Indian Fiction-Must Reads
Indian writers have distinguished themselves not only in traditional Indian languages but also in English. Indian writers have established a place in the fiction category as well. Many of their Books have gone on to become Bestsellers not only in India but around the world. VS Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai have won the prestigious Man Booker Prize, with Salman Rushdie going on to win the Booker of Bookers. If you haven’t yet had a bite of Indian literature or would like to read some more, here’s a list of some of the Best Indian Fiction you must read.
Love and Longing in Bombay by Vikram Chandra
Title: Love and Longing in Bombay
Author: Vikram Chandra
Price: Rs 250
Vikram Chandra’s second book, a collection of short stories. In a waterfront bar in Bombay, an enigmatic civil servant tells stories to a group of friends. In “Dharma,” an old soldier returns home to find that his house is haunted by the spirit of a small child; in “Shakti,” two great ladies engage in ruthless drawing-room warfare; in “Kama,” a policeman investigating a murder journeys into the mysteries of his own heart…
Review:Immensely absorbing … Impeccably controlled, intelligent, sensuous and sometimes grim, Chandra’s timeless and timely book is remarkably life-affirming, considering the dark areas of the heart he explores. — Publisher’s Weekly (USA).
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Title: A Fine Balance
Author: Rohinton Mistry
Price: Rs 225
A Fine Balance, critically Mistry’s most successful work to date, tells the story of four characters (Maneck, Dina, Ishvar and Omprakash ) and the impact of Indira Ghandhi’s state of emergency on them. One of the most successful aspects of this book is its carefully crafted prose:
The morning express bloated with passengers slowed to a crawl, then lurched forward suddenly, as though to resume full speed. The train’s brief deception jolted its riders. The bulge of humans hanging out of the doorway distended perilously, like a soap bubble at its limit.
This intricate opening paragraph, which is typical of the precise prose of A Fine Balance throughout, helps propel the novel forward through what is one of the most memorable portraits of post-Independence India ever written.
Review:“It is impossible not to seethe at the injustices of the police state, and impossible not to take these characters passionately to heart: this is a novel that can stand with the best of Dickens.”-New Yorker
The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Title: Interpreter of Maladies
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Price: Rs 195
Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, a debut collection of short stories, is nothing less than a work of art. Ms. Lahiri won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Literature, and other prizes as well, for good reason.
The cast of characters is interesting and quite far-ranging: a young American boy, a middle-aged man giving tours in India, a young American woman. All the stories involve Indian immigrants or their children and take place mostly in the U.S. — Boston is a favored locale — although some stories are also set in India, notably the title story, “Interpreter of Maladies.”
Review:…The stories have] very unHollywood-like denouements that are Lahiri’s trademark — endings with multiple stray ends that leave you asking what happened next. Kind of like in real life.-AsianWeek – Heather Harlan
The Impressionist by Hari Kunzru
Title: The Impressionist
Author: Hari Kunzru
In India, at the birth of the last century, an infant is brought howling into the world, his remarkable paleness marking him out from his brown-skinned fellows. Revered at first, he is later cast out from his wealthy home when his true parentage is revealed. So begins Pran Nath’s odyssey of self-discovery – a journey that will take him from the streets of Agra, via the red light disrict of Bombay, to the green lawns of England and beyond – as he struggles to understand who he really is.
Review:‘Combines a very readable, effortlessly witty style with fantastic imagery, which takes you from dusty, sleepy Agra to hot, fragrant Africa. Brilliant and funny, a must read to while away the languid, sweaty days of summer when the electricity sighs and fades out at noon and the water cometh not’-Bulbul Sharma, Today
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Title: The God of Small Things
Author: Arundhati Roy
Price: Rs 250
In her first novel, award-winning Indian screenwriter Arundhati Roy conjures a whoosh of wordplay that rises from the pages like a brilliant jazz improvisation. The God of Small Things is nominally the story of young twins Rahel and Estha and the rest of their family, but the book feels like a million stories spinning out indefinitely; it is the product of a genius child-mind that takes everything in and transforms it in an alchemy of poetry. The God of Small Things is at once exotic and familiar to the Western reader, written in an English that’s completely new and invigorated by the Asian Indian influences of culture and language.
Review:“The quality of Ms. Roy’s narration is so extraordinary at once so morally strenuous and so imaginatively supple that the reader remains enthralled all the way through.”- New York Times Book Review
Swami and Friends by R K Narayan
Title: The God of Small Things
Author: Arundhati Roy
Price: Rs 199
Swami and Friends is the first of a trilogy of novels written by RK Narayan, a celebrated English novelist from India. The novel, which is also Narayan’s first, is set in pre-independence days in India, in a fictional town – Malgudi, which has almost become a real place in India today, due to the wide recognition and popularity of Narayan’s many novels. His novels are known for their ‘deftly etched characters, his uniquely stylized language and his wry sense of humor’.
Swami and Friends is the story of a 10-year-old boy, growing up during this particular time, his innocence, wonder, mischief and growing pains. He is a student at Albert Mission School, a school established by the British which gives importance to Christianity, English literature and education. His life is dramatically changed when Rajam – a symbol of colonial super power – joins the school and he and Rajam become friends.
Review:“The novels of R.K. Narayan are the best I have read in any language for a long time. . . . His work gives the conviction that it is possible to capture in English, a language not born of India, the distinctive characteristics of Indian family life.”-Amit Roy, Daily Telegraph.