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The South Asian Literary Recordings Project

About the Project

Image of Sahitya Akademi President, Ramakanta Rath,  Field Director Lygia Ballantyne, Deputy Field Director Carol Mitchell, and Oriya cataloger Kasturika Mishra.  Photo by Gaurav Sharma.The South Asian Literary Recordings Project was originally conceived by the New Delhi office of the Library of Congress as a way to celebrate the Library's Bicentennial overseas. Aimed at recording the voices of prominent authors from the region reading excerpts from their works, the project built on the Library's tradition of complementing its paper collections of world literature with recorded readings by authors. Most notable among these efforts is the Hispanic Division's longstanding practice of recording authors of the Luso-Hispanic world. In South Asia, the Library's office in Pakistan had recorded twenty-three authors in the late 1970s, and the Library recorded four Indian writers in 1985, taking advantage of their presence in Washington for the Festival of India. The current project picks up where those earlier efforts left off, extending its reach to other countries of the region and expanding the coverage of the multilingual literary traditions of India. As in the case of earlier recordings made overseas, the New Delhi office received technical and logistics assistance from the Public Affairs Sections (formerly USIS) of our Embassies and Consulates in the region.

The project was launched in New Delhi as part of the Library's Bicentennial celebrations, in April, 2000. By September 2002, when this Web site was opened, the New Delhi office had recorded eighty authors in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. These authors, and several more yet to be recorded, were chosen with the assistance of language specialists in the office, literary figures in the region, and a number of American scholars from universities which are members of the Library's Cooperative Acquisitions Program. The selection was, by necessity, a sample of the wealth of literary creativity currently emanating from the Indian sub-continent. It was, nonetheless, an attempt at representing different styles and trends, and as many of the languages of the region as could practically be captured. As of September 2002, seventeen languages spoken in South Asia were represented. Some of the languages, such as Tamil, Bengali and Urdu, are represented by authors from more than one country of the region.

Image of Marathi poet Namdev Dhasal, surrounded by reporters in Mumbai.  Photo by Gaurav Sharma.Authors were invited to read for approximately thirty to sixty minutes. The selections were entirely of each author's choice but, hopefully, are representative of the author's overall production. Works from which the selections were made are identified, and links to the titles' bibliographic records in the Library of Congress catalog are provided. A short biography and a photograph of the author taken during the recording session are also present on the site.

All the recordings were made in cities where qualified sound technicians and appropriate equipment were available. While this limited somewhat the reach of the project, it ensured quality recordings. Recordings are available in MP3 format.

The original recordings and accompanying biographic and photographic materials are housed in Washington at the Library's Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. Access to them is through the Library's Recorded Sound Reference Center. The decision to digitize the entire collection and make it available on the Library's web site is in step with the Library's policy to share its unique treasures with the American people and the world at large. With this collection, the Library is pleased to open another window onto the literatures of South Asia. This project is a work-in-progress and new readings will be added to the digital collection as more authors are recorded, and as earlier recordings made in the seventies and eighties are digitized.

The Library of Congress >> Overseas Offices >> New Delhi
January 11, 2016
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