For the past thirty years I have been an ardent reader of Granta that had taught me the various trends of world literature. Additionally the magazine serves as a great companion in many areas. But for the first time the new Granta 130-New Indian Writing– issue nauseated me greatly.
Writers like Samanth Subramanian, Upamanyu Chatterjee, Sharmishta Mohanty, Amit Chaudhury represented the New Indian writing. They are my favorite writers and I have no qualms about them but when it comes to Tamil -along with these exemplary writers- the Tamil writer who has been portrayed in the ‘New Indian Writing’ was Suba, a crime fiction writer(s). I seriously couldn’t find out why people love to jump into, to mildly put it, the gutter when it comes to Tamil. If this Granta was India’s crime fiction special edition Suba is the apt person to be portrayed. But is it right to position him (them?) in the same scale as Amit Chaudhury and Upamanyu Chatterjee? The best part is, this particular person has been selected by Mr. Rakesh Khanna of Blaft Publications, a friend of mine.
My friend, who has introduced Tamil literature and Tamil writer Suba, writes so forth:
”With an unbroken and at least 2200 year-old written tradition, Tamil speakers are justifiably proud of their classical literature: epic poems like Silapathikaaram and ancient treatises on ethics like Thirukkural are still studied, committed to memory, quoted in casual conversation, and used liberally in the speeches of local politicians.
But these days, there’s plenty of ‘less respectable’ literature, too. Tamil crime and detective fiction took off in the early 20th century, and has never slowed down. Romance novels, ghost stories, mythological thrillers and historical romances set during the age of the Chola and Pandiya empires are all wildly popular.”
I do not know how much Rakesh Khanna knows about contemporary Tamil literature. Most of the world’s important writers have been translated into Tamil; even the less known writers like Par Lagerkvist, Selma Lagerlof were translated by Ka.Na.Subramanyan in 1960s itself. Similarly, there are hundreds of Tamil writers who could be placed in the same pedestal as the legends of world literature – name anybody. A Tamil writer named Ashokamitran, few of his books are available in English, can be compared to Saadat Hasan Manto. But Mr. Rakesh Khanna who’s totally oblivious of the contemporary Tamil literature and as an ardent fan of Tamil pulp fictions, he has peed on the entire Tamil literature by selecting a crime novel writer(s) to represent the “New Indian Writing” in Tamil!
Mr. Khanna has showed Tamil writing to the world like a half-pant clad westerner touring India, clicking the roaming cows on the road and exhibiting to his world, “it’s India!”
It’s surprising that he’s living in Chennai for many years now, and that too near my place. As a Tamil writer I genuinely have no idea how to come out of this disgrace.