Wednesday, 9 December 2009

International appeal for home-grown stories

This is the German edition of Devil's Kiss, due out in January. One of the strange side-effects of publishing is the foreign rights market, and wondering why some stories seem to translate internationally, and why some don't.
Frankly, I haven't a clue.
Look at 'Slumdog Millionaire'. Isn't it 'Rags to riches'? Isn't it the American Dream (local boy makes good and gets the girl). Given its setting there's nothing particularly Indian about the story, is there? You don't need to know anything about the culture beyond what you've picked up on the news or in your local curry house. The story has a strong Dickensian streak, it is both gruesome and sentimental (but with cooler music).
I think concentrating on the greats certainly helps. Not what's big now, I'm not a hundred percent sure Da Vinci Code will be popular in 100 years (though I hasten to add I learnt a lot about pacing from it. It's an awesome page turner). But look at Dickens, Shakespeare and Austen. Settings vary from Prospero's Island to the drawing rooms of Sussex. What is it about them that has such timeless and global appeal? I remember when the Indian adaptation of Austen, 'Bride and Prejudice', came out. But of course! Marrying off your daughters is a major theme in Indian and Asian lives. I'm reading Emma right now and touched by her self-sacrificing nature. She does so much for her dad and has abandoned any hope of her own marriage to support him. Maybe Billi could learn a thing or two from Emma, they're in the same boat regarding dependant dads. The best stories touch us because they speak to something fundamental in our hearts or psyches.
Universal and timeless appeal. Isn't that something to aim for?

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