14 May, 2021

The Literary Mafia

The buzz is: an exclusive coterie rules the roost in the country's literary foundations

The Literary Mafia

Premchand and Nirala were literary stars at 25, and by their 30s they saw their works being included in school syllabi. But a talented Indian language writer today would need to be both influential and old, if not dead, before he is read and formally recognised by either the Sahitya Akademi or the numerous other literary foundations. Though it is still a gentleman's game compared to the vicious politicking, scandals and goondaism that plague the art world, the fortune and fame of many Indian writers are determined by a well-entrenched literary mafia in Delhi.

A society for mutual admiration, it is a close knit group of 'established writers' and writer-bureaucrats who lord over vast networks of patronage. Outsiders stand little chance of breaking into this circuit and stumble in either by default or for sheer want of a favourite in a particular category or language.

With the right combination of credentials and a little patience, one may get rich dividends in terms of awards, fellowships, consultancies, jury positions and appointments to library and book purchase...

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