November 2010 | Nate Pedersen

P. Lal, Founder of Writers Workshop, Dies at 81

Purushottama Lal, renowned poet and publisher of the great Indian literary imprint Writers Workshop, passed away on November 3 at his home in Kolkata. He was 81 years old.

The Writers Workshop publications were known to bibliophiles around the world for the elegance of their production. Each slim volume was bound in sari cloth from handlooms, with hand-stitching and P. Lal's own exquisite calligraphy on the title page and chapter heads. Even the type-setting was conducted by hand until just recently.

P. Lal founded Writers Workshop in 1958 with the deceptively simple goal of publishing Indian writers in English. Since then, the imprint has published over 3,500 titles, presenting a significant undertaking for any would-be collector. Lal's guiding philosophy for his publishing house was wonderfully inclusive,"WW is not a professional publishing house. It does not print well-known names; it makes names known ... and then leaves them in the loving clutches of the so-called 'free' market." As a result, Lal launched the careers of a number of prominent Indian writers including Vikram Seth, Nissip Ezekiel, Meena Alexander, Dilip Hiro, and Anita Desai, amongst many others.

Read more about P. Lal and the Writers Workshop in this excellent piece from The Economist.