June 4, 2023

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India: An Endless Literature

Not in vain, due to the size and fifteen official languages ​​of the country known as the Asian subcontinent, English is joined by Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Urdu and Tamil. A language with significant roots derived from English colonialism, any attempt to give an account of its literature must be superficial. What follows is a short sketch focusing on Indo-Anglo literature as it is well known outside its borders, with a brief excursion into works and authors written in other languages.

The earliest known works, the ‘Mahabharata’ and the ‘Ramayana’, were of oral origin and date back to BC. Written between the 5th and 2nd centuries AD, Nirvanas represent the nature of contemporary Indian literature, where it is not uncommon to find novels of epic dimensions and breathlessness. . Independence also left its mark in 1947 and it still continues. These are ideological elements that have permeated literary works for decades, with the example of Mahatma Gandhi. It cannot be otherwise, because literature does not exist in isolation, but rather reflects the ideas, problems and uncertainties of the societies from which it arises.

Mulk Raj Anand stands out among the important storytellers who wrote just before independence. I would point to his novel ‘Untouchable’ (1935), in which he describes the life of an untouchable in colonial India, from an objective realism. Anand has already pointed out the charge of the Indian writer in the English language. Like many, he felt the weight of Indian and European heritage, which is reflected in his novels, where the Europeans carry more weight. Something similar happens with Raja Rao, his English training leading him to fuse the European and the Hindu in his novels, or with Marx Gandhi in the pre-independence years.

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Recommended books

  • Rabindranath Tagore
    ‘The King’s postman. Saint. King and Queen’. Publishing Alliance, 2018.

  • Salman Rushdie
    ‘Midnight’s Children’. No Pocket, 2005.

  • Salman Rushdie
    ‘City of Victory’. Madrid: Random House Literature, 2023.

  • Anita Desai
    ‘Hurry, feast’. Editorial Alliance, 2000.

  • Arundhati Roy
    ‘The God of Small Things’. Anagram, 2006.

  • RK Narayanan
    ‘The Candy Seller’. Editorial Bamboo, 2011.

  • Rohindan Mistry
    A perfect balance’. Random House Literature, 2003.

  • ‘Twelve Bengali Poets: An Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry’.
    Murcia. Official College of Surveyors and Technical Architects. 2006.

  • Vikram Chandra
    ‘The Red Earth and the Flood’. Chiruvela, 2005.

Among the writers writing in the era of independence, R.K. Narayanan also stands out, author of novels set in Malgudi, an imaginary village where the novelist recreates the India of his time. They are realistic novels in which, though the scale of man may seem small, Naren achieves a literary representation in which humanity, compassion and humor converge. Unlike these three writers who write realistic novels, V.G. Desai in 1948 in ‘All About H. He wrote the experimental novel Hater’. It had a greater impact on England than India. What unites all these writers is the feeling of being out of place in their own country, in addition to the attempt to initiate an Indian literature that reflects the Indian experience, which reinforced their great literary success in the colonial metropolis. India’s connections with England and that sense of placelessness led to a kind of literary emigration among Indian writers, some of whom were exemplified by Bharati Mukherjee or Rohindan Mistry.

The 1980s saw the emergence of a new generation of writers, among whom Salman Rushdie stood out for reasons unrelated to literature alone. He was one of the best novelists of his time. His novels depict social and political critiques of India, Pakistan or religions as examples of fantastical realism. ‘Children of Midnight’ (1981) is a novel with an epic breath in which Rushdie recounts the adventures (and misadventures) of Salim Sinai, one of the thousand children born at independence. Salim’s life is a reflection of the political events India experienced in its early years as a nation. Magical realism expands the plot and lends a credibility to the improbability of certain incidents, which is unacceptable in a realistic novel.

If Rushdie is a postmodern novelist in the style of Gabriel García Márquez, Italo Calvino or Gunther Gross, Anita Desai is a lyricist in the vein of Virginia Woolf or the Brontë sisters. He is also a great storyteller who lives between India, America and England. Some people say of her that she is a worthy successor to Tolstoy, I am more inclined towards Chekhov because it has yet to be said. Next to him can be placed Arundhati Roy, who wrote the most popular novel ‘The God of Little Things’ (1996) with a critical attitude towards the Indian government. Beginning as a screenwriter, Roy continued to work in literature, fiction and essays, and criticized Indian governments for developing nuclear weapons.

The publication of ‘A Good Match’ (1993) by Vikram Seth created a huge public impact of almost colossal proportions. Rather than simply following Rushdie, Seth tackles the thorny issue of arranged marriages in this novel, following a postmodernist line of mixing genres and styles within the novel. He has written a travel book and other novels, one of which is in verse.

With ‘Sacred Games’ (2006) being made into a movie by Netflix, among the younger writers, Vikram Chandra stands out as a writer who reflects the changing times. Audiovisual world.. His first novel ‘Red Earth and Torrential Rain’ (1995) won an award, followed by the storybook ‘Love and Longing in Bombay’ (1997) and his latest novel.

In Spain, Rabindranath Tagore is well-known thanks to the translations of his works by Juan Ramón Jimenez and Zenobia Cambrubi, a poet who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. However, despite the success of his time, Tagore failed it. To create interest in this literature in Spain. There is no dearth of poets in India. Knowing that they are only a few, I will name AK Ramanujan, Meena Alexander, Agha Shahid Ali, Eunice de Souza, Nissim Ezekiel. In addition to their dedication to poetry, translation and essay writing, they are distinguished by their tenure as professors in European, American and Indian universities. Other younger poets are Tariq Hussain, a Muslim, which is evident in his poetry and his work in support of Muslim history in India, and finally, Ranjit Hoskote, the purveyor of Indian poetry in English.