(Last Updated on : 27/09/2012)
Indian English Literature pertains to that body of work by writers from India, who pen strictly in the English language and whose native or co-native language could be one of the numerous regional and indigenous languages of India. English literature in India is also intimately linked with the works of associates of the Indian diaspora, especially with people like Salman Rushdie
who was born in Indian but presently resides elsewhere.
Development of Indian English Literature
Indian English literature precisely conforming to its gradual evolution had all begun in the summers of 1608 when Emperor Jahangir
, in the court of the Mughals, had welcomed Captain William Hawkins, Commander of British Naval Expedition Hector, in a gallant manner. Though India was under the British rule, still, English was adopted by the Indians as a language of understanding and awareness, education and literary expression with an important means of communication amongst various people of dissimilar religions.
Indian English literature, quite understandably, spurs attention from every quarter of the country, making the genre admired in its own right. Creative writing in English is looked at as an integral part of the literary traditions in the Indian perspective of fine arts. In early times of British rule, the novelistic writing, indeed the Indian English dramas and Indian English poetry, had tremendously arrested attention of the native masses. Every possible regional author was dedicated in their intelligence to deliver in the `British mother tongue`, highly erudite and learned as they were even in such periods. The man that comes to surface more than once in all the genres of Indian English literature is Rabindranath Tagore
, who possibly was an unending ocean of knowledge and intellect, still researched as an institution in him.
The truthfulness and honesty of the writers writing in English is often made a theme of suspect in their own country and in other English-speaking countries they are indeed addressed as `marginal` to the mainstream of English literature. Indian English literature writers are sometimes incriminated of forsaking the national or regional language and penning in a western, "alien" language; their dedication to the nation is considered in much suspicion, a rather unfortunate sensibility for such intelligent and cultured wonders.
Indian literature in English dates back to the 1830s, to Kashiprasad Ghosh, who is considered the first Indian poet writing in English. Sochee Chunder Dutt was the first writer of fiction, thus bringing in the tremendous attraction and brilliancy of admiration of Indian English novels. In the beginning, however, political writing in the novel or essay format was dominant, as can be seen in Raja Ram Mohan Roy
and his extraordinary output. He had written and dedicated pages about social reform and religion in India, solely in the medium of English.
Style of Indian English Literature
`Stylistic influence` from the local languages appears to be an exceptional feature of much of the Indian literature in English - the local language construction and system is very much reflected in the illustrations, as is mirrored in the literal translation of local idioms. Yet one more breathtaking and praiseworthy feature of these English Indian writers is that they have not only `nativised` the `British mother tongue` in terms of stylistic features, but, they have also acculturated English in terms of the `Indianised context`. A broad view that the mother tongue is the primary means of literary creativity is still generally held across cultural diversity. Creativeness in another tongue is often measured as a deviation from this strict norm. The native language is considered `pure`, it is addressed as a standard model of comparison. This however have caused difficulties for non-native writers of Indian English literature and it is more than infrequently that they have to guard themselves writing again, in English.
Writers of Indian English literature
Besides the legendary and hugely venerated Indian English literary personalities like Rabindranath Tagore (Sadhana
) or R K Narayan ( Malgudi days
), later novelists like Kamala Markandaya
(Nectar in a Sieve, Some Inner Fury
, A Silence of Desire, Two Virgins), Manohar Malgaonkar (Distant Drum, Combat of Shadows, The Princes, A Bend in the Ganges and The Devil`s Wind), Anita Desai (Clear Light of Day, The Accompanist, Fire on the Mountain, Games at Twilight) and Nayantara Sehgal, have ceaselessly captured the spirit of an independent India struggling to break away from the British and traditional Indian cultures and establish a distinct identity.
ing the 1980`s and 90`s, India had emerged as a major literary nation. Salman Rushdie`s `Midnight`s Children` had become a rage around the world, even winning the Booker Prize. The worldwide success of Vikram Seth`s ` Midnight`s Children ` made him the first writer of the Indian Diaspora to enter the sphere of elite international writers and leave an indelible mark on the global literary scene. Other Indian English literature
Novelists of repute of the contemporary times include - V.S. Naipaul
, Shobha De
(Selective Memory), G.V. Desani, M Ananthanarayanan, Bhadani Bhattacharya, Arun Joshi, Khushwant Singh
, O.V. Vijayan, Allan Sealy (The Trotternama), Sashi Tharoor (Show Business, The Great Indian Novel
), Amitav Ghosh (Circle of Reason
, Shadow Lines
) and others.
The writer in the genre of Indian English literature, who took the world with a storm, was Arundhati Roy, whose `The God of Small Things
` won the 1997 Booker Prize and became an international best-seller overnight. Rohinton Mistry
, Firdaus Kanga, Kiran Desai
(Strange Happenings in the Guava Orchard), Sudhir Kakar (The Ascetic of Desire), Ardeshir Vakil (Beach Boy
) and Jhumpa Lahiri (Interpreter of Maladies
) are some other renowned writers of Indian origin. Former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao
`s The Insider; Satish Gujral
`s A Brush with Life; R.K. Laxman`s The Tunnel of Time, Prof. Bipin Chandra`s India After Independence, Sunil Khilnani`s The Idea of India, J.N. Dixit`s Fifty Years of India`s Foreign Policy, Yogesh Chadha`s Rediscovering Gandhi and Pavan K.Varma`s The Great Indian Middle Class, are also outstanding works of the recent times.
The mid-20th century Indian literature in English had witnessed the emergence of poets such as Nissim Ezekiel
(The Unfurnished Man), P Lal, A K Ramanujan (The Striders, Relations, Second Sight, Selected Poems), Dom Moraes (A Beginning), Keki .N . Daruwalla, Geive Patel were profoundly influenced by literary movements taking place in the West, like Symbolism, Surrealism, Existentialism, Absurdism and Confessional Poetry. These authors heavily had made use of Indian phrases alongside English words and had tried to reproduce a blend of the Indian and the Western cultures.
Indian English literature is an honest enterprise to demonstrate the ever rare gems of Indian writing in English. From being a singular and exceptional, rather gradual native flare-up of geniuses, Indian English has turned out to be a new form of Indian culture and voice in which India converses regularly. While Indian authors - poets, novelists, essayists, dramatists - have been making momentous and considerable contributions to world literature since the pre-Independence era, the past few years have witnessed a gigantic prospering and thriving of Indian English writing in the global market. Not only are the works of Indian authors writing in English surging on the best-seller list, they are also incurring and earning an immense amount of critical acclamation. Commencing from Mulk Raj Anand
, R. K. Narayan, Anita Desai
, Sarojini Naidu
, Toru Dutt to Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth
, Allan Sealy, Amitav Ghosh
, Jhumpa Lahiri
, Chitra Banerjee, Arundhati Roy
, Vikram Chandra
- the panache of fine Indian writers is long and much augmented.