For weeks now, I’ve been reading novels set in the Northeast. Call me an ignoramus, but they’re my first peek into lands I have never been. The experience has been magical.
But why so less known?
My question still hasn’t been answered. Despite the glowing reviews and prestigious awards that many novels and novelists from the Northeast get, not many seem to have heard of them.
I asked 20 voracious readers if they’d read these books: 15 could not even name an author. Four had heard of Anjum Hasan but not read any of her books. And one, who is from Guwahati and loves Indian literary fiction, had only read a chick-lit called Chocolate Guitar Momos.
Many of the Northeast states lack indigenous scripts, though they have a wealth of oral stories. Which means we haven’t had access to those stories before. But Assam, for instance, has a rich literary heritage, however very little Assamese literature is available in translation – and many are very poor translations. Besides, only writers in English grab attention.
“People still congratulate me for The House With A Thousand Stories but I have written two novels in Assamese since,” says Kashyap. “Writing in English is privilege that we enjoy at immense cost.”
That said, Mamang Dai is optimistic. “The positive thing,” she says, “Is that the Northeast is writing, and being written about.”
Now read these books.
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From HT Brunch, May 17
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