CHENNAI: Bemoaning the slow death of Tamil literature in the age of the electronic reading, the former Union Minister P Chidambaram said that last year, he had seen many writers who stopped writing. “How are we going to keep books alive?” he asked, stating that Kindle and its ilk have killed books.
Chidambaram was in Chennai to attend the launch of Samrat Ashoka, a four-volume work by Siddharthan on Emperor Ashoka that was initially published in Tamil. The English version was released in the city on Saturday.
He said that book-buying had dwindled, dissuading many writers from even attempting to publish their work, particularly Tamil writers. “It is sad that as a linguistic group of 7 crore Tamil people, we aren’t able to sell even 2,000 copies of a book,” he said. “Though authors get their share of the royalty, the truth is the copies that are sold are not being picked up from the shelves. Even schools and colleges don’t buy books anymore.”
Recounting Tamil poet Bharathiyar’s premonition of the Tamil language’s slow death over the years, he said, “To imagine that language won’t die is to not recognise a bitter truth,” he said, accusing the habit of purely digital reading to the degradation of the tradition of buying books, keeping vernacular authors alive.
Siddharthan had visited 30 cities to write this novel, and has authored works in poetry, fiction, travelogues and children books. “Ashoka’s reign was the golden period of India, which created international history. He sent missionaries on peace to so many countries. Hence I decided Ashoka was the fittest man to preside over my novel,” he said at the launch.