish’s books were such a hit opened up a whole different genre for Indian writers and it’s my favourite “Indian genre”. I would love it if the focus was shifted to children’s fiction as well because we need such stories when figuring out our identities as children and teenagers and I think reading about a character with similar experiences or background would really help in shaping an individual. Since India is such a diverse country, which can be both good and bad, it’s also very important to have stories representing people of all classes in the society. I think given our rich history and cultural influences, Indian authors have the potential to come up with some really unique perspectives and I hope that the publishing industry here recognises that so we can be proud of the quality of our literature rather than having to compare with those of other countries and find it to be clichéd or problematic. I really want to read more YA by Indian authors and immigrants because it just makes me really happy to see someone like me represented in a genre I love and we can slowly build up on the success of such authors to help bring a change. This is probably wishful thinking at this point but I feel so very passionate about it and I hope it does end up happening somehow! 😭

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I know… Children’s fiction and YA have such few representation of Indian characters… and they seem so few in India too.. I don’t know why considering lots of Indian kids seem to love reading western YA novels… how wonderful it would be to read books set in our cities or towns, our school systems and universities, Indian inspired fantasies… I hope it’s not wishful thinking and we see progress in our lifetimes..
        Amish definitely opened up a whole new genre and I love that it inspired many authors to look to our myths and culture for writing stories…. because we have so much to dive into… each state has its own myths and legends and I’m sure all readers would love stories rooted in their native culture…

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I hope so too! That would be amazing to read indeed. For the Indian Lit Readathon I read a book set in my state and it had such beautiful descriptions of the places I know and have been too that it made me look at my own surroundings in a different perspective. Of course it also had character names that were now familiar to me and a very rustic Indian feel to it to which I could relate easily. I think it’s very important to experience that every once in a while. The trend that Amish’s books set off to find the story gems hidden within our culture is something I want to see more of than writers of India copying something formulaic from others just because it “sells”.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I know right.. that feel of reading something so familiar to you is wonderful… and so rare… I don’t know if I’ve actually read any book set in Hyderabad… I should search for some…
        Simon vs gave me those vibes coz I lived in Atlanta… and the Ferris wheel carnival where they meet at the end was located right opposite my house.. that was just wowwww…
        Everyone writing something that sells is too common.. even movies too.. that’s why we see the same tropes repeated… tropes can also be fun as long as the author brings some uniqueness to it… Hope to see more such books …

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah…I’m in the US, so I definitely don’t face problems like this. It is interesting to read about international publishing/books, though. I hope you get more YA books soon!

    To make a general statement about American literature, I think our “classic” literature is a bit lackluster at times. I’m more of a British literature fan before the twentieth century….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Briana, and I hope so too! 😊 That’s an interesting perspective because the more Indian literature I’m reading, the more I find that the classics of the past are much more nuanced and masterfully done than the works of modern writers. I think it’s mostly because the contemporary writers (especially those writing genre fiction) try to copy from or be heavily “inspired” by authors from English-speaking countries, so they often end up becoming filled with clichés, which I don’t think works for more experienced readers. I’m really glad that the YA literature scene in the US is letting more diverse voices to be heard and is acclaimed both nationally and internationally.

      Like

  5. Laurie

    Oh I feel you. I mainly pick up translated books as well. Why? First of all, we are lucky to get many translated books overhere in The Netherlands, although it sometimes takes forever for them to come out. We have a lot of authors ourselves too, but when it comes to YA, they target the younger readers. Their main characters tend to be in the age range between 12-15 years old and that’s more middle-grade. However, those books get marketed as YA. For me, I get bored while reading those, because the main characters are way too young for me and it’s basically more high school drama. However, there’s a shift visible in this thankfully. Furthermore, many Dutch authors write chicklit or feelgood and those genres are not really my thing. We have some thriller and romance writers, but not many. And if they do, they write literature, which is a specific genre here. Literature is heavy themed and if you are unlucky, the language is also difficult. It is mostly associated with the mandatory high school reading. I try to pick up some national literature up, but I tend to pick up international ones easier. They sell better as well here though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for this comment, Laurie! ❤ It was great to hear your thoughts on how the literature scene in The Netherlands is. I’m so glad that you’re able to see a shift in the kind of YA books that are coming out and I also hope that there will be more authors published in the genres that interest you. 😊
      I share the same views as you when it comes to the literary fiction kind of novels. I also find them very difficult to read and understand because most of the “deep” themes completely baffle me. This is of course the primary reason why I haven’t picked up more Indian books but I’m trying my best to give them a chance and see how they turn out.

      Like

  6. Interesting! I’ve been reading more Indian literature lately (the last was The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar), but I can certainly understand how the issues you highlight exist and are frustrating. Young adult literature in particular is so important to shape our next generation!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I read mostly non-Swedish literature, partly because I wish to read literature from all over the world, and partly because I greatly enjoy British classics but I do try to read more Nordic literature (20 of my books on my Classics club list are by Nordic authors).

    However, I would say that in general we really are fortunate when it comes to literature access, at least those of us who can read in English as well as Swedish (translations do take time and only covers the most popular books). A wide selection of English books might be hard to find in physical book-stores and libraries (although there are exceptions) but are easily ordered online and are priced approximately like Swedish books (that is quite reasonably). I’m not saying that there are no barriers, if you have no income of your own or can’t read in English that will limit your choices (but you will still most likely have access to a quite broad selection of Swedish and translated fiction from the library) but in general I would say that we are very lucky.

    Swedish literature is taught in schools and can be found in public libraries (often also reasonably new and popular books). Much of it is excellent, especially when it comes to children’s literature.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also enjoy reading books from all over the world, but I was also neglecting and dismissing the literature of my own country, which was bad. Your classics list sounds great!
      I’m so happy that’s the case in Sweden! 😊 I’ve heard really good things about Nordic crime fiction and there are quite a number of award-winning authors from there as well (I remember we read a story by Selma Lagerlöf in English at high school level). It’s great that literature is so actively encouraged and consumed there, with minimal issues in terms of accessibility! Of course things like improving the kind of books the libraries stock, translating books so that it reaches a wider audience and making both new and old releases more accessible to all classes of society can be done and I hope it’s being done. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow, I’m so impressed that you have read Selma Lagerlöf! Do you remember the story? Coincidentally Rushdie’s portrait of India reminded me of how she portrays her native region in one of her novels so I was thinking of her when I read Midnight’s children.

        Nordic crime fiction is huge, it feels like 50% of our authors are writing crime fiction (but I hope that’s an overestimation). My favourite is Åsa Larsson if you want to try one, but she’s not that popular and could perhaps be hard to find. I read a lot of Nordic crime a few years ago but right now I prefer the cosier British crime classics.

        I would say that we do have some of the same problems other international bloggers have with less ARC access and just generally blogging in a community where everyone is assumed to be American. However, as most of us have good access to books in general and we have other advantages such as better exposure to translated fiction and the ability (for many of us) to read in more than one language, I would say that we are differently privileged than US bloggers rather than less privileged.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It was about a tramp, although I don’t remember the title now. Ah, I’ll try to see if Åsa’s books are available here. I love how you said “differently privileged than… less privilege”! ❤ I think that’s a great way to sum up your experiences and I’m so glad you have all these wonderful opportunities. 😊

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Thank you! I’m hoping that even if we might not ever get exactly the same privileges as US-bloggers (for example because we speak a small language and live far from literary centres) all internationals will eventually have similar opportunities…

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m from the USA, like Briana, and I don’t really know what the publishing industry is like in other countries. So this post was a real eye-opener for me. I really hope that more Indian authors consider writing YA fantasy / fiction in the future, and that you find more books by Indian writers that you love during the Indian Lit Readathon!

    On a related note, I remember we’ve talked in the past about how you and other Indian residents aren’t able to receive books from The Book Depository. Do you experience the same issue with other big-name online retailers? How and where do you typically buy books?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sara! 😊 I hope the publishing industry does change a bit here. I’m slowly making my way through some really popular authors from India and I’m really enjoying what I’ve read so far. 🙂

      I usually order from Amazon. A UK online seller, Wordery, also ships to India but I haven’t tried them out yet as Amazon typically works out to be cheaper (it also depends on the exchange rates at the time of purchase, so it’s a very volatile number). Other than that a few popular Indian e-commerce websites also have a limited selection of books. A majority of sellers have a lot of second-hand books of mostly backlist titles and almost all new releases are unavailable for pre-ordering.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books of 2018 (So Far) + Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag – Unputdownable Books

  10. This is an amazing post!! And it’s definitely something I’ve thought about before. In my case it might be a combination of the really bad publishing industry that never encourages new authors and how wide spread the american culture is because of the internet 😂. I’ll get American pop culture references and that makes american work a lot easier to translate and market in other countries where a book full of little things from my country would not be as universal?
    I also don’t really like reading in my language it really does affect the “escapism” part of reading!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, the same happens here too, except Indian authors do manage to do fairly well. That does make sense because mainstream media tends to favour American content. If popular culture were truly diverse, I wonder if “international” books would be more widespread?
      I can relate to your “escapism” point so much! This is one of the main reasons I read too and which is why I tend to prefer the speculative fiction genre. But I feel like once in a while I do need to read something more familiar so my struggles and identity are reflected in literature as well? I’ll try to maintain a healthy mix of both though as I would previously do just the former. Part of the reason is because I do want to support Indian authors who are good and support diversity in any way I can. I hope that makes sense?

      Like

  11. I’m English but live in The Philippines so international books are taxed so are a lot more pricey, yet there isn’t a lot of local literature to fill the void, at least that I have seen. Just a few classics that have really stood out. Most of the books I pick up are second hand and have been donated from overseas, a lot of British and US by the looks of it so I have been rereading the few books I managed to bring with me as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience! Living outside US/UK really helps recognise the lack of access to quality literature, doesn’t it? I hope it changes for the better as the world is brought closer due to the Internet. 😊

      Like

  12. Pingback: Wrapping up July 2018: a month of lists, and um, overnight fame? (Oh and read for a surprise!) – That Bookshelf Bitch

  13. Pingback: Book Bloggers I Love Just As Much As I Adore Chris Hemsworth (Um, sort of) – That Bookshelf Bitch

  14. Very true. And as you said the regional literature that we have is still a lot in silos. You can check books published by Sahitya Akademi. They mostly publish regional books in other regional languages or english. But its a govt. run org. So the availability is a bit of a problem at times. I recent bought a few books – short story compilations over different languages. Stories from kannada, boro and assamese.
    But great post. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s