Sunday, October 26, 2008

Calcutta - the New City of Literature?


Calcutta ... produced the first Asian Nobel laureate in Rabindranath Tagore. It was here that Thackeray was born and Dickens's second son buried. The great Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib lived here for a while, and the city has produced distinguished authors in English, Hindi, Gujarati, Maithili, Oriya, Punjabi and Urdu alongside the Bengali greats. Charles Baudelaire dreamt of a voyage to Calcutta; Mark Twain could not wait to leave the place. It is a city that inspired and enraged Kipling and Macaulay, Ginsberg and Grass.
Academic and author Swapan Chakravorty argues pretty convincingly in the Times that Calcutta (Kolkota) should be the new UNESCO city of literature (an honour currently held by Edinburgh). I've long wondered why the Bengalis seem to have more than their fair share of excellent writers and attributed it somewhat flippantly to the diet rich in fish which is good for the old braincells (which is why Kerelans seems to have a literary advantage too). I'm most probably completely wrong.

(There's more about Calcutta's bid in this piece from the Calcutta Telegraph. Melbourne is also making a bid. ... One day KL, huh?)

7 comments:

Yusuf said...

Sharon if your fish theory is correct then there should be loads of well known Malay authors.

Yusuf said...

My father lived in Calcutta for a few years, sadly I've not been yet, but if anyone was to send an air ticket....................

savante said...

KL :) I shall wish.

Kirsty Murray said...

Melbourne's bid was successful. It is also a City of Literature - along with Edinburgh. The designation came through last month.

It would be great if Kolkata was the third City of Literature. It would make for a nice literary trio of Europe, Asia and the Southern Hemisphere.

bibliobibuli said...

thanks Kirsty. very happy for melbourne which is a city i love. fingers crossed for calcutta.

and for us here in kuala lumpur, it's a great award to aim for! (even though i am not holding my breath!)

bibliobibuli said...

yusuf - my dad was in calcutta too, in the british army. but he liked malaya much better which is sorta how i found my way here decades later.

X said...

KL won't win for very much the same reasons as New York won't win I guess. It's not squidgy enough :)