The 20 Essential Indian Novels

Thank you Katina for sharing this with me! Read this article and thought it might interest you too. Some really good titles here which might tempt you to add them to your ‘To Read’ list? 😉

“India’s ancient, volatile history, multicultural and multiethnic heritage, and varied geography make it a hotbed for amazing literature. Unfortunately, so few of its vast offerings garner much recognition or renown in the United States. Bibliophiles and students hoping to delve into the dazzling array of Indian literature available might want to consider this list a great, diverse start; however, by no means does this downplay the importance or value of other writers and works.

Untouchable (1935) by Mulk Raj Anand: Untouchable bluntly dives into the plight of the Dalit caste, situated at the desperately poor, sick bottom of the then-rigid social hierarchy. Author Mulk Raj Anand found inspiration in his aunt’s experience dining with a Muslim family and subsequent shunning. From there, he crafted an eloquent, exceptionally compelling case against dissolving the caste system and creating more opportunities for the marginalized and invisible. (I’m adding this to my list!! :))

Nectar in a Sieve (1954) by Kamala Markandaya: This highly acclaimed bildungsroman pulled directly from author Kamala Markandaya’s life experiences. As India segues into a more urban, industrialized nation, 12-year-old protagonist Rukmani finds herself in an arranged marriage with Nathan. Both of them struggle to raise children and meet their needs as neighborhood dynamics shift in the wake of a tannery’s opening.

The Ramayana, as Told by Aubrey Menen (1954) by Aubrey Menen: Anyone easily offended by religious satires may want to stay away from this novel, but those open enough to give it a chance will find it a nifty little gem. Here, beloved Hindu epic The Ramayana forms the basis of a comedic tale that whipped up controversy and resulted in a temporary banning. Despite all this fervor, author Aubrey Menen clearly respected his source material and merely meant to make light of it from a then-contemporary perspective.

Train to Pakistan (1956) by Khushwant Singh: So much post-partition Indian literature emphasizes the political ramifications, the ways it impacted the populace on a more personal, intimate level receives little acknowledgment. Khushwant Singh hoped to derail this mindset by weaving an evocative tale of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs waging battle over a murder. It remains a highly effective glimpse into one of India’s most volatile periods — which currently continues to influence the region’s overall geopolitical climate.

Clear Light of Day (1980) by Anita Desai: Anita Desai’s semi-autobiographical novel watches family dynamics shift alongside India’s partitioning by British colonials. Many of the internal fractures deftly parallel those found externally, and the narrative speaks about broad and intimate themes and situations simultaneously. Ultimately, though, forgiveness begins to seep into everyone’s various wounds.”

Other titles include Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Chidren, Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy (Note to self: must find a suitable time to read this), Arundhati Roy’s A Suitable Boy, and David Davidar’s The House of Blue Mangoes (which is in my ‘To Read’ list) and many other very intriguing titles!

If you love what you’ve read so far, you must then check out the complete list here.

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