In the lead-up to the 2022 India/U.K. Together, a Season of Culture, the British Council commissioned a new piece of research mapping the Indian literature and publishing sector with a particular focus on Indian-language publishing.

The research set out to identify 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. The report also explores opportunities for working and collaborating more globally, specifically with the U.K., to promote Indian literature in translation.

Translation into and from Indian languages has existed since long before the advent of the printing press; with a wealth of 19,569 languages or dialects spoken in India as mother tongues, translation is common between Indian languages, but there is little literature from Indian languages being translated into English.

India/U.K. Together, a Season of Culture, marks the deep connections and 75th anniversary of India with a landmark program that strengthens the friendship and vibrant cultural bonds of both countries, while addressing shared global challenges. One of the themes in the Season is “India’s Multi-lingual Literature: The Global Opportunity,” which aims to showcase the diversity of India and the U.K., create international opportunities for emerging writers, and build international networks. There are four literature projects, each of which focuses on different aspects of the sector: editors, translators, prose writers, and poetry writers.

The first project is the British Council’s International Publishing Fellowship (IPF), designed and delivered in collaboration with the Art X Company in India. The Publishing Fellowship is a peerto- peer mentoring and professional development programme where publishers from India and the U.K. come together to share expertise and grow their networks. The Fellows will shortly be traveling to Edinburgh, Newcastle, and London to meet with the U.K. sector, followed by a trip to Bengaluru, Jaipur, and Delhi in the new year. This is the second edition of the IPF after a first outing in 2019 with publishers from Georgia, Turkey, Ukraine, and the U.K.

Write Assamese is a collaboration between Untold Narratives in the U.K. and BEE Books in Kolkata, to support aspiring fiction writers who are often marginalised due to circumstance, language, and lack of opportunities to develop their work. The project helps writers in Assam to reach new international audiences. In April this year, 10 unpublished writers and three early-career translators undertook an eight-day workshop in Kaziranga, Assam to develop their skills. The resulting stories are now ready for a new anthology to be published in the new year.

The third project, Language is a Queer Thing, is a collaboration between the Verve Poetry Festival and BBC Contains Strong Language in the U.K. and The Queer Muslim Project in India. Through the course of the project, Indian and U.K. poets have together explored the queer experience in each country. After a series of online meetings and workshops, the poets have produced new works which were recently presented at the BBC’s Contains Strong Language Festival in Birmingham and will be showcased again at Tata Literature Live! in Mumbai in November.

The final project is PEN Presents, a project by English PEN, which supports and showcases sample translations, funding the often-unpaid work of creating samples and helping diversify the translated literature landscape. The first round of PEN Presents focuses on literature from Indian languages and will enable U.K. publishers to acquire more work in translation from India. Seven Indian languages and five Dalit writers feature in the shortlisted proposals. Six of these samples will then be selected for editorial and promotion support from English PEN and later showcased at festivals in India.

As one of the highest-profile and most diverse platforms of debate and as a major component of the creative economy in both countries, literature and publishing is central to the India/U.K. Together, a Season of Culture will hopefully result in new connections between Indian and U.K. literary professionals so that more works from Indian languages are available to readers worldwide.