Sahitya Akademi will host ‘Unmesha: International Literature Festival’ on 3-6 August, in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. More than 575 writers and distinguished personalities representing over 100 languages and 14 countries will participate in the literary extravaganza.
Sahitya Akademi is an autonomous organization working under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, to promote literature in the 24 languages it has recognized, including Indian English, and also in the tribal and oral traditions of the country. Sahitya Akademi will be hosting ‘Unmesha:
International Literature Festival’ from August 3–6, 2023, in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. More than 575 writers and distinguished personalities representing over 100 languages and 14 countries will be participating in the literary extravaganza. In this interview, K. Sreenivasarao, Secretary, Sahitya Akademi, talks about the creative vision behind Unmesha and the major attractions at the festival, the Akademi’s primary objectives in promoting Indian literature, various recent initiatives and projects undertaken by the Akademi, and the major literary awards bestowed by the Akademi and the selection process involved, among other things.
Q : Tell us about the creative vision behind Unmesha. Also, tell us about the key attractions this year.
A : Literary expressions are diverse. Every linguistic community has a body of literature of its own, and such literature, though conditioned and limited by the linguistic and regional exterior, has universal elements to cover humanity. It is this aspect of literature and literary expression to cover and express the aspirations of entire humanity that Unmesha is about.
Unmesha is the festival of expressions, and in Unmesha, one can find polyphonic voices leading to a beautiful and mesmerizing symphony. The 2023 edition of Unmesha will feature discussions on Ocean Literature, Ecocriticism, Machines and Literature, the idea of India, creativity-boosting education, translation, and so on, in addition to poetry and story readings. In this edition, the enhanced participation of Tribal writers is noteworthy. This year at Unmesha, more than 575 writers and distinguished personalities will be participating, representing over 100 languages and 14 countries.
Q : Can you please give us an overview of the functioning of Sahitya Akademi and its primary objectives in promoting Indian literature?
A : Sahitya Akademi is an autonomous organization working under the Ministry of Culture to promote literature in the 24 languages it has recognized, including Indian English, and also in the tribal and oral traditions of the country. Annually and in all the 24 languages, Sahitya Akademi organizes about 600 literary programs across India, publishes about 500 literary books, including reprints, presents Awards in 4 categories and Bhasha Samman, issues travel grants, confers fellowships and honorary fellowships on outstanding scholars, organizes or participates in about 150 book exhibitions and book fairs throughout India, etc. Apart from the five offices in Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Mumbai, it also has centers for tribal and oral literature in Agartala and Delhi and a translation center in Bengaluru. The primary focus of Sahitya Akademi is to promote and encourage all sections of the literary community in India: young writers, women writers, Dalit writers, writers from the Northeast, and so on.
Q : What are some of the recent initiatives and projects undertaken by the Sahitya Akademi to promote literature across India?
A : Some of our recent programs include:
a) Yuva Sahiti: It is a program series designed to enable young writers to express themselves (in all 24 languages).
b) Purvottari: It is a program series designed to enable writers from the north-eastern regions of India to gain firsthand exposure to other literary traditions of India.
c) Dalit Chetna: A program series devoted exclusively to Dalit writers in India
d) Nari Chetna: A program series devoted exclusively to Women writers in India
e) Gramalok: This is the outreach program designed to spot and promote literary talents in the villages of India. These are some of the recent initiatives of the Sahitya Akademi to promote literature in India in all 24 languages.
Q : How does the Sahitya Akademi support and promote regional Indian languages?
A. While Akademi promotes literature in all the 24 Indian languages, including Indian English, for those languages not recognized under the 8th Schedule, Sahitya Akademi encourages research into Classical Literature and also any substantial contribution to the unrecognized languages of India through Bhasha Samman. Akademi also periodically organizes Language Conventions for those languages that require attention and promotion.
Q : Could you highlight some of the major literary awards bestowed by the Sahitya Akademi and their significance in recognizing literary talent in India?
A: The Sahitya Akademi Awards in 4 different categories are the most prestigious literary awards in the country, and they are given not to the authors but to the best literary creations in the previous 5 years.
a). Sahitya Akademi Award: This is the main award of Sahitya Akademi, presented in 24 Indian languages.
b). Sahitya Akademi Translation Prize: This is presented to outstanding translations.
c). Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar: This is presented to the best literary creations by young writers of 35 years of age or below.
d). Sahitya Akademi Bal SahityaPuraskar: This Award is presented for the best children’s books in 24 languages.
Q : What is the selection process for the Sahitya Akademi awards, and what criteria are used to determine the winners?
A: The procedures for the three awards except Yuva Puraskar are the same. In every language, the ground list experts prepare a list of books of literary merit published in the previous year, and that list is sent to the Advisory Board Members in every language, who alter it or submit it as is. Then all these recommendations are compiled and sent to a 10-member preliminary panel in each language, which prunes the list to recommend the best books out of it. Those final recommendations are sent to three jury members in each language, who in turn select one book to be awarded. In the case of YuvaPuraskar, there is no ground list preparation, and instead nominations are called from the young authors and also from publishers in each of the languages. Other processes are the same.
Q : How does the Sahitya Akademi collaborate with other literary organizations and institutions within India and abroad?
A : The Sahitya Akademi has a set of recognized literary institutions within India in each language. Sometimes Akademi collaborates with those institutions, and sometimes Akademi collaborates with eminent universities, colleges, and major institutions that are not recognized in each language. For collaboration with institutions abroad, it is on a case-by-case basis. For example, some time ago, Instituto Cervantes proposed to bring out the selected works of César Abraham Vallejo Mendoza in a three-language edition, and Akademi brought out a Spanish-Bengali-Hindi trilingual edition.