27 July, 2021

The Ketchup Man

Why Chetan Bhagat is the Indian English pioneer of our times

Illustration by Sorit
The Ketchup Man

As a student at IIM Ahmedabad, Chetan Bhagat founded a magazine, Tomato Ketchup. Even at IIM-A, not the most literary of places, Tomato... was reportedly considered lowbrow and died a premature death. Bhagat’s subsequent literary forays have seen more popular success but continue to be considered lowbrow.

But Bhagat need not fret. The novel genre itself was considered lowbrow and commercial during its early days. As Daniel Defoe, often considered the first novelist, said, “Writing itself has become a very considerable branch of the English commerce. The booksellers are the master manufacturers, or employers. The several authors, copiers, sub-writers and other operators with Pen and Ink are the workmen employed by the said manufacturer.” Ian Watt, author of the classic The Rise of the Novel, says Defoe’s style was considered to be ‘easy, copious and unpremeditated’ in contrast to the ‘verbal grace, complication of structure...’ of the prevalent literary...

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