The lost sub-continent

From The Guardian:

India_1 Seven years ago, publishers descended on Delhi in search of the next Arundhati Roy. But, writes William Dalrymple, the future Anglophone Indian bestsellers are more likely to come from the west. There is a wonderfully telling line in Mira Nair’s movie Monsoon Wedding: as the Verma family gathers from across the globe for a marriage, the heroine announces that she has applied for a creative-writing programme in America. Her businessman uncle nods approvingly: “Lots of money in writing these days,” he says sagely. “Look at that girl who won the Booker: she became a millionaire overnight.” If it was the literary merit of Arundhati Roy’s novel, The God of Small Things, that made the greatest impression on readers and critics in the west, it is fair to say that it was the size of her advance- more than $1 million in total – that made the most impression in Delhi. India has always had an enviable glut of talented writers; what has been much rarer, until recently, have been Indian writers who have been properly remunerated for their work (or indeed widely read outside India). The Robert Frost line – “There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money” – used to be true of even the most successful South Asian authors: the letters of the greatest of all Urdu poets, Mirza Ghalib, are full of endless worries as to whether he could pay his bills or afford to drink his beloved firangi wine.

More here.