The Diminishing Trend of English Literary Magazines in India
The immense love for literature has been the epitome of any civilized society and the literary magazines have manifested this love to an unparalleled horizon. Since the foundation of Nouvelles de la république des lettres in 1684 by Pierre Bayle; the 400 years journey of literary magazines has been quite a roller coaster ride. Indeed! Without a shred of doubt, the Western Countries have been a pioneer in not just bringing a wide array of literary magazines by various eminent literary doyens, the history of English literary magazines in India is relatively new.
Even the Hindi language, which seems to be on the sidelines today, and all thanks to the rapid globalization; and no matter whatever the youngsters today presume about the language, the history of Hindi Literary Magazines has been quite vivid. Since the foundation of Kavi Vachan Sudha in 1868 by the legendary Bhartendu Harishchandra, who is also regarded as the “Father of Modern Hindi Literature”; Hindi literature has provided us some exquisite literary magazines that have gloriously served Hindi literature. Not just the Kavi Vachan Sudha, but literary magazines like Vasudha by the eminent satirist Harishankar Parsai, Dharmyug by Dharmveer Bharati, Hans by the legendary Munshi Premchand, Karmveer by Makhanlal Chaturvedi greatly contribute to the list. Certainly, it has been a blessing for Hindi literature that Hans which was started in 1930 by Munshi Premchand, was once again republished by eminent novelist Rajendra Yadav from 1986 to 2013 until his death, and today Hans is being run by his daughter, Rachna Yadav.
‘Indian Literature’ published by the Sahitya Akademi in 1957 is considered the oldest literary magazine of the country in the English language which itself speaks about the precarious situation of literary magazines in the country. Even though we try hard, we would be able to count only a few literary magazines which are accustomed to having a reader-base, such as The Indian Quarterly by Anuradha Mahindra, The Bombay Review by the dynamic Kaartikeya Bajpai, e-Fiction India by Nikhil Sharda, Contemporary Literary Review India by Khurshid Alam and Out of Print by Indira Chandrasekhar along with few others. Isn’t it disheartening that a country having more than 125 million English-speaking population does not even have 25 recognized English literary magazines? Are we not interested in English literature or are we not inclined towards literary magazines? The answer seems quite bleak as we surely have a fondness for English literature which is quite evident in English fiction & poetry being published in the country apart from the raving fans of foreign authors from all over Europe and the USA and other languages which find a ready market in India.
First of all, we need to understand that as the concept of English literary magazines is quite new in India, we lack a loyal base of customers. In contrary to the USA and Europe, where the legacy of literary magazines has been running for more than 100 years, we only have a few years of literary magazine history which affects the readership to an adverse extent. The pool of readers is developed based on consistent quality works which can secure a place in the mind of the readers. It’s quite understandable that quality work needs to be handpicked by the editors which brings me to the aspect of quality of works submitted by the writers. Being an Editor-in-Chief of a literary magazine myself, I find the volume of submissions and the quality of submission completely poles apart.
The underlying problem of the quality of submission lies in the fact that the writers in our country take a lighter approach towards literary magazines. Even though the editors put hard yards day-in-and-day-out to bring the best work to light, they fail to garner independent subscriptions which highlight the financial hazards associated with the literary magazines. Most of the literary magazines in the country are run by independent literary enthusiasts and they hardly get any funds or grant from anywhere. The lack of finance also discourages the editors to maintain their motivation for a very long period. Although editors don’t lose their literary motivation, their shrinking finances propel them to think in a different direction. The rise of digitization has also severely affected literary magazines, as today, youngsters are attracted towards online reading channels and print magazines are getting less readership.
We need to understand that literary magazines are intellectual ecstasy for the lovers of literature, and we need to find an immediate solution, or we will be left lamenting on the sad state of literature in India.
About the Columnist-
A Literary Critic turned Author, Nitish Raj is the Co-Founder of Literia Insight and Editor-in-Chief at The Literary Mirror. Through his incessant passion for literature, Mr. Raj has made a mark for himself in the field of literature in the past 8 years. He has portrayed multiple literary attributes in various capacities such as an Acclaimed Author of two books, a Literary Critic, an Opinion Editorial and a Columnist for modern and post-modern literature, a Feminist, and a Thinker.
Resonating his creativity with the common masses, he has contributed to both English and Hindi literature. Having been published and featured at multiple prominent media houses of both national and international repute, he has been an eminent speaker at prestigious institutions like IITs, IIM Lucknow, and NIT Silchar. He has been invited as Host to International Conference on Multi-Disciplinary Research, Mumbai, and as Guest Poet at International Poetry Conference, Tunisia (Africa). Mr. Raj has crafted his art to become a guiding force for new and existing authors through Literia Insight.
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