For anyone interested in the story of English in India, or in the finest English storytellers of India, this book, an illustrated history of two hundred years of Indian literature in English, should be a useful companion. It discusses the canonical poets, novelists and dramatists as well as many of the lesser known literary figures – scientists, spiritualists and learned men and women – who have made major contributions to the evolution of Indian literature in English. The book comprises 24 chapters, each by a well-known writer or critic. Each chapter is devoted to either a single author (Kipling, Tagore, Sri Aurobindo, R.K. Narayan, Rushdie) or to a group of authors (the Dutt family 19th-century Calcutta; the Indian diasporic writers of the twentieth century) or to a genre (beginnings of the Indian novel; poetry since Independence). This is a book for the non-specialist general reader. Biographical information on every major Indian literary figure is provided and the work of each author, genre or ‘school’ is historically contextualised. The essays can be read selectively – for example, to follow the development of a genre – or read in the order in which they appear, which is chronological. The information is supplemented by 150 rare photographs and sketches of writers, collected specially for this volume William Jones and Thomas Macaulay, Henry Derozio and Toru Dutt, Bankim and Tagore, Kipling and Naipaul, G.V. Desani and Raja Rao, R.K. Narayan and Nirad C. Chaudhuri, Sarojini Naidu and Anita Desai, Gandhi and Nehru, Mulkraj Anand and Aubrey Menen, Khushwant Singh and Ved Mehta, Verrier Elwin and Salim Ali, Jim Corbet and M. Krishnan, Nissim Ezekiel and A.K. Ramanujan, Salman Rushdie and Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh and I. Allan Sealy, Gieve Patel and Girish Karnad, social reformers and religious thinkers, conservationists and hunters, drama and translation, this volume covers everything of literary significance in India from Ram Mohan Ray to Arundhati.
‘Mehrotra’s volume brings together some of the best writers and thinkers on Indian literature in English. … I can think of few titles that rival it for sheer range, freshness of insight, or scholarly depth.’ —Prof Harish Trivedi, University of Delhi
Arvind Krishna Mehrotra is a poet, critic and translator who teaches English at the University of Allahabad, India. He is the editor of the Oxford Anthology of Modern Indian Poets.