Longinus wrote:Thanks very much for posting all this data! I have a tangential question. At some point, I would like to study one or more Indian languages. I tend to be attracted to languages with a long literary history, since I really enjoy reading. There's Sanskrit of course, and I know that Tamil has a long literary history, but which other languages have a robust literary tradition? Any recommendations or suggestions for exploration?
Wow! Not that's a tough question. India has 22 scheduled (or major) languages. I can read in only three of them: Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu. And I haven't explored the literature of even these three languages in any depth. So take my advice with a pinch of salt.
As for a literary tradition, the first language to come to mind is Bengali. It is probably the most developed of Indian languages in the sense that you can find books in almost all imaginable genres in it, from poetry and erotic novels to quantum mechanics and computer science. Bengali is the only Indian language in which I have found an entire website selling books. Look up পদার্থবিজ্ঞান
(physics) and you will find dozens of books, some are translations, such as ফিজিকস অব দ্য ইমপসিবল (Physics of the Future
by Michio Kaku) and others are original রহস্যময় ব্ল্যাক হোল (Mysterious Black Holes
by Muhammad Jafer Iqbal). Add to that the works of Rabindernath Tagore and Muhammad Nasrul Islam, and you get a language the expanse of whose literature is comparable to small European languages, such as Polish or Czech. And the best part is that you can download a great book (Epar Bangla, Opar Bangla
) with audio for free from the University of Washington.
Next in the literary hierarchy could be Malayalam. Despite being a small state, it's populated by a highly literature people. Although only 2.76% percent of Indians call Kerala home, still a shade under 10% (exactly 9.07%) of Indian newspaper readers live in Kerala
. The language ranks third, after Hindi and English in terms of newspaper subscribers. You can find a 10-volume വിശ്വസാഹിത്യ വിജ്ഞാനകോശം (Encyclopedia of World Literature) in Malayalam I don't think a work of such scope and breath exists in another Indian language. And it's just one of the several encyclopedias. You can learn find more at the State Institute of Encyclopedic Publications
. This section on Literature
in മലയാള മനോരമ (Malayala Manorama) will you a glimpse of how much an average Keralite reads.
After Bengali and Malayalam, you can find some literature in Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, Hindi, and Urdu. My hunch is that you will probably find fewer books in Punjabi, Assamese, Odiya, and all other Indian languages than in Lithuanian. I could be wrong here.
To find something to read, you can take a look at the works of the ज्ञानपीठ पुरस्कार (Jnanpith Award) winners.
It's India's highest literary award. Despite their small numbers, Kannada writers absolutely dominate the list. My favorite Kannada writer is (ಭೈರಪ್ಪ) Bhyrappa. He writes historical fiction. In Hindi, I love the satires of श्रीलाल शुक्ल (Srilal Sukla) and the historical fantasy novels of राहुल सांकृत्यायन (Rahul Sankriyatan). Another suggestion could be to browse through the language-specific lists of साहित्य अकादमी पुरस्कार
(Literature Academy Award) winners.
PS. I cannot recommend anyone from Punjabi because many talented Punjabi writers wrote in Hindi or Urdu, just like Gogol who wrote in Russian instead of Ukrainian. Saddat Hassan Manto and Allama Iqbal are the two who immediately come to my mind. A few, such as Khushwant Singh, wrote in English. If you are still interested, you can find books of ਗੁਰਦਿਆਲ ਸਿੰਘ (Gurdial Singh) or ਅਮ੍ਰਿਤਾ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਮ (Amrita Pritam). I never read any work of Gurdial Singh and managed only a few pages from ਰਸੀਦੀ ਟਿਕਟ of Amrita Pritam. It was boring for me. But you might like her.
The life of man is but a succession of vain hopes and groundless fears. — Monte(s)quieu