How the pandemic has widened the opportunity to take translated literature to readers

The fear and uncertainty created by the deadly invisible pathogen permeated at first our public spaces and our physical boundaries and then, slowly but perceptibly, our homes, our conversations, our skins, our souls, and our hopes. For a while, it seemed as if survival was the only mother tongue in a country of more than a thousand languages.

At Indian Novels Collective, a literary translation group, our story-telling and translation projects were disrupted. Our literary and publishing ambitions sank low. Our partnership conversations were uncertain and tentative. But slowly, human tenacity and will kicked in and we began to deal with the reality of delays and challenges, staunchly refusing to surrender to the victorious virus.

In fact, we are now optimistic that translation – a perennially under-recognised genre – can use this moment as one of renewal, where possibilities of collective resilience are reaffirmed in the most unexpected ways.

Drawing attention to translated literature

Indian Novels Collective is a non-profit organisation set up in 2018 in order to spur greater investment and interest in literature across India’s many languages. The Collective has tried not just to provide resources but also to build a community around significant works of Indian literature. Our goal is to create a change in how Indian literature is perceived altogetherby making available information and resources to ensure that the literature of major Indian languages can be appreciated across the country, and indeed, the world, through high quality translations, conversations, dialogues and performances.

Just as European literature easily accommodates French, German Russian, Czech or British authors, among others, in its corpus, we would like readers of present and future generations to be able to appreciate and engage with, for instance, Tamil, Gujarati and Assamese authors with equal ease.

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