A new anthology of Indian authors writing in, and translating into, English, Future Library: Contemporary Indian Writing creates a new sense of contemporariness on the Indian literary scene. This arrangement distinguishes the book from other anthologies of Indian literature which are for the most part organized around a linguistic binary: they are collections either of Indian writing in English or of Indian writing in regional languages English translation, while the project of anthologizing as a whole also seems to be restricted to English for it is difficult to recall any anthologies putting together regional literatures in a single volume.
Long related orally, the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata is believed to have been composed in written form between 300 BCE and 300 CE, the epic narrates the tale of greed and compassion between two clans, the Kauravas and the Pandavas, and has life lessons that transcend any particular civilization. The family feud over a kingdom speaks of sacrifice, love, lust, and enmity.
Indians take their gods and goddesses seriously, holding them extraordinarily close by means of innumerable festivals round the year, and striving to find every possible opportunity to pray to the divine, wish-granting beings in as many ways as humanly possible. As a result, everything from personal problems to social evils becomes a matter of divine intervention. In his 2014 novel Nireeswaran (recently translated from Malayalam into English by Ministhy S), author VJ James has dared to make a case for human intervention by floating the idea of an un-god. The single-word title is the antonym of Eswaran (God).
Was Prince Siddhartha’s wife Yasodhara so awful that he felt compelled to renounce everything to get away from it all? So runs, at least, a misogynistic joke about the story of Buddha’s life and Enlightenment. The question remains, however, and in recent times, this story has been revisited in fiction to imagine the circumstances that could have led to his departure from worldly affairs.
Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, was the earliest advocate of the Non-Alignment Movement, a doctrine that enabled the newly decolonized nations to keep away from the larger world politics of the Cold War. Additionally, Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, took the stance of non-violence that, in the sphere of international politics, restrained India from interacting with the world in a way that requires aggression. On the one hand, both non-alignment and non-violence have encouraged a view of India as a nation that has not engaged with the world in terms of clearly taking a stand in the face of international conflicts. On the other, India also has also been known to cultivate strategic alliances with nations that show considerably less reticence contrary to the spirit of non-alignment. India also maintains nuclear weapons, thus seemingly violating the fundamentals of non-alignment and non-violence.
Konkani writer Damodar Mauzo’s collection The Wait and Other Stories, translated by Xavier Cota into English, stands out for its simplicity. One might expect it to be about Goa, the region in southwestern Indian where Konkani is spoken. However, the canvas of the storytelling is far wider.
South Asia is a literary universe unto itself. It is home to hundreds of languages intersecting in multiple ways with history, ritual, and traditions of the classical Sanskrit as well as vernacular orality. In Sensitive Reading: The Pleasures of South Asian Literature in Translation, editors Yigal Bronner and Charles Hallisey put together a set of texts from multiple languages translated by renowned Indologist David Shulman (along with works of music as well as a work of visual art). The chosen texts all to a greater or lesser extent deal with love—declarations of love, desire, longing, love for the divine, and the pain of separation. Their curation brings together the classics from the ancient and medieval periods in Indian history with a smattering of works closer to the present—19th and 20th centuries.