“Writers should not hesitate to talk about their creations”
Author Geetanjali Shree made history when the International Booker Prize was awarded to his novel, ‘Tomb of Sand’. The novel was originally written as “Ret Samadhi” in Hindi by Indian Rajkamal Prakashan. It was translated into English by Daisy Rockwell and the translation was published by UK-based Tilted Axis Press. Ashok Maheshwari, managing director of Rajkamal Prakashan, who was present at the International Booker Prize ceremony as well as at the Hay Festival, is delighted: “To be selected for the International Booker Prize for ‘Ret-Samadhi’ is a particular achievement for literature written in all Indian languages including Hindi. This further establishes that the excellent writing in Hindi and other Indian languages is quickly catching the attention of a global audience. He further adds: “As readers and critics, we must not hesitate to speak of works which mark a departure. Writers should also not hesitate to talk about their creations.
What makes Geetanjali Shree’s triumph even more special for Rajkamal Prakashan is the fact that this year also marks the publication’s 75th year of operation. As Managing Director – Rajkamal Prakashan, Ashok Maheshwari has also published Hindi translations of several classics of world literature, including those by Gabriel García Márquez, Roberto Calasso, Nadine Gordimer, Camilo José Cela, Milan Kundera, Choi In-hun , Amin Maalouf , Atiq Rahimi and Stephen Hawking, among many others. Maheshwari has played a pivotal role in promoting the Hindi language in the country. He has published over 7,000 books in Hindi, including books written by leading personalities and statesmen of the country.
Obviously, the story of Rajkamal Prakashan is actually the story of modern Hindi language and literature. “In 75 years of our journey, we have regularly published literary geniuses and our catalog bears witness to the writings we publish. Rajkamal Prakashan’s literary legacy includes a host of literary greats such as Phanishwar Nath Renu, Sumitra Nandan Pant, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Bhagwati Charan Verma, Nirala, Nagarjun, Shamsher Bahadur Singh, Trilochan, Muktibodh, Bhism Sahni, Shiv Pujan Sahay, Rahi Masoom Raza, Mohan Rakesh, Javed Akhtar and many more names,” says Maheshwari, who has received several prestigious accolades such as the Gyan Prakash Award, Vidya Bharti Samman, Federation of Indian Publishers Award, and Utkarsh Samman, among others.
Taking shape in the pre-twilight of India’s freedom in 1947, Rajkamal Prakashan ushered in a literary movement that gave voice to the voiceless. “Rajkamal Prakashan’s journey began a few months before India’s independence. Of the first two books published by Rajkamal Prakashan, the first was by INA’s Shah Nawaz Khan, which was published in Hindi and English. The second was “Gandhi and Stalin” by Louis Fischer. This too was released simultaneously in Hindi and English. So we were part of the freedom struggle too and once India got independence we put out books on so many subjects which were both relevant and important. Here I must mention that when the five-year plans were introduced, there were no criticisms at first, regardless of their pros and cons. It was Rajkamal Prakashan who published Shrilal’s novel ‘Raag Darbari’, who dared to offer a strong critique of the post-colonial era,” Maheshwari reveals.
In the digital age, Rajkamal Publication continues to lead by example. During the pandemic, the publication even held an online book fair that saw participation from more than 40 countries. “Today in the digital age, we are available on almost every possible digital platform and with the same integrity and drive to promote Hindi language and literature. As an organization, we enjoy a great respect among the best writers and we cherish all our writers. At the start of the lockdown, we started a WhatsApp group to engage with readers, which became a rage as thousands of readers connected with us. Earlier in the year we also organized the Rajkamal Online Book Fair to make up for the absence of the World Book Fair, it was a huge success with people from over 45 countries taking part. recorded over 1,45,000 reader visits Book lovers from Delhi, Lucknow, Patna and Jaipur joined the fair in large numbers Over 16,000 new readers joined the Rajkamal Online Book Fair Half of the participation came from the young people,” says Maheshwari.
The 75-year journey has been full of challenges but the Rajkamal Prakashan Group has managed to stand the test of time. At a time when the whole nation was hearing both the fear of division and the light of freedom, Rajkamal Prakashan upheld the new era of Hindi poetry and literary history. Currently, they publish over 500 books each year and are committed to pushing the count ever higher. “We are ready to carry the legacy forward and we are doing so faithfully with the merger of other big names in Hindi publishing like Radhakrishna, Lokbharti, Remadhav, Sahitya Bhawan, Purvoday and Saransh Prakashan. We are enriching more broadly through expansion into English publishing as well as Banyan Tree books. We have a long publishing history and rights to publish much of India’s legendary works, as well as translated works of world literature,” sums up Maheshwari.