COWEN: For fiction, what would be the country or region — now, what’s a country, what’s a region is even up for grabs — that is really underappreciated relative to what it has done? If you say, “Oh, classic Russian fiction,” even if people haven’t read it, people know there’s a lot there. You probably wouldn’t pick that. What’s the counterintuitive pick for most underrated region or country for wonderful fiction?
ORTHOFER: Underrated, I would absolutely think the regional language and literature of India. I think surprisingly, even though, perhaps, English is the main literary language of India and a great deal is locally translated, even there much of the vernacular literature still isn’t available in English.
What one can see of it and also in part hear about it — we’re missing an awful lot. There is a literary culture there, especially, for example, in Bengali, but we’ve had that since Tagore. One of the remarkable things is Tagore won his Nobel prize over a hundred years ago, and there are still novels by him which haven’t been translated into English. He is really a very good novelist.
It’s truly worthwhile, and this goes for many regions. The southern region of Kerala where they write in Malayalam — there’s remarkable literary production there, and we just see so little of it. Also, what is available, because a fair amount is — it tends to be underappreciated, especially in America and the United Kingdom. It hasn’t really reached these shores.
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