Committed to advancing critical theory: Vani Prakashan chief

- December 30, 2023
| By : Tahir Bhat |

Aditi Maheshwari Goyal, Vani Prakashan’s Executive Director, says she is thrilled after earning international recognition, and believes that feminist critical theory in literature facilitates social change

UNRAVELING IDEAS: Aditi Maheshwari, Ashok Vajpeyi, Rohini Aggarwal and Anamika during a roundtable event

Aditi Maheshwari Goyal, aged 37, serves as the Executive Director at Vani Prakashan, a distinguished Hindi language publishing house. She was honoured with the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) by Thierry Mathou, Ambassador of France to India, in recognition of her exceptional achievements in Hindi publishing and her commitment to advancing feminist voices in the language.

Apart from her role at Vani Prakashan, she is the Managing Trustee at Vani Foundation, the group’s not-for-profit arm.

Aditi holds a postgraduate degree in English literature from Hansraj College, University of Delhi, an M.Phil. in Social Sciences from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and an M.Sc. in Business Management from the University of Strathclyde, Scotland, UK, which she completed in 2012. She also holds diplomas in Public Relations and Advertising and is currently pursuing a diploma in Artificial Intelligence from the Indian Institute of Technology.

Returning in 2013, she joined her family’s publishing house, rising from an editorial intern to become the Executive Director of the Group.

Aditi also developed the syllabi for Publishing and Editing course at the University of Delhi’s Cluster Innovation Centre and taught it for three years. She continues to teach the same course at the Seagull School of Publishing in Kolkata.

In July 2023, Aditi was presented with the National Achiever’s Award for Literary Entrepreneurship from Zee Media for her accomplishments in Hindi publishing and dedication to amplifying marginalised voices in the Hindi language, including LGBTQ, Dalits, Adivasi, and feminists.

This year marks Vani Prakashan’s 60th year in publishing. With 400 annual publications, primarily in Hindi, the Vani Prakashan Group emerged as the largest publishing conglomerate after acquiring the publishing program of India’s oldest publishing house, Bharatiya Jnanpith.

Their publishing list includes 32 Sahitya Akademi award-winning books and authors, translations of nine Nobel laureates into Hindi, and numerous other award-winning writers and books.

Patriot interviewed Aditi, discussing the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres award and exploring insights about Vani Prakashan’s role in the publishing industry.


So, how do you feel after receiving the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres? How did it feel to be recognised for your contributions to Hindi publishing on such a prestigious platform?

It is an incredibly unbelievable feeling that Hindi publishing has been recognised on an international platform. After the Booker Award for a Hindi book’s translation in English (Geetanjali Shree’s Tomb of Sand), the fact that a Hindi publishing house is considered a global standard publishing house is exceptional, and I, with immense humility on behalf of the entire house of Vani, accept this with a sense of deep responsibility.

The award ceremony coincided with the unveiling of the Hindi translation of The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. What motivated you to undertake this translation, and what impact do you hope it will have on Hindi readers?

Simone de Beauvoir has inspired numerous feminist movements in the country. Her book, The Second Sex, was initially presented as a translation by Prabha Khaitan, a towering feminist, writer, and poet. However, we learned that Simone de Beauvoir’s legal estate had mandated that no abridgement was permissible and required all her works to be published in their entirety. Understanding the family’s sentiments, we aimed to present Simone’s work to the public, aiding university students and general readers. Thus, the decision was made to request a fresh Hindi translation of The Second Sex. I’m delighted that Monika Singh, a nuanced Roma Rola award-winning translator, has taken on this challenge.

How do you see your role in promoting critical feminist theory through Hindi literature?

My grandfather, Ranjan Mahesh, initiated Vani Prakashan with the goal of publishing the best critical writings in Hindi. He was an academician and worked with Shyama Charan Dube, a social scientist, who envisioned Vani Prakashan as the Oxford University Press of Hindi, emphasising the governance of the publishing house for discussing contemporary writings.

I find myself committed to similar thoughts of advancing critical theory. Feminist critical theory in literature has facilitated social change, resonating with the live realities of the people. Senior feminist authors and critics from our generations have expanded the boundaries, creating space for humanity and co-existence in literature.

The round-table discussion focussed on the influence of French critical thought on the Hindi public sphere. So, how do you envision the continued exchange of ideas between French and Hindi literature?

France is perceived as a departure from the norm, historically influencing global perspectives and critiquing existing paradigms through French critical thought. Similarly, in the Hindi public sphere, we’ve welcomed new thoughts, extending space for human existence. Indian languages have been receptive to global movements, responding critically.

In our recent round-table discussion, Ashok Vajpeyi, Anamika and Rohni Agarwal were pivotal thinkers with unique perspectives. Despite limited time, our discussions were profound, indicating a shift toward translating contemporary works alongside classics. We aim to engage more French-to-Hindi translators and are excited about France’s visual culture, particularly experimental forms like graphic novels, offering alternative human experiences.

With the growing global recognition of Hindi literature, exemplified by Geetanjali Shree winning the International Booker Award, how do you perceive the future of Hindi language publishing on the international stage? What steps can further promote the language in the global literary landscape?

We continually strive to make space for international translations and authors while fostering productive discussions with Indian counterparts, aiming to connect visionary exchanges with the Hindi public sphere. It’s a dialogue we aspire to because it’s crucial for a peaceful world and a brighter future for upcoming generations.

As the Executive Director of Vani Prakashan, what challenges have you faced in navigating the publishing industry, especially as a prominent figure in a traditionally male-dominated field?

We commenced humbly, witnessing my parents’ struggle to establish the publishing house. My sister and I understand the immense responsibility that comes with it. Although the grass in the publishing industry appears thicker, breaking through the glass ceiling has become more challenging. Female colleagues face easy defamation, and female bosses are easily compartmentalised. We must collectively work beyond gender differences, recognising that gender doesn’t determine our professional contributions. Despite feeling vulnerable in the public eye, sensitivity has increased. We hope the younger generation can overcome such biases.

What advice do you have for aspiring individuals, especially women, looking to make their mark in the world of literature and publishing?

My foremost advice for anyone, irrespective of gender, planning to join publishing is to understand their skill base thoroughly. They must excel in their skills, although learning on the job is common. Having clarity about their professional path is crucial. Editors must maintain distance from the work they handle.

AWARD: Aditi Maheshwari and Thierry Mathou, France Ambassador

Additionally, I admire Gyan Ranjan, a senior editor in Hindi literature, for differentiating between his authorial aspirations and editorial commitments. Learning from editors like Gyan Ranjan is essential. If individuals plan to join publishing for marketing and sales, they need patience for books and readings and a deep respect for authors. Without this, they won’t do justice to their work or capture the audience’s attention.

How do you envision the role of Vani Prakashan in shaping the future of Hindi literature, and what upcoming projects or initiatives are you excited about?

Vani Prakashan has become India’s most trusted publishing house, especially for Hindi literature. Our legacy of nurturing the Vani Prakashan list for the past six decades is a significant part of our offering. The trust and support from readers and authors have made us leaders in publishing. Our aim is to strengthen and expand our publishing list, offering a greater variety of books to our readers and proposing a comprehensive 360-degree book plan. We hope to influence the National Book Promotion Policy, aligning with our nation’s exceptional and inclusive National Education Policy. Our endeavour is to push for enhancements in the national policy, fostering a brighter literary landscape for Hindi literature.