Friday, March 22, 2013

With million dollar advances, are Indian English writers finally coming of age?

Wall Street Journal’s blog had an interesting post about an Indian author, Amish Tripathi, being paid a million dollar advance by publisher Westland for his upcoming book series. It is a fascinating story since most writers, even in the west, can only dream of making some money on their published works. Generally, only celebrities and politicians seem to get million dollars advance for their books!

I grew up in India reading Indian English classics like RK Narayan’s portrayal of the quintessential south Indian town of Malgudi, Kushwant Singh’s essays on post-independence era including Train to Pakistan, Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, Ruskin Bond’s portrayal of life in Indian hill stations, and Mulk Raj Anand's  classic, two leaves and a bud.

On recent visits to India, I caught up with Chetan Bhagat’s novels which are a rage among the tech-and-BPO generation-Y because of his humorous portrayal of contemporary India. And speaking of contemporary India, Vikas Swaroop’s Q & A really hit a home run, magnified by the oscar winning hype of its movie version Slumdog Millionaire.

The Indian diaspora has its fair share of prolific writers. Salman Rushdie found himself at the center of a controversy with his Satanic Verses though I am glad he was able to move past that. And then we have Aravind Adiga who got noticed after his debut novel, The White Tiger, won the 2008 Man Booker Prize. I have been trying to catch up with some of the writings of Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri

My guess is that with a million-dollar advance, Amish Tripathi is setting the bar really high for Indian writers. And for reader like you and me, we sure live in interesting times!