22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Vivek Shanbhag

Portrait Vivek Shanbhag
© Hartwig Klappert

Vivek Shanbhag was born in 1962 in a small coastal city in the Indian state of Karnataka. He trained to be an engineer and became a manager at a consumer goods company. His work for this international company took him on extensive travels throughout his country, from which he gained deep insights into modern India and the problems of rapid economic growth.

Vivek Shanbhag has published five short story collections, three novels, and two plays, all written in the South Indian language of Kannada. The author, who is also fluent in English, an important literary language in India, justifies his decision to write in Kannada like so: »Music, dance, folk-songs/tales, and proverbs are born from the language of the street, which has very deep connections with the everyday life of people. As a writer, it is very important for me to immerse myself in this language if I want to capture the nuances of this world. So I had no choice but to write in Kannada. English is not the language of the street in any part of India.« »Ghachar Ghochar« (2013; Eng. 2017) is his first novel to appear in German. It has been translated into 16 languages across the world and highly praised by critics. The societal changes observed by Shanbhag in India have undeniably influenced the development of his novel’s characters. When the young narrator’s uncle enters the spice trade, he changes the family’s destiny overnight. The once poor clan moves into a large house in a rich neighborhood, where they get new furniture and new acquaintances. But with the sudden wealth comes a new structure of dependencies: Now, the entire family’s prosperity depends on the uncle’s success, and it must be protected at all costs, even from their own relatives, if necessary. In a delicate interplay of omissions and allusions, Vivek Shanbhag portrays the moral deterioration of an Indian family. »It’s true what they say – it’s not we who control money, it’s the money that controls us […] When there’s only a little, it behaves meekly; when it grows, it becomes brash and has its way with us,« the son concludes about his family’s dilemma. Told from his perspective, the captivating and humorous story of dependence, love, and moral decay as well as one family’s psychological complexities reflects the history of an entire country.

»Ghachar Ghochar« was included by the critics at »The New York Times« in their list of the top books of 2017, was longlisted for the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award, and was a finalist for the 2018 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. In 2016, Shanbhag was a resident at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. He lives in Bangalore.