Naveen Kishore Photo: Naveen Kishore

Naveen Kishore is the founder and director of Seagull Books in Kolkata. With branches in London and Chicago, Seagull is established in the international publishing business like no other Indian publishing house. 

By launching The German List book series, Naveen Kishore lastingly altered the prevailing circumstances for the reception of German-language literature in the English language not only in India, but worldwide. In 2013 Naveen Kishore was awarded the Goethe Medal, an official distinction of the Federal Republic of Germany, for his services to the teaching of the German language and international cultural exchange.

Naveen Kishore publishes a series of German literature in English translations called The German List. Seagull Books is the first to publish German authors such as Brigitte Reimann and Ralf Rothmann in the English language, in carefully edited and aesthetically designed editions. Over the past five years Seagull has acquired the publishing rights to over 60 books from German publishers. This makes it the first Indian publishing house to rival British and American publishers in the purchase of licensing rights. The 2011 founding of the Seagull School of Publishing in Kolkata, has provided major stimuli to professionalize cultural and publishing work in all of India. In an outstanding way and at the highest level, Naveen Kishore represents dialogue and cultural cooperation between India and Germany, according to the statement by the conferment commission.

Much more than Books

Naveen Kishore was born in 1953. During his youth he read British and American editions of the classics of German-language literature. He studied English literature, and in 1982 he founded the publishing house Seagull Books focusing on art, theatre and film, followed later by books on politics and philosophy. Today, the house owns the worldwide English-language publishing rights for authors such as Paul Celan, Rabindranath Thakur and Hans Magnus Enzensberger.

The publishing firm received its first award in 1983 from the Indian government for a paperback edition of five plays by Franz Xaver Kroetz. With untiring energy, Kishore continued to develop his idea: He not only opened the Seagull bookshop and branches in the United Kingdom and the USA, but also founded social and cultural initiatives such as the Seagull Foundation for the Arts (1987), the Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre, which is a library and archive as well as an exhibition and performance space (1999) and the Seagull School of Publishing (2011) that offers vocational training for young editors and designers.

Publisher by heart

Petra Hardt, Suhrkamp Verlag Berlin, on Naveen Kishore:

“For the worldwide circulation of contemporary German literature in the English language and for its dissemination in Indian languages within India (not as a publisher in these languages, but as an intermediary), for six years there has been a publisher who like no other unites the classical publisher traits of curiosity, independence, preservation and promotion of literary quality, first-class production and distribution of books, companion of his writers, networker, educator: Naveen Kishore. In recent years Seagull Books has done more for the dissemination of contemporary German-language literature than was possible for the American and British publishers within their corporate bonds. (...) This means a renaissance in all countries for the awareness of Hans Magnus Enzensberger and Alexander Kluge, with whom Naveen works together closely. The effects that Seagull’s overall concept – publisher, academy, art gallery and bookseller – will have on the international book market cannot yet be foreseen. Yet we can say with certainty that it is a paradigm shift that will influence other independent publishers on other continents. Just imagine, here comes a publisher from Kolkata and says he is willing to invest in literary quality, in the English language, worldwide, and not as a challenge to New York or London, but as a long past due enhancement, as a saving grace for literature in a book market that is becoming ever more arbitrary. (...)”