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India has more English speaking readers than England: Ken Follett

Wednesday December 15, 2010 02:46:07 PM, Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS

New Delhi: India is "growing enormously" and increasing numbers of books are being sold here, says international bestselling author Ken Follett who is eyeing the country's 89 million English-speaking people, much more than in England.

"I am here in India because books are growing. There are apparently 89 million people in India for whom English is the first language. It is more than the number in England. This country is prospering and growing enormously," Follett, who is in India on a visit, told IANS.

"We are selling more and more books here. I would like more Indian readers and Indian friends. That is why I am here," the 71-year-old writer of books such as "Eye of the Needle" and "The Key to Rebecca" added.

"Asia and India, the markets of the future," said Follett, who is touring India to promote his new book, "The Fall of Giants", the first of an epic historical and political series, the Century Trilogy. The book has been published in India by the Panmacmillan.

Follett is working on the second part of the trilogy that will be published in 2012.

The "Fall of Giants" is a chronicle of five families brought together through the dramas of the first World War, the Russian Revolution, struggle for voting rights for women and the horror of British mines in the 20th century.

"After writing 'World Without An End' (a medieval historical fiction), I wanted to write another book with that kind of sweep and scope. I thought of the 20th century. It is the most violent and dramatic century in the history of human race.

"We killed each other in an unprecedented rate in the 20th century. And yet it is a century of high ideals and democracy and freedom. There were groups within the society that demanded equality. For example, women. So, there is a contrast between high ideals and terrible slaughter," Follett said.

Follett, who has authored more than 30 books and is known for action-packed narratives set in an expansive canvas, began his career as a writer in the early 1970s and shot to fame in 1978 with "Eye of the Needle", a successful World War II drama.

The snow-haired portly writer is married to former Labour Party MP Barbara Broer.

Follett says readers across the world identify with his books. "It sometimes surprises me, but my books are enjoyed by people who have no experience at all of the kind of things I am writing about. For example, I am very popular in Brazil. What did Brazilians make of a story of a building of a cathedral (in the book 'Pillars of the Earth') in the middle ages. But they loved it," Follett said.

The writer attributes it to the universality of a powerful narrative.

"The basic elements of a good story are completely universal. If you write about love, hatred, battle, revenge, growing up, getting married and having children - and killing your enemies, people all over the world understand it," Follett said.

Britain's mining history recur in Follett's novels. The writer says it is a part of his family history.

"My grandfather Arthur Evans did exactly what Billy Williams does in the opening scene of the 'Fall of Giants'. At 13, he started to work in the coal mines," he said.

The novelist loves to write about World War II - and several books use the war as a core to spin fictional tales.

"The Second World War was a battle of good and evil unlike the cold war, which created tremendous international tension and for decades we all thought we were living on the brink of a nuclear holocaust and I think incidentally it also created the modern spy novels. That tension is what the spy novels are all about - James Bond stories and Len Deighton stories," he said.

The movelist, who was in the capital for a day Monday, divided his time between interviews and signing books at an interactive event organised by Om Books International before flying to Chennai.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at




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