Days after Sachin Tendulkar was awarded the Order of Australia, another Mumbaiite, writer Kiran Nagarkar, has received the highest civilian honour from a foreign government.
Nagarkar, a bilingual author whose fifth novel, The Extras, was published early this year, has been given Germany’s Order of Merit, the “highest tribute the country can pay to individuals for services to the nation.”
All of Nagarkar’s novels have been translated into German, and God’s Little Soldier, his fourth novel, published both in English and in German in 2006, has consistently been on the best-seller list in that country. It has sold more than 17,000 copies in hardback, and its paperback version continues to do well in bookstores there.
“I am happy to get this award. I feel good because it means that not only is one’s work recognised but, more importantly, the issues I deal with in my books through the medium of story-telling are grasped and dealt with,” Nagarkar said.
The award will be presented to him by Germany’s ambassador to India, Michael Steiner, at a function at a city hotel next week.
Among other Indians who have won the Order of Merit earlier are psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakkar and actor Mohan Agashe.
Split from here for inside
Nagarkar’s book on extremism a hit in Germany
Kiran Nagarkar’s 2006 novel God’s Little Soldier, which deals with the subject of extremism, is being made into a play in Germany and will be performed at Freiburg in May next year.
Nagarkar first read from the book to nearly 100 of Germany’s Parliamentarians and diplomats in Berlin in 2006. In 2008, he was invited by the University of Tubingen to give a series of lectures, later published in book form. The varsity gave him the rank of Poetikdozent, equivalent to that of a professor.
He believes that while his own country, India, has suffered more terror attacks, it is Germany that takes the subject he has tackled in the novel very seriously.
“In India, of the people who have suffered in terror attacks, the lucky ones are the dead ones. The government does not look after survivors, they have to look after themselves. I wasn’t giving any message in the book, but the story revealed how an extremist can change his ideology and religion, but he always remains an extremist.
There’s no template to extremism or to ways of dealing with it, but we’ll have to put our heads together and think about it. It is not just for politicians to talk on the subject but for the common man to do so.”
The first Nagarkar novel to be translated into German was the Sahitya Akademi award-winning Cuckold, in 2003. His other books were published subsequently, and the newest, The Extras, was out in August this year. His first novel, Saat Sakkam Trechalis, considered one of the seminal works of modern Marathi literature, was translated from the original by Giovanni and Ditte Bandini, both Germans who have done their doctorates in Marathi.
Nagarkar says Germans are not only heavily into books but have a culture of reading and an interest in other cultures. “People there pay regularly to go and listen to an author. There are at least two readings a week in an institution called the Literaturhaus, and there are 9 or 11 such houses in that country.” He did one such reading in Hamburg, he said.
Kiran Nagarkar’s books
Saat Sakkam Trechalis (Marathi; translated into English as Sixes are Forty-Three): 1974
Ravan and Eddie: 1995
Cuckold: 1997 (winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award)
God’s Little Soldier: 2006
The Extras: 2012
The new ‘Bombay’ book
In his newest book, The Extras, a sequel to Ravan and Eddie, Kiran Nagarkar uses every variety of humour – verbal, farcical, dark – to tell a riveting story and, at the same time, goes well beyond humour to raise questions which may not have answers. Set in the Mumbai of the 1960s and the early 1970s, the book deals with the city’s now-forgotten prohibition laws, Auntie’s joints, BEST buses with numbers such as A1 and D3 and its crazy film world, which stands out not for the originality of the movies but the genius of its music composers and lyricists.