Look no further than the railway station book cart or the ads in regional magazines or the in-train hawker for those over-the-top, bizarre, usually with lurid covers pulp fiction that’s so popular among a vast population. Now, the English-reading public too is gaining increasing access to regional pulp fiction (Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Bengali through translations), which may not be literary but are definitely very popular.
These books usually play with a whole lot of genres from romance, crime, horror, supernatural—always taking the reader to the edge, deliberately making them unbelievable. And while it’s still hard to find them in the branded bookstores, every publishing house is now investing time and money in translating regional pulp fiction. It’s the overriding trend, across entertainment sectors from films, TV, print, radio—to go regional—and publishing is just following suit.
So, not surprisingly, two of Surender Mohan Pathak’s crime thrillers have been translated into English already. The 65 Lakh Heist had already sold three lakh copies in Hindi and had a readership over two million, and now Pathak has been exposed to English readers too, courtesy Blaft Publications. Arunava Sinha, who translated Sankar’s Chowringhee into English, has just introduced Bengali pulp writer Moti Nandy to English readers through two novellas Striker, Stopper. Nandy, very popular with Bengali readers, wrote all his novels around sport. Sinha is also compiling a supernatural horror anthology of Bengali stories for Blaft.
Anurima Roy, publicity manager, Hachette India, which published Nandy’s book, says clearly there is a substantial market for regional pulp fiction and it’s growing.
“Regional pulp has a very big readership and many books are waiting to be translated and read. The Indian market for English books is still very small, so there’s a lot of potential for growth,” she adds. Bookstore owners on Kolkata’s books avenue, College Street, say over the last few years readers too have been demanding a wide variety of books across genres. Random House and Blaft will separately publish the Urdu pulp fiction classics The Imran Series and Jasoosi Duniya respectively in translation. Blaft, the Chennai-based publishing house set up shop two years ago, introducing the Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction to English readers with great success. More than 7,000 copies were sold, a print run even some better known Indian writers in English can’t boast of yet.
Most of the publishers and writers we spoke to had just one wish—that