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2015 saw writers take up cudgels, book publishing soaring

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

The Indian literary scene was abuzz with activities in 2015 with works of several big-ticket authors rolled out and a number of festivals organised among other things but writers returning their awards in protest against growing intolerance made maximum headlines.

The year saw numerous autobiographies and biographies, and books related to business, commercial and mass market fiction, besides literary fiction, sports, self help, chik-lit and culinary works. There were a number of works by new and little-known authors too.

2015 began with the mega annual event - the Literature Festival where Nobel winner V S Naipaul, American travel writer Paul Theroux, Amit Chaudhuri, Pakistan's Hanif Kureishi, Man Book Prize winner Eleanor Catton and Bailey's Prize winner Eimear McBride were among scores of invited guests.

A number of other festivals followed with one in Kumaon claiming to be the first annual retreat literary festival in the country.

But more than 35 authors giving up their Sahitya Akademi awards and five others relinquishing their posts in the literary body against "rising intolerance" saw a new wave of protest. Their action earned the support of celebrated authors like Salman Rushdie and Vikram Seth. PEN International, the world's leading association of writers working to promote literature and defend freedom of expression, also stood in solidarity with the Indian authors.

Otherwise, it was a hectic year for publishers.

According to Karthika V K, Publisher of HarperCollins India, 2015 was a "hugely satisfying year for us in terms of the books we published, the many awards and shortlists, and even a publisher of the year award."

For Penguin Random House, 2015 was a "very strong year with more bestsellers than ever before."

"On the literary fiction list the standout was the culmination of Amitav Ghosh's epic Ibis Trilogy with the publication of 'Flood of Fire,'" says Caroline Newbury, VP Marketing and Corporate Communications of Penguin Random House.

"This year has also been gratifying in seeing international acclaim for a number of our authors. Amitav Ghosh was shortlisted for the Man Booker International, Akhil Sharma's 'Family Life' won the Folio Prize and Neel Mukherjee's 'The Lives of Others' took the Encore Award for Second Novel," Newbury told PTI.

"It was wonderful to see Jhumpa Lahiri's 'The Lowland' win the DSC Prize, Samanth Subramanian win the Crossword Award for 'This Divided Island' (as well as being shortlisted for the hugely prestigious Samuel Johnson Award) and Mihir Sharma's 'Restart' was longlisted for the FT McKinsey Business Book of the Year before taking the Tata Lit Live Business Book of the Year award jointly with TT Ram Mohan's 'Rethinc'," she says.

The launch of Khurshid Kasuri's comprehensive account of

his time as Pakistani Foreign Minister, "Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove" in Mumbai in October saw high drama. Shiv Sainiks smeared the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni, chairman of Observer Research Foundation's Mumbai chapter, with ink over him hosting the launch of the book. But the organisers went ahead with the launch.

A number of memoirs were also released with former RAW chief A S Dulat's "Kashmir - The Vajpayee Years," NCP boss Sharad Pawar's "On My Terms," Congress leader M L Footedar's "Chinar Leaves" and Sam Pitroda's "Dreaming Big" being few of them.

The year also saw a number of books written by A P J Abdul Kalam with his aide Srijan Pal Singh. A few of these were published after Kalam's death in July.

"Our non-fiction spanned topics and saw the emergence of some interesting new names with a number of acclaimed journalists and columnists releasing first books: Coomi Kapoor's 'The Emergency;' Nisid Hajari's 'Midnight's Furies;' ex-Delhi top cop Neeraj Kumar's 'Dial D for Don;' and Twinkle Khanna's bestselling and completely brilliant 'Mrs Funnybones,'" says Newbury.

Some of HarperCollins' 2015 pick are Raghu Karnad's "Farthest Field" which won the First Book Award (Non-Fiction) at Tata Lit life; Akshaya Mukul's "Gita Press;" "RIP" by Kiran Nagar; "Until the Lions" and "Ivory Throne" by Karthika Nair; Pakistani author Intizar Husain's "The Sea Lies Ahead;" "Gaata Rahe Mera Dil" by Anirudha Bhattacharjee; and "Advantage India" by Kalam and Srijan.

Roli Books says 2015 was an incredible year.

"We started out in January with a blockbuster - 'The Red Sari' by Javier Moro. This was a much- awaited book as we had tried to publish on earlier occasions but were unable to do so because of the political situation at the time.

"Other notable releases were a family cookbook of Zarine Khan - 'Family Secrets: The Khan Family Cookbook;' General Shergill and Capt Amarinder Singh's book on the 1965 India War - 'The Monsoon War: Young Officers Reminisce 1965 India-War.' We end the year with a stunning art book - 'Sita Ram: Picturesque Views of India' (Lord Hastings' Journey from Calcutta to the Punjab, 1814-15) by J.P. Losty," says Pramod Kapoor, publisher of Roli Books.

According to Bhaskar Roy, CEO of New Delhi-based Palimpsest Publishing House, the publishing canvas in 2015 was dominated by great non-fiction titles.

"Palimpsest opened the year with an elegant collection of essays edited by senior journalist Dilip Bobb - 'The Best of TEL'. A while later we brought out the year's most talked-about book, Mani Shankar Aiyar's 'Achhe Din? Ha! Ha!!' And to end the year we discovered a new writer. Neeru Iyer's 'Of Bridges Among Us,' a collection of short fiction, is a work of great promise," Roy says.

First Published: Sun, December 27 2015. 12:42 IST