Indian Literature and Historical Fiction
Indian literature is as diverse and beautiful as this colourful and fascinating country. Learn about India's history by reading Amitav Ghosh's 'The Glass Palace' and 'The Ibis Trilogy' or travel to remote places in 'The Folded Earth' from Anuradha Roy.
A important theme in Indian literature is the tension between life in the modern impersonal city and village life with all its customs and religions. 'The White Tiger', bestselling novel of Aravind Adiga is about leaving the rural hometown behind to look for a better future in the city. Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri is praised for her stories about immigrants and their search for identity, the 'Year of the Runaways' is an impressive account about Indian immigrants in England. Indian authors are praised for their ability to describe lifelike and wonderful sketches of the surrounding landscapes, from the Kumaon hills in the lower Himalayas, the mangrove forests of the Sunderbans (The Hungry Tide) to spiritual and religious settings (Sleeping on Jupiter).
"Ghosh has established himself as one of the finest prose writers of his generation of Indian writing in English" - Financial Times.
Ghosh (amitavghosh.com), writer and anthropologist, was born in Calcutta in 1956. Because his father was a diplomat Ghosh lived among many cultures in different countries during his childhood. Besides India he lived in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iran.
Other works include: The Circle of Reason (1986), The Shadow Lines (1988), In An Antique Land (1993, about Egypt), The Calcutta Chromosome (1995). Amitav Ghosh also wrote non fiction books, in 2016 his book about climate change 'The Great Derangement' was published.
Born in 1967 in London, Jhumpa Lahiri (Facebook) moved with her parents to the US when she was a child. Right from a young age Jhumpa Lahiri felt strong ties to her parents’ homeland India, as well as the United States and England. A sense of homelessness and an inability to feel accepted took hold of her as she grew up with ties to all three countries.
The meaning of being an immigrant or the child of immigrants are strong themes (‘immigrant fiction’) in her works. In an interview with the New York Times she states: “ Writers have always tended to write about the worlds they come from. And it just so happens that many writers originate from different parts of the world than the ones they end up living in, either by choice or by necessity or by circumstance, and therefore, write about those experiences”.
With the short story collection, 'Interpreter of Maladies' (1999) Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. This book is about the first and second generation Indian immigrants and the idea of otherness in the country they live in.
Unaccustomed Earth is her second book with short stories and follows the lives of Indian American people and how they deal with their mixed cultural environment.
From the beginnings of literature, poets and writers have based their narratives on crossing borders, on wandering, on exile, on encounters beyond the familiar. The stranger is an archetype in epic poetry, in novels. The tension between alienation and assimilation has always been a basic theme. Jhumpa Lahiri
India - Pakistan
Partitions: A Novel
When, in 1947 Pakistan was created, fights broke out on the Indian and Pakistani side of the new border and refugees flee from one side to the other. Partitions is the story of four people with different religions who flee the chaos and terror of the sectarian violence to their new countries.
At a Delhi train station, the six years old Hindu twin brothers Shankar and Kenshav together with their mother try to get on the last train bound for what is now Pakistan. But they lose sight of their mother and go in search for her. A young Sikh girl, Simran Kaur, has run away from her father and Ibrahim Masud, a handicapped Muslim doctor, limps toward the new Muslim state of Pakistan.
Amit Majmudar, 2011
Mirza Waheed 2012
The novel is set on the Indian side of of the border that separates Indian Kashmir from Pakistani Kashmir. Three teenage boys friends have crossed the border into Pakistan to join the movement against the Indian military. The fourth friend however is left behind and he is put in an impossible position by the Indian army: he is sent into the valley to count the corpses. Will his fear that he will discover one of his friends lying amongst the dead come true?
Between Clay and Dust
Ustad Ramzi was once the greatest wrestler of India and Gohar Jan, a courtesan, was celebrated throughout the country for her beauty and the seductive power of her singing. But with the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan in 1947 their talents and popularity are not obvious anymore and they have to adapt to the new political and social situation.
Shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2012
Other Recommended and Bestselling Books India
A Suitable Boy
This family saga is set in a town on the Ganges and follows the lives of four families during one and a half year. Mrs. Rupa Mehra's tries to find a ‘suitable boy’ to marry her daughter, Lata. But Lata is an university student and does not want her mother to arrange her marriage. Instead she wants to make her own choice. But is she willing and capable to fight against the family traditions and choose for love and independence?
The sequel ‘A Suitable Girl’ is expected to be published in 2017
The Golden Son
Shilpi Somaya Gowda 2015
Anil Patel, ‘the golden son’, is the first of his family to go to college and he starts a medical residency in Dallas. But when his father dies, Anil becomes the head of the household and the successor of his fathers role as an arbiter for the village’s disputes. But Anil doubts if he can set forth this family tradition. And Leena, Anil’s childhood friend, tries to adapt into her new role as a wife. But her arranged marriage doesn’t make her happy and she makes a choice that will have drastic consequences for herself and her family.
The Association of Small Bombs: A Novel
Karan Mahajan 2016
The brothers Tushar and Nakul Khurana both die when a bomb explodes in a Delhi marketplace. Their friend Mansoor survives and although traumatized by the events, leaves for the United States to study. But when Mansoor returns to India, he meets Ayub, a young activist and Shockie, a Kashmiri bomb maker.
This is a memoir of the author’s experience working as an English lecturer in Bhutan.
At the age of 22 Jamie Zeppa leaves Canada for a volunteers program in Bhutan. She starts working at the Sherubtse College in remote eastern Bhutan. She has to adjust to the isolation and rudimentary life. Jamie narrates about the scenic isolated valleys, the customs and character of the Bhutanese people, the food, religions, but also political tensions.
Initially she has strong doubts whether she is capable of surviving this completely different way of life, missing western delicacies, luxuries and modern medicines. But the more she learns about the traditions of this country she becomes to love the country and its people and she stays for almost 10 years before returning to Canada.
“ …that there a still a few places left in the world so strange and wondrous that a journey there has the power to transform the traveller, even against her will”- The New york Times
Beyond the Sky and the Earth
A similar book is Married to Bhutan from Linda Learning about the 10 years she lived in Bhutan (beautiful photo's of Bhutan on her site).
'Two Roads East' by Philip Montgomery, 2012
Set in contemporary Bhutan this book is about the adventures of an American woman Sophie, a tourist, and Steve, an aid worker who is accused of Fraud. Can Sophie help Steve to discover the true story behind the missing dollars?