Inaugural Day of Jaipur BookMark Deep Dives Into Publishing Industry Trends
Keynote Address by Jo Lendle on publishing for the 2020 decade
Bejewelled and turbaned, with characteristic flourish, vibrant Rajasthani musicians escorted guests arriving at the Durbar Hall, Diggi Palace to the inaugural event of Jaipur BookMark 2020. The auspicious sound of the conch shell heralded the opening even as H. E Jakob Frydenlund, Ambassador of Norway, Namita Gokhale and Neeta Gupta, Co-Directors of Jaipur BookMark, Sanjoy K. Roy, Managing Director of Teamwork Arts and Producer of Jaipur BookMark, Urvashi Butalia and Aditi Maheshawri Goyal lit the ceremonial lamp to open the festival.
Remarking on the lucky quality of the number 7, Jaipur BookMark Co-director Neeta Gupta welcomed all speakers and guests to the 7th edition of the Jaipur BookMark. Jaipur BookMark Co-director Namita Gokhale highlighted the fact that the publishing industry and book trade have always been at core of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival from the time of its inception 13 years ago and that Jaipur BookMark was established to give particular focus to this key idea. In his inaugural address, Sanjoy K. Roy, Managing Director Teamwork Arts and Producer Jaipur BookMark, discussed the ways in which literature and translations make other languages accessible. The future of publishing, as he sees it, lies in translations, in bringing to readers stories that we wouldn’t have access to otherwise. This acquires even more significance in this era of migration and movement, when stories that root us help us reconnect and rediscover. Ambassador Jakob Frydenlund discussed the issues of promoting small languages in a big world and the importance of translations, not just to English but to other languages as well. Reflecting on the similar sound of the Norwegian word “sammen (together) and the Hindi word “samman” (respect), Frydenlund said JBM was an event that brought people together with respect.
In an inspiring keynote address, Jo Lendle unveiled his publishing almanac for the new decade. Speaking about the paradoxes inherent in the publishing industry, chief amongst these being the fact that no matter how we read, we’ll die unread, Lendle highlighted several developments he envisions unfolding in the coming years - the form becoming smaller as reading becomes increasingly fragmented, genre differences getting blurred, the end of literature being an instrument of distinction, amorphous authorship with no clear creator and more digital content, a lot of which, in his opinion, already exists. Lendle believes that printing will thrive, particularly as a counterpoint to computer monitors as publishing literature remains unnecessary but paradoxically indispensable.
The first day at Jaipur BookMark featured several stimulating sessions. In The Heart of a Bookstore, moderated by Rick Simonson, Arsen Kashkashian, Jeff Deutsch, Priyanka Malhotra and Shuchi Saraswat identified their personal vision of what constitutes this beating centre. According to Arsen Kashkashian, privileging the browsing experience and connecting reader to author lies at the heart of a bookstore. For Shuchi Saraswat, it is community building while for Jeff Deutsch, it is the customers and for Priyanka Malhotra, it is creating a sense of community.
Books don’t sell themselves. A great story and cover, a compelling blurb and an appropriate category are critical to get off to the right start. Yet, there’s just a little more thinking outside the box when it comes to selling children’s books. A panel constituted of well known authors, publishers and booksellers, came together in The Big Book Box for Kids to discuss challenges in making children’s books visible and accessible to young readers as well as marketing strategies for overcoming them. Laurence Faron discussed ways of carrying forward and moving beyond the legacy of fairytales in France, encouraging authors to rewrite traditional fairytales in innovative ways, particularly inverting or raising questions about characters in order to change perceptions. Moderator Naveen Kishore focussed the attention of the panel on content creation for young children, raising the question of how to respond to challenging times without talking down to children. Manisha Chaudhry explained how publishing for children cannot be separated from the education scenario in India even as she argued for the urgent need for books beyond textbooks. Speaking about the necessity of bridging the distance between the marginalised and the mainstream in sensitive ways, Chaudhry also cautioned against appropriating and privileging certain stories and certain voices over others. Deepa Agarwal discussed the need for inclusive literature, especially with regard to children with special needs. Reading out a joint statement written by a group of children’s book authors, Richa Jha passionately advocated that children’s books matter and in a world descending into chaos, it is even more important to find works that light the way.
The Changing Face of Digital Narratives focused on the democratisation of content. Anu Singh Choudhary, Asma Khan, Ján Tompkins and Rohit Ved Prakash in conversation with Vani Tripathi Tikoo discussed the immersive experience provided by new genres of digital narratives. According to Anu Singh Chaudhury, this is the best time to be a writer as different platforms exist to serve the needs of different stories. Discussing her experience of being on Netflix, Asma Khan elaborated on the fantastic opportunities presented through widening platforms. Rohit Ved Prakash reflected that serialised content is ideally served by narratives which are character-driven. Speaking about the relatively new medium of virtual reality, Jan Tompkins explained that he perceives it as extensions of and not replacements for literature. The session highlighted how collaborations and shared narratives will lead the way forward.
An inspirational session on the need for translations and words without borders, Towards a Borderless Literature, featuring a keynote by Berthold Franke and an Audio Visual Message from Norwegian Literature Abroad brought together AJ Thomas, Chandra Prakash Deval, Jo Lendle, Jules Levinson and Vera Michalski in conversation with Urvashi Butalia. Translating National Narratives presented Anushree Rathore, Oscar Pujol, Rakhshanda Jalil and Ravi Deecee in conversation with Aditi Maheshwari Goyal. The panel discussed narratives of national identity expressed in various Indian languages and the definitive mosaic of unity this diversity of voices has created in India.
This day wrapped up in celebrations with the announcement of the Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator Award 2020 which was presented by the Vani Prakashan Group and Teamwork Arts Pvt. Ltd. to writer, translator and literary historian Dr. Rakshanda Jalil. Dr. Rakhshanda Jalil on receiving the award said, “It’s a matter of great pride and honour to receive
the Vani Distinguished Translator Award from such an eminent jury. My first translation, a collection of short stories by Premchand was published in 1992, it has been a long enriching journey since then. It is heartening to see translation finding spaces and getting accolades at various literary platforms across the country and publishers have a great role to play in this.”
This was followed by the launch of the Hindi translation of Ibsen, which is part of the Ibsen in Translation project, where translators from across the world work together to translate twelve plays from Norwegian by playwright Henrik Ibsen. The Ibsen Hindi Translation was launched by translator Astri Ghosh, H.E. Hans Jacob Frydenlund, Namita Gokhale, Neeta Gupta and Sanjoy K. Roy.