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Indian realities – Raj Kamal Jha and Ilija Trojanow talk about a country in the midst of change
Moderation: Claudia Kramatschek
India is a country undergoing vast changes. On the one hand, there’s the glamorous financial world of Mumbai, the booming IT industry of Bangalore, and the obsession with change; on the other, there’s instability, widespread poverty, the sale of natural resources, an explosive mix of ethnicities and religions, and the collision of modernity and old-world traditions. In the midst of all that, the highly diverse contemporary Indian culture, with its Bollywood films and graphic novels, literary icons like Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Kiran Nagakar, and visual artists like Bani Abidi, N S Harsha and Sheela Gowda. One man who knows the reality of Indian life in all its facets is Raj Kamal Jha, novelist and managing editor of the Indian Express in New Delhi. His novels, The Blue Bedspread (2000), If You Are Afraid of Heights (2005) and Fireproof (2006), have been translated into German and English. Raj Kamal Jha sees himself on the border between the world of facts – which determines his journalistic life by day – and the world of fiction – to which he dedicates his nights. “My novels and my newspaper have a close coexistence,” he says. “They are neighbors engaging in an active exchange.” Here in Germany, Ilija Trojanow discovered Jha relatively early, and has already appeared with him once before in Munich in 2000. Trojanow wrote that “Jha’s major strength is the miniature: the sort of finely crafted jewelry any jeweler would be proud of.” Ilija Trojanow himself is very familiar with the realities of Indian life. He lived in Mumbai for almost six years and has written repeatedly about India, a country still foreign to us: in his novel The Collector of Worlds (2006), which garnered him international fame, as well as in the story about his journey on the Ganges River, Along the Ganges (2003), in his User’s Guide to India (2006) and, most recently, in his portrait of Calcutta’s College Street City of Books (2012).

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