British Council launches publishing sector study

The British Council and the Art X Company has announced the release of the ‘India Literature and Publishing Sector Study’, a pioneering primary research project aimed at understanding the challenges faced by Indian publishers, agents, authors, translators, and industry bodies when making literature written in Indian languages more widely available to an international English-speaking audience.

16 Feb 2022 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

The British Council’s work in literature focuses on connecting UK writers and literary professionals with their international peers and thereby building trust, understanding, and increasing appetite for literature in translation. The extensive study, commissioned by the British Council and conducted by the Art X Company, brings together insights from 100 stakeholders charting the current publishing and translation ecosystem across ten Indian cities/states, to present insights covering eight focus languages.

The study examines the role of literary festivals and events, trends in digitisation, perceptions of Indian literature in English translation abroad, the sector’s skilling needs and gaps, as well as its intersections with the National Education Policy 2020. The outcome of the research identifies opportunities for working and collaborating more globally, specifically with the UK, in order to promote Indian literature in translation, going forward.

Jonathan Kennedy, director, Arts India, British Council, said, “Through our work in literature, we have always focused on building connections and understanding between literary professionals across the globe. Therefore, the main aim of conducting the research was to identify barriers to internationalisation faced by Indian literature and publishing professionals and support the Indian literature sector which has suffered because of the global pandemic. Furthermore, some Indian languages are more represented in translation than others, hence through this report, the idea is to also help Indian Literature in different and more languages reach foreign shores. Research and creative industry mapping are an important aspect of our work to facilitate informed decision and policy-making for strengthening the creative economy.”

Rashmi Dhanwani, founder and director, The Art X Company, said, “We are excited to work with the British Council to bring this crucial research on India’s vibrant literature and publishing sector to light. India has 427 recognised languages, with 22 official languages, yet most Indian literature known globally has been written in English, with very little Indian language literature in translation making it to western markets. The report identifies the various challenges faced by the sector and outlines specific recommendations for the publishing ecosystem and the translation ecosystem. The insights from the study have begun to trigger vital conversations amongst stakeholders, and our hope is to see the recommendations manifest as outcomes.”

The India Literature and Publishing Sector Study was discussed at the Kalinga Literature Festival in Bhubaneswar, Odisha on 12 December 2021, the first in a series of conversations taking place across the country and online. Featuring a line-up of leading voices from the sector, these conversations intend to spotlight key insights from the report to generate and carry forward vital discussions about the needs of the literature and publishing sector in India.

The research covered 10 target cities/States of Delhi, Rajasthan, West Bengal (Kolkata), Odisha, Assam (Guwahati), Maharashtra, Kerala (Kochi), Karnataka (Bengaluru), Chennai and Hyderabad. The eight focus languages – Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Punjabi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada – were identified based on the smaller number of translated literatures from these languages being available in English language.

The executive summary of the report is available in 12 languages other than English, including Assamese, Bengali, Gaelic, Hindi, Odia, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Welsh and Urdu. It can be downloaded here.