Attending the second Chennai International Book Fair (CIBF 2024) in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has been an eye-opening and stimulating start to the year.

The fair kindly invited me to join along with more than 30 publishers from around the globe, joining hundreds of colleagues from Tamil Nadu and across India.

Based on the theme ‘Bringing the world to Tamil, taking Tamil to the world’, CIBF 2024 tapped the rich literary history of Tamil, a classical language with a history stretching back thousands of years.

Chennai is also home to a host of large and small publishers producing books in Tamil and other southern Indian languages, as well as English.

Opening on Tuesday 16 January after a colourful welcome, the fair provided national stalls for the invited publishers, along with a large stand for guest of honour Malaysia.

Over the three days I held several dozen meetings with agents, publishers, service providers and authors, sharing the Oratia Books list and considering their works for translation.

Among the books I profiled were The Grandmothers of Pikitea Street by Indian-Kiwi author Renisa Maki and Malcolm Paterson’s The River in our Backyard, which features Tamil language and characters.

Our international group was able to visit the public book fair being run simultaneously at another location in the city, as well as the impressive Higginbothams, India’s oldest bookstore, in the Anna Salai district.

The panel discussion ‘Translating Cultures: Inward and Outward’

On Wednesday I was part of a panel discussion on translation, moderated by Dejan Trajkoski (Prozart Media, North Macedonia) with Milena Ascione (BooksAgent, France), Sulaiman Adebowale (Amalion, Senegal) and Rajeev Dhar Joshi (Kathalaya, Nepal).

A huge vote of thanks to the fellowship organisers Senthil Nathan and Ilangoven Chinnusamy, who put a massive amount of voluntary work into getting the fellows to Chennai from around the world and making this a memorable experience.

I look forward to following up on the many contacts made, and to helping bring Tamil books to New Zealand and New Zealand books to Tamil.


Peter Dowling, Publisher, Oratia Books