JBM7 – from out of site to onsite

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Claudia Kaiser vice president, Frankfurt Book Fair at JBM 2020
Claudia Kaiser vice president, Frankfurt Book Fair speaks at JBM 2020

The 7th edition of the Jaipur BookMark (JBM), concluded on 25 January 2020. Encompassing the back room of publishing the platform offers authors, literary agents, translators, publishers, designers, marketers, publicists, distributors, booksellers, the opportunity to bring their individual acts and professional concerns to the market place. While JBM has not achieved its aim of becoming a thriving publishing and translation rights trade platform, it is getting there in its own and necessarily unique way.

It is different than the other professional book publishing trading platforms in that it welcomes all who register, including readers and book lovers, with great freedom of interaction. JBM also provides first-time and published writers with its creative mentorship program, iWrite – an opportunity of being listened to by experts and even pitching to hard-nosed publishers. The keynotes before each session supply a broad and sometimes intellectual framework and bits of know-how.

At this year’s JBM, key sessions brought together book festival organizers, librarians, and notably, organizers and jurists of literary prizes. It saw the ongoing fruition of JBM’s focus on translation. It highlighted the need for additional resources and attention to inclusiveness – an area that needs to migrate further from talking to creative execution.

JLF and JBM are committed not only to translation and Indian languages but also to poetry. The session on the necessity of publishing poetry elicited a rather surprising comment by Ashok Bajpeyi that poetry books are selling more than ever in India. While the discussion devolved to the appropriation of poetry by people’s causes into songs and anthems, the interest in poetry and poets was borne out in the early morning session of the JLF that discussed the release of AK Ramanujam’s diaries. Notably present and involved in the discussion on the necessity of publishing poetry, was the young winner of the Queensland Premier’s Young Writers and Publishers Award and the Tom Collins Poetry Prize Mindy Gill.

Mita Kapoor, CEO of Siyahi, literary director JCB Prize for Literature, Elane Cnning, executive officer of Swansea University’s Dylan Thomas Prize, Sunny Singh, author, founder Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Color and Aanchal Malhotra, oral historian and prize winning author. Photo IPP

Literary prizes

Claudia Kaiser in her keynote presentation to the Anatomy of Literary Prize session spoke about the ethos of the Frankfurt Book Fair and its partner country program which has been successful. However, she lamented the fact that while India has had the opportunity to be a partner country twice, it still does not have a visible national presence at Frankfurt.

Literature prize organizers and jurists Aanchal Malhotra, Elaine Canning, Mita Kapur, and Sunny Singh, took up the prize giving conversation with Arunava Sinha. Each talked about the trajectories and nuances of literary prize making and giving and the need to use these better to speak more about those who are nominated than merely the winners. To speak not only about the shortlist but also the long list.

The panelists grasped the burden and opportunity of literary awards – how to change and migrate the demographic of literary inquiry and prizes beyond seniority and political correctness, towards color and youth. From language to dialect, and beyond cliché, generality, gender and caste – to granularity, detail and imagination. New awards for younger authors and translations have added vital color and texture to literary prize making. JLF itself is strewn with prize winning authors and one of pleasant aspects of the JBM was the participation in several sessions of young literary prize winners such as Leila Slimani, Mindy Gill, Aanchal Malhotra and several others.

While the business of rights exchange is still not happening at JBM at the level of the London Book Fair, or Bologna or Frankfurt, it will eventually. An indicator is that Netflix took part, and it is well known that OTT platforms are hungry for content. The publishing industry and its growing B2B platforms can make life more liveable and viable not only for writers but also for independent publishers in India and South Asia.

The Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator Award

In its 5th year, the Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator Award for 2020 was presented by the Vani Prakashan Group and Teamwork Arts to writer, translator, and literary historian Dr Rakshanda Jalil. On receiving the award, Dr Jalil said, “It’s a matter of great pride and an honor to receive the Vani Distinguished Translator Award mediated by such an eminent jury. My first translation, a collection of short stories by Premchand, was published in 1992. It has been a long and enriching journey since then, and it is heartening to see translation finding space and receiving accolades at various literary platforms across the country. Thanks to the publishers, who have a great role to play in this.”

Launching Ibsen in Hindi

The Hindi translations of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s twelve plays by Astri Ghosh were presented jointly by the translator and Hans Jacob Frydenlund, the ambassador of Norway together with the JLF festival director and organizer Namita Gokhale and Sanjoy K Roy respectively. A unique translation project of the Norwegian government where translators work together, exchanging experiences in the course of translating Ibsen’s plays. The project aims to translate Ibsen’s 12 contemporary dramas into eight world languages – a total number of 96 translations.