It's a classic
A month-long exhibition at a SoBo bookstore aims to engage young readers and seasoned book lovers with classic literature
We have a strange affinity with weathered pages, and when they come with words, it grows stranger. Formally introduced to us by an education system, a classic book — exemplifying the highest literary standard — proved to be a sort of time machine in the most physical sense. So, when 26-year-old bookstagrammer Tvishi Mongia shares her reason for recently revisiting the classics, we can't help but relate. "I've been reading since I was eight. But as you grow older, you develop a different perspective towards the format as your characters are now as old as you," she says. Mongia, who goes by the handle @anuneducatedgirl on Instagram only heard of a classics festival coming to a SoBo bookstore a couple of days ago, and as excited as we were, she then planned a trip from Kalamboli in Navi Mumbai where she's based.
Kitab Khana is the only Mumbai venue associated with the classics festival, with over 2,000 titles available for sale. Pics/Ashish Raje
The Penguin Classics Festival that opens tomorrow at various bookstores in India will display their diverse classics range under one roof. "The key idea behind the festival is to celebrate and showcase the vast range of titles we carry between Penguin and Random House Classics lists: from Modern, Black, Vintage, Minis, Puffin and Vintage Children's Classics to Bantam, Everyman's or the beautifully designed Cloth Bound Classics. These are the original handpicked evergreen titles that we want readers to come, browse through and buy as we have one for everyone. These are timeless stories and relevant for all," says Nandan Jha, senior VP sales and product at the publishing house.
In Mumbai, Kitab Khana is the sole venue associated with the festival. "I'm planning to go with an open mind. I haven't decided on any particular authors or titles I would like to purchase. I want to be instinctive," Mongia tells us as she reveals her favourites — Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Moby Dick, and Charlotte's Web. Accompanying her is 18-year-old bookstagrammer Bhoomi Mehta, who is a student of Psychology at Ruia College. "You don't hear of festivals like this happening in Mumbai. I love classics. Jane Austen is always a favourite, and so is JD Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and Animal Farm by George Orwell. I'm excited to check out new editions and find good deals," she says.
When we rush to the mezzanine at Kitab Khana, the arrangements are in progress and books with their pretty covers are stacked neatly across bookshelves, immortalising them in a way. On the first shelf, we quickly spot a vast collection of William Somerset Maugham, Yukio Mishima, and Marcel Proust, who we already know we aren't leaving without. Jagath Tekkate of Kitab Khana tells us that even though stocking classics is not the most economically viable decision, the love for it is so great, that it's hard to part with. "The young generation doesn't know Proust or any of these authors, maybe because their classics come in volumes. But, we get a lot of literature students who require these as they also come with an introduction and notes by leading scholars," he says.
Tekkate picks out a few authors from the collection, whose works may be hard to find in the city. These include Hannah Arendt, Soren Kiekegaard, Gerald of Wales, Ray Russell, Kleist, and Descartes. As most classics are translated works, he also highlights the variants in overlapping titles by various publishers. "Some books don't even come with the translator's name, so people doubt the quality. One should look out for titles that come with a little biography of the translator as well," he points out. In his 32 years of being associated with bookstores, Tekkate also draws comparisons between popular titles and independent bookstores, where the former are favoured for corporate gifts, while maintaining that classics draw a crowd of their own. And with new books being churned out everyday, where authors are judged by the quantity of their work, we can't help but follow that crowd.
Till: November 30, 10.30 am to 7.30 pm
At: Somaiya Bhavan, 47, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Fort.
Get your pick of literary classics here
Wayword & Wise
At: Ballard Estate, Fort
At: Kemps Corner & Turner Road, Bandra
Call: 66272140 (helpline)
Granth Book Store
At: Juhu Tara Road, Santacruz West
At: St Paul's Media Complex, Bandra West.
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