From The Independent --
There was a time, not so long ago, when a visit to a Delhi bookshop to browse its section of Indian literature would be a somewhat depressing experience. There would a handful of stellar stand-out names, of course; Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh and one or two others. But the collection would be a half-hearted affair, seemingly there more out of duty than joy, and usually it would be hidden away at the back of the shop.
"Now, that has all completely changed," laughs V K Karthika, publisher and chief editor of HarperCollins India. "Now those books are at the front of the shop. What's more, they're actually the books you want to read, rather than the books you read because you feel you should."
For more than a decade, a period bookended by Arundhati Roy's Booker prize success in 1997 with The God of Small Things and Aravind Adiga's similar achievement last year, India has been enjoying an English language literary boom. A newly buoyant middle-class, better travelled, more curious and with more disposable income, has been devouring books like never before. Almost every year now it appears that there is a new trend – pulp fiction one year, chick-lit "sari fiction" the next – as Indian publishers find new ways to tap into the market and reach out to more readers.
But more lately, this growth is spilling out across the hot and angry borders of the sub-continent. New writers from Bangladesh are finding appreciative international audiences, while the frisson surrounding the new literary scene in Pakistan that has produced a handful of exiting new authors, matches the buzz that India first experienced a decade ago.
In India, the growth seems more obviously apparent in the sheer variety of genres that now fill the shelves. There is more fiction, non-fiction and travel writing than ever before; between them, the major publishers now annually produce around 600 new titles each year. But within these broad headings there is huge diversity that would not have been imaginable a few years ago. Today's India is producing crime novels, comic-strip books, and memoirs such as Maximum City, Suketu Mehta's seminal account of Mumbai. There are books set around the campus's of the country's famed technology institutes, and there are books about young Indian women smoking, drinking and falling in love with hapless, inappropriate men.
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