Survival instinct was the key to Seagull's success

By 21 Jun 2017

Junoon's Mumbai Local, a platform where artists and scientists come and share their passion through interactive sessions saw Naveen Kishore, founder and managing director of Seagull Books deliver a talk. The talk which was held on 16 June at KitabKhana in Mumbai saw Kishore sharing his thoughts in a poetic vein on a life in theatre and publishing.

Naveen Kishore, founder and managing director of Seagull Books (Photo Credits: Sumiron Ghosh and Junoon's Mumbai Local)
KitabKhana, a quaint bookstore nestled among busy streets of Fort in Mumbai is a book lover's delight. The books store has a well-curated range of books ranging from international to regional literature and has a vast range of Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi books.
At the event, Kishore spoke on how he leads the market with his personal convictions and passions. Seagull Books was one of the first to publish German authors such as Brigitte Reimann and Ralf Rothmann in English, in carefully edited and aesthetically designed editions. Over the past seven years, Seagull has acquired the rights to over 60 books from German publishers. By founding the Seagull School of Publishing in Kolkata in 2011, he has provided major stimuli to professionalise publishing all over India. 
Talking about his journey Kishore said, “I am often asked about where my sense of the ‘aesthetic’ came from. As if to suggest that it was a recognisable moment. It is nothing like waking up with an idea of the aesthetic and proceeding to practice it. I think like life it had its beginning moments. Then grew into adolescence with my years in the theatre; later the art and the photography and the books gave it a tangible form. This one continues to mature, over time.”
Kishore added, “My life is indistinguishable from the life of and the life at Seagull. My work is my life—this is something I need to explain, and something that many people have a lot of difficulty understanding. My work does not end with the working day—it happens constantly, as constantly as breath, through all my thoughts and interactions and readings. Everything leads out from my work, and everything leads back in. This is my life. This is my work. This is, therefore, my life’s work.”
Further explaining his journey at Seagull, Kishore said, “The choices I make, in life and at Seagull, or have made, have depended on survival. Then again, survival has always been a consideration but not always the uppermost one, trumping all other considerations. If that were so, I don’t think Seagull would be where it is today.”
He added, “The choices have been made to fill a need that was not being filled, so we started Seagull Books at a time when there was no Indian publisher bringing out books on theatre and cinema. To share our excitements with the larger world, hence the Seagull School of Publishing, where we share our publishing knowledge and experience with those wishing to join the industry or those in the industry wishing to remember why they joined it in the first place. And finally, to earn from art to support our books and other programmes (hence the Seagull Foundation for the Arts, that presents artists in exhibitions across the country, combining its repertoire of art veterans with fresh young blood.”
“The Seagull way of life is a mercurial, flexible, broad-minded, tolerant and philosophical practice. We respond, therefore we practice. The urge to keep doing, to keep working away at something that enhances things cultural in some form or other; that benefits those that practice ‘things cultural’ and helps take them further, from Point A to Point D— that’s what drives us at Seagull. Every day,” concluded Kishore.


Fact file

Naveen Kishore was born in 1953. His relationship with Germany began through books in his youth when he read British and American editions of German-language classics. He studied English literature and initially worked as a lighting designer in Kolkata. In 1982 he founded the publishing house Seagull Books focusing on art, theatre and film, followed by books on politics, culture studies, and philosophy. Today, it also publishes literature, including poetry and serious fiction, and owns the worldwide English-language publishing rights for books by Paul Celan, Ingeborg Bachmann, Jean-Paul Sartre, Thomas Bernhard, Imre Kertész, Yves Bonnefoy, Mo Yan, Mahasweta Devi, Peter Handke and Hans Magnus Enzensberger, among many others.



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