Indian Fiction Rising

The NY Times published an article over the summer on the global interest in Indian literature, using Amitav Ghosh’s success with novels like “Sea of Poppies” as an example.  It got me thinking about the Indian books on my to-read list (see below) and how I need to get to them.  Some of my favorites from the past are “A Fine Balance,” “The God of Small Things,” and “The White Tiger.”  Unfortunately, I made it through only half of “Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie (no small feat) and completely lost interest. (As an avid bookworm and former literature major, I’m disappointed with myself for not catching on to the Rushdie fever.)

To Read List

Even before I married into an Indian family and traveled to India, I found works of Indian fiction to be unevenly focused on negative things. For example, I couldn’t find an Indian novel that didn’t highlight inequality between classes and/or sexes, extreme poverty, extreme corruption, etc. Even Indian films that make it big in the west (e.g. Slumdog Millionaire) only show India through this lens.

I remember book shopping with my in-laws and raising this issue to them when my father-in-law asked me what I thought of “The White Tiger.”  My mother-in-law wholeheartedly agreed with my assessment, though my father-in-law wasn’t so sure.  Even my husband’s friends have weighed in, saying that things like bribes are a real part of the Indian experience and to deny them is to deny that experience.  I believe there is right on both sides.

I can’t write a post about books on India without mentioning all of the exciting non-fiction I’m looking forward to reading.  My father-in-law just gave me two new William Dalrymple titles: “The Last Mughal” and “White Mughals.”  He previously recommended “City of Djinns,” which I devoured and absolutely loved before my first trip to Delhi.  I also have “India: A History” by John Keay, though it’s so big that I don’t anticipate getting through it any time soon.


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