If you love reading, and are interested in Indian society and literature, you may be able to get some ideas for books by reading my recommendations here. The country has numerous good writers, and it is impossible for me who is at a micro level to name them all. I have selected four authors and some selected books. As you will eventually notice, I have selected “well grown up” writers, as I have little knowledge of younger Indian writers. Tips on newer and other authors are welcomed. Some will probably comment that Salman Rushdie is missing. He is not one of my biggest Indian favorites, and also due to limited space, I have left him out here.
My personal favorite is Rohinton Mistry, and the books "Balance Art", "So Long a Journey" and "Family Affairs". Mistry was born in Mumbai in 1952, but has lived in Canada since 1975. He has received international awards for all three of his books:
A Fine Balance
One of the most famous of these three is probably A Fine Balance, which through its four main characters and a number of colorful supporting characters, describes the time from independence in 1947 and the years ahead towards Indira Gandhi's 70s. "A Fine Balance" is a brutal story, at the same time also strong and colorful. It describes the lives of those at the bottom of society's ladder, about the destruction of slums, the entrenching of beggars and other poor people, and about the forced sterilization that was implemented by the authorities. For this book, Mistry received several awards. I guarantee that this story will do something for you and that this is a book you will never forget.
We join the Bombay of the 1990s. I love this book where Mistry shows his great storytelling art by depicting environments and the individual's struggle in everyday life. He does this with both humor and seriousness. Nariman Vakeel is a Parsi, 79 years old and a widower. He suffers from Parkinson's disease and lives in a dilapidated apartment with his two middle-aged stepchildren. When Nariman breaks his foot, the burden of caring becomes too heavy for them, and they leave the responsibility to their much younger half-sister, Roxana. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two small sons, and the new situation puts the whole family to the test.
Such a long journey.
This was Mistry's debut novel, which for the first time showed what a sparkling author he is. Here, readers are taken into Indian society and into the bustling and colorful city of Bombay (now Mumbai). We are in 1971 the year India's war with Pakistan resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. We meet the middle-aged Gustad Nobel - an ordinary family man with a wife and three children who strives to create a decent life for himself and his family. The Nobel neighborhood is described with humor and lushness and with grotesque and curious details.
Another award-winning Indian writer and poet, as most people probably know, is Vikram Seth. He was born in Calcutta in 1952 (now: Kolkata). Seth has an education from India, England, USA and China, and speaks several languages. He is a versatile author, who has written poetry, travel stories, books for children and novels for adults. The most famous book is:
A suitable boy.
The reader follows four Indian families in the 1950s as the country prepares for its first free election. Lata is a married woman, and the mother is struggling to find a husband for her daughter. Meanwhile, Lata falls in love with a Muslim, whom she knows her mother will not be able to accept. And against a background of social and geographical differences, contradictions between Hindus and Muslims and clashes between tradition and renewal, Lata must choose between three men, each representing their own side of Indian society. The book is a brick of 1366 pages. I like the bricks of some books, and enjoy myself through all the pages. It is also filmed, but I would say that the book is far better than the film, which is not unusual.
The book is based on the author's Indian grand uncle's story. When Seth moved to England from India as a young man, he lived for many years with his grand uncle and aunt, and through long conversations he wrote down the incredible story of their lives. The grand uncle was sent to Germany from India to study dentistry in the 1930s. There he lived in a dormitory with a Jewish family who was not very enthusiastic about this man with dark skin, but the dormitory resident and the daughter in the house fell in love. This is a story from India, from the "Third Reich" and World War II, from Auswitz, Israel and Palestine, as well as from post war Germany and 1970s Britain, all seen through the eyes of two who survived the war. It is also a portrait of their friendship, marriage and lasting but yet so complex love. Everything masterfully told.
V.S Naipaul was a British author with an Indian background who I have read a lot of. He was born in Trinidad in 1932 and died in London in 2018. In 2001, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. During his lifetime, he wrote more than 30 books.
A Bend In The River
is a novel about Africa, about cultures in operation and dissolution, and about being its own forge of success. Salim, the main character and narrator, is of Indian descent. His ancestors had settled on the east coast of Africa. Now he is offered a small business in the interior of Africa, in the city located "where there is a bend in the river". It is a ruined city, destroyed by war and rebellion he comes to. Slowly and painfully, it comes to life again. It is a relatively thin book, but with a powerful content.
A House For Mr. Biswas
The novel was published in 1961 and is Naipaul's breakthrough book. One of his very best will probably many say. A comic, dark story about a man's struggle for independence, with an Indian -Trinidadian background. This is the time after Trinidad ceased to be a colony, and the Indian community Naipaul himself grew up in, forms a lush and colorful setting for this classic novel. The novel is about the unfortunate Mr. Biswas and his efforts to get his own house. It is not a matter of course that he, as the son of poor immigrants, will ever be able to become a houseowner. The story focuses on the social and political development of the multiethnic island community. Everything is seen from Mr. Biswa's personal point of view and thus the problem is brought to life. The book is humorous at the same time as it provides good insight.
India – A Million Mutinies Now
In this book, the author addresses representatives of India's different types of communities and factions, from mafia leaders and terrorists to clerks and filmmakers. With their help, he tries to find answers to how a country with such profound religious, social, political and racial problems can function and hold together at all. Although the book is close to 30 years old, it is, in my opinion, still very valid. If you are interested in India - read it.
With his debut novel “The God Of Small Things”, Arundhati Roy became world famous overnight.
I've read the novels that have come after this great family and the love story, but I do not think any of them come close to her debut novel. She was born in 1961 in Shillong, India, where she still resides. Roy is both a writer and an activist. She is involved in, among other things, human rights and environmental issues. In addition to novels, she has also written political novels.
The God Of Small Things
In the small town of Ayemenem in the Indian state of Kerala lives the Syrian-Christian family Kochamma, with the twins Rahel and Estha. They grow up between jams and pickles in their blind grandmother Mammachi's factory, in a politically turbulent Kerala. The unity between the siblings is strong. But one day in 1969, the world turns upside down, and they learn that everything can change in seconds, that life can be twisted in bad directions and even end, so that nothing can be the same again. The God of Small Things is a magnificent family and love story with the Indian caste and class society as its soundtrack. The novel, which was published in 1997, was awarded the prestigious Booker Prize, and has been translated into more than 40 languages, and has been named one of the ten most important books of the 1990s. If you have not read it, you have something to look forward to.
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