The literary scene in 2012 was at its vibrant best going by what Indians read and wrote. There was substantial progress on the digital front, and several ventures, cntroversies and author visits during the year. The year saw one of the biggest tie-ups when Bertelsmann and Pearson decided to combine the activities of their respective publishing companies, Random House and Penguin Group.
The closing of the transaction is scheduled to take place in the second half of 2013, following regulatory approval.
The new publishing group will include all the publishing divisions and imprints of Random House and Penguin in India, the US and the UK among other countries. Indian authors won awards and recognition, sales saw considerable growth, new writers emerged, there were literary festivals galore and acclaimed writers visited the country.
The year 2012 saw the congregation of writers and seasoned authors from the country and abroad at events like the Jaipur Literature Festival, the Hay Festival (Thiruvananthapuram), the Kovalam Lit Fest and the Kolkata Literary Festival. The year saw the Bangalore Literature Festival (BLF) making its debut. It was held from December 7-9 at the Jayamahal Palace.
“The BLF was off to a good start. Over 80 authors - local, national, international - participated, a literary journal was launched and a kiddie corner put up. For three days in December, literature went live in the city,” author and BLF co-organiser Shinie Antony said.
The Jaipur Literature Festival saw controversy over the participation of writer Salman Rushdie. The Satanic Verses author finally pulled out of the event saying he had information that hitmen were “on the way to Jaipur to kill me”.
Four authors - Hari Kunzru, Amitava Kumar, Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi - then created a ripple at the festival by reading out from Satanic Verses. But the controversy did not end there. The organisers decided to host Rushdie’s video address at the event. There was suspense till the last day when the planned video address was cancelled at the last minute over fears of violence. The 65-year-oldIndia-born author described as “awful” the cancellation. Apart from the Rushdie episode, the festival will be remembered for the high-profile visits of talk show queen Oprah Winfrey and the charismatic Fatima Bhutto.
There was much activity in the publishing arena. “It was our 25th anniversary and we’ve had a fantastic year publishing some truly wonderful books and authors: Katherine Boo, Pico Iyer, Shashi Tharoor, Shobhaa De, Kareena
Kapoor to name just a few,” says Hemali Sodhi, vice president (Marketing and Corporate Communications) of Penguin (Group) India. “Our brand ambassador for the year - the customised Penguin car - was a huge hit, and we ended the year by being voted in the top 10 for brand marketing across all categories.”
For Pan Macmillan India 2012 was the first year of its local publishing programme. “The year started on a really high note with the publication of Kunal Basu’s novel The Yellow Emperor’s Cure. The launch of the Pan imprint, under which we publish our more commercial titles, was the major high point of the year,” says Saugata Mukherjee, publisher of Pan Macmillan India.
“We have published some really successful books in this imprint this year - The Shadow Throne, Jaal and The Masala Murder among them. The year ends on a stronger note with Srikumar Sen’s award winning novel The Skinning Tree, Anuvab Pal’s Chaos Theory and Sandipan Deb’s The Last War.”
Simon & Shuster India completed its first year of operations in the country. “2012 was a great year for S&S India. The Magic sold close to 1,00,000 copies since publication. The Indian adaptation of bestseller Dr Spock’s Baby & Child Care was published in November,” says Rahul Srivastava, director (marketing and sales) of Simon & Shuster India.
Niyogi Books MD Bikash Niyogi says the year 2012 was one of “challenge and achievement” for the publishing company. For Westland Ltd, 2012 was a reasonable year of growth despite the adverse conditions in the book retail market.
“We are especially excited about two initiatives launched the year. The tie-up with Yatra to publish Hindi translations of some of our bestselling titles, and Duckbill, a joint venture company which is our first foray into children’s publishing,” says Westland CEO Gautam Padmanabhan.
“We had our share of bestsellers including Ashwin Sanghi’s Krishna Key and Rashmi Bansal’s Poor Little Rich Slum while Amish’s Immortals of Meluha and The Secret of the Nagas continued to dominate the charts.
Poet Jeet Thayil’s debut novel Narcopolis, about opium dens and heroin addiction in Mumbai, was shortlisted for the Booker prize, which was ultimately won by Hilary Mantel.
Novels by four Indian authors - Aravind Adiga’s Last Man in Tower, Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke, Rahul Bhattacharya’s The Sly Company of People Who Care and Indian-Canadian novelist Anita Rau Badami’s Tell It to the Trees were among 154 titles long listed for the 2013 IMPAC Dublin literary award. The shortlist for the Euro 100,000 prize, presented annually for a novel written in English or translated into English, will be announced on April 9 and the winner declared on June 6.
Six Indian writers - Jahnavi Barua (Rebirth), Rahul Bhattacharya, C Y Gopinath (The Book of Answers), Anushka Jasraj (Radio Story), Poile Sengupta (Ammulu) and Sreejith Sukumaran (Another Dull Day) - figured in the shortlists of the 2012 Commonwealth Book and Short Story Prizes. Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke, Uday Prakash’s The Walls of Delhi and Thayil’s Narcopolis were also shortlisted for the DSC Literature Prize. shortlist.