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Indian writing arrives in Germany

Shobaa De, along with 11 other authors from India, represented the country at Leipzig Book Fair, writes Varupi Jain.

india Updated: Apr 15, 2006 11:16 IST

Shobaa De, along with 11 other authors from India, represented India at the Leipzig Book Fair which concluded recently.

The group of authors held readings in Leipzig, Bonn, Berlin and Frankfurt. De found the venues particularly interesting.

"Reading at Theatres, Cafes, and Palaces was quite a refreshing experience as compared to reading at predictable venues like Bookstores," she says.

She read from her works Starry Nights, Socialite Evenings and Spouse.

Sections from these works were translated by the organisers into German and after she read a section in English, the same section was read in German.

The German publishing house DTV has picked up three of her works for publication in German.

Starry Nights will be launched in German at the Frankfurt Book Fair this October while DTV will soon announce the other two titles picked by them.

Additionally, DTV has struck a deal with her to launch her books in German for the next 20 years.

Germany is not an English-speaking country -- did that make any difference to the reading experience?

"Most people in Germany do understand English. Yes, at times the nuances do not come across. But I do not do a flat reading. Typically, my characters engage in a lot of dialogue and I try to enact that for my audience. I guess that gives a better understanding -- even of the nuances. Also, it is crucial to explain the context of words like Bollywood," she offers.

Additionally, she found the questions from the audience extremely stimulating and insightful.

According to De, the Indian organisers in Germany were very efficient and helpful -- particularly the National Book Trust (who were coordinating India's participation in the Leipzig Book Fair), the consular staff in various cities and Sudhanshu Pandey and others at the Indian Embassy in Berlin.

How does Leipzig Book Fair compare to others at which De has read?

"I was impressed with the thousands of enthusiastic readers who visited the Leipzig Book Fair. Given its quality and quantity, it comes a close second to the annual Kolkata Book Fair," she says.

It was De's first reading experience in Germany and what struck her most about Germans is that 'they go by the rule-book'.

Theirs is a programmed living while we are used to improvising at every step.

"My takeaway is the German discipline. I wish we could be as meticulous. The Germans do make a fetish of punctuality," she smiles.

Of course, the Germans do value time -- yours and theirs.

Unlike our Jammu Tavis and Andhra Expresses which leave the passengers stranded on the railway stations for days together -- sans information, sans hope -- the Germans would apologetically announce a delay of 4 minutes.

Repeated delays of this range would find their way to the newspapers.

Unless a train supposed to leave at 11.39 leaves at 11.39, Die Bahn is condemned as inefficient.

I guess it is this national hobby of making a 'fetish of punctuality' which allows the Germans to smartly manage the winter time adjustment -- they advance an hour at the onset of spring and take it back at the onset of autumn.

To account for dimensions and population, imagine just one state of India, say Uttar Pradesh, trying to put this in practice. Yes, even I got those shudders at what a nightmare it could be.

Yet, to this day, philosophers, physicists, psychologists and biologists have hardly agreed on a common definition of time.

For some, time didn't always exist; somewhere down the line, it came to be invented to find order in chaos.

For others, time is a purely human/social construct and time-management is an exercise of the superficial domain.

For still others, time is nothing because it doesn't exist. Even today, precision timing is important but perhaps not truly supreme.

For even today, the developments which have the most lasting influence on our lives cannot be programmed.

The frequency of heart beats of an ailing patient can be tracked but the time of her death still cannot be predicted.

The movements of a baby can be ultrasonographed but no doctor or dayee can define the moment of her birth. Efforts can be programmed but success cannot be timed.

Floods, volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis do not give you time to prepare. Even Love is moody -- it can hit you anytime, unannounced.