Indian English literature is a hybrid of British colonial culture and Indian culture, and is unique in modern Indian literature. Around the 20th century, with the vigorous development of India's modernization process, Indian English literature played an increasingly important role in Indian literature. At present, the number of publications in Indian English has far exceeded that of other native languages. And a considerable number of novelists have won the Booker Prize and other awards, becoming the object of attention of readers and researchers. The achievements of Indian English literature are mainly manifested in novels. From the middle and late 19th century to the present, there have been many famous Indian English novelists and excellent works. Indian English novels have already become an important force in the world literature scene.
1. Indian English novels before independence (1947)
According to available information, the earliest Indian English novels appeared in the second half of the 19th century. The first Indian English-language novelist was the famous Bengali writer Panjim Chandra Chatterjee. His first novel in English was Raja Mohan's Wife, which was serialized in the weekly magazine "India Field", but he has since turned to writing in his native language, Bengali. Later English novels mainly appeared in the more colonized Bengal and Madras regions, mainly novels by male writers, and the serial novel "The Young Spanish Girl" by the female writer Dorole Dete. Doroe Dete was also the first poet to give Indian poetry an international reputation, only to die young. The earliest collections of Indian English-language short stories are S. Jeter Dodd's State of India: Selected Stories from Case Reports in India and Dodd and Sorindra Mohan Tagore's Years Passing: The History of India ". The Indian English novels at this stage have two characteristics: the first is that the medium-length novels basically follow the Western writing style, as can be seen from the titles of Dete’s novels, and the writing style is also close to the chronicle of 17th century European literature. The readers are mainly British people living in India. The number of novelists is not large, and the style is more based on personal literary taste, so the regularity is not strong. The second is that there are more Indian things appearing in the short stories. Why? Perhaps in the early days of Indian English novels, the overall level of writers was limited, and they could only try to describe Indian themes in short stories with limited capacity.
Entering the 20th century, the self-confidence of English novelists in India increased, especially the creation of novels began to show the cultural conflict and the tendency to return to the local culture. Representative writers are A. Madveh, T. Ramakrishna Pillai and Srida Jojendra Singh. Of particular note is Singh, who is from Punjab in northeastern India. This is not the main British colonial area, but the main living area of Sikhs, which shows that the use of English is expanding. India is a big cultural country, and there are obvious cultural and religious differences between regions. The Sikh background of Punjab gives the local English literature its own character. This makes the Indian cultural background of Indian English literature present a non-singular and pluralistic form.
What really gave Indian English novels an international reputation was the emergence of the "Three Great Masters" of Indian English novels in the 1930s: Mulk Raj Anand, RK Narayan and Raja Rao. Although Tagore won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, the international reputation of Indian English literature has been raised a notch. However, the reputation of novels with larger social capacity and wider coverage is based on the creation of the "Three Great Masters". In the 1930s, their respective masterpieces Untouchable Untouchables (1935), Swami and Friends (1935) and Ghentpur (1938) appeared simultaneously in just a few years, truly establishing the The foundations of modern Indian English fiction.
Anand's greatest contribution is to contribute a theme or a line of thought to Indian English literature, which is the description of the oppressed and damaged people such as the untouchables, coolies and workers. He featured the untouchable Bakha as the protagonist in The Untouchable Untouchables, which was previously unimaginable in Indian English literature. Untouchables are the lowest social class under the four surnames in the Indian caste system. They have been suppressed at the bottom of Indian society for thousands of years. The untouchables issue has always been one of the difficult problems plaguing Indian politics. Political leaders such as Gandhi, Nehru, and Abe Dekar have all made clear statements and actions on the Dalit issue. Anand's creations are obviously influenced by the Russian-Soviet-style socialist realism. Anand's creations in the 1930s and 1940s can be said to be a national allegory of the social life of the bottom people in India at that time.
RK Narayan's special contribution is that he tells the stories of ordinary Indians in very plain, plain English. He is committed to the creation of the southern town of "Morgudi", which can be called a spiritual epic of the life of the local people in the middle and early 20th century India. Narayan is not high-flying. He is always careful to stay away from the times and politics. His success shows the possibility of combining English with the secular life of India. Some argue that the first Indian postcolonial novel should be RK Narayan's Swami and Friends, even though it was published a full 12 years before India became independent. Later Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's Child" and Arundhati Roy's "God of Small Things" continued this tradition, because these works all followed a form, which is to use A child's perspective on issues such as country, culture, and class identity.
Raja Rao's unique contribution is that he established depth for Indian English literature. Rao's early works such as "Ghentpur" have similar ideas to Narayan, that is, to write about group life based on a fixed living space. In his later years, his creations moved to a mysterious and profound realm, winning by interpreting traditional Indian philosophy. Rao believed in Vedanta philosophy, and his novels such as "Snake and Rope", "Cat and Shakespeare", "Chess King and Chess" all contain esoteric and abstract Indian philosophy. And this is what Western critics value. According to the statistics of Chinese scholar Prof. Yan Zhiqiang, Rao lived in Western countries for more than 50 years. Among the "Three Great Masters", he also has the highest status in the West. To some extent, Rao's success is due to the charm of traditional Indian culture.
Before the independence of India, the highest point of Indian English novels was established by the "Three Great Masters".
2. Indian English Novels
in the 1947-80s In 1947, when India became independent, Indian social life underwent tremendous changes. Indian English novels continue with their former dynamism. The "Three Great Masters" continued to work hard and each contributed high-level works. Their long creations became a testimony to the vitality of Indian English literature.
In addition to them, a large group of high-level novelists has emerged in the English-language fiction world of India. The main representatives of the 1950s and 1970s were Bhapani Badacharya (1906-1988), Manohar Margonkar (1913-), Ruth Prava Jahabwala (1927 - ) Anita Desai (1937 - ) and Kushwent Singh (1915 - ), and others, of course, can not forget VS Naipaul (1932 - ) who joined the British nationality early. The ages of these writers are very different, spanning the vast period from the 1910s to the 1930s; the cultural backgrounds are also quite different, some are Sikhs, some are Hindus, and some have foreign cultural backgrounds. Therefore, there are multiple tendencies in the creation of novels at this stage. According to their own cultural background and literary tastes, the writers, the Eight Immortals cross the sea, show their abilities, and push the creative situation of considerable breadth and depth created by the "Three Great Masters" to an abnormal level. Rich and diversified pattern, and has a higher artistic content.
Bhattacharya's age is actually similar to the "Three Great Masters", but his first feature "The Great Famine" came out in 1947, and his main works basically appeared after independence. Badacharya's literary approach is quite similar to that of Anand, basically using realism to describe the whole society in a macroscopic manner with an omniscient and omnipotent perspective and a third-person tone.
Manohar Margoncar's masterpiece of novels "The Prince of the Land" came out in 1963. This book, together with Anand's "The Private Life of a Maharaja", is known as the two most famous books describing the post-independence land reform. work. The novel vividly depicts an aristocratic prince doing nothing all day, hunting to pass the time; after the promulgation of the land reform law, he was traumatized, and he hunted tigers with his bare hands and eventually died of tiger claws. Independence is like a giant gate, which interrupted the dream of local political independence of princes and princes. The modern nation-state has changed the concept of time and space of the Indian people. The tragedy of the prince can be summed up in one word - born at the wrong time. In the new realm of time and space, he lost the ego and status that history had given him.
The female writer Jahabwala has a special identity. She was originally of German descent. She followed her husband to settle in India, and then went to live in the United States in her later years. Her novels "Backward Region" (1966), "A New Territory" (1972), "Hot and Dust" (1975) and so on mainly reflect the collision and conflict between Indian culture and Western culture. She is good at writing about Westerners living or traveling in India, trying to answer the question of whether Westerners are worth living in India. In a way, her work is a spiritual continuation of Amore Foster's Journey to India.
Anita Desai is a woman writer with high artistic accomplishment. She is good at using psychological description methods such as stream of consciousness, starting from the female writer's own feelings, to develop and excavate female consciousness. Many commentators have compared her to Chekhov and Woolf. Among writers at this stage, the level of delicacy of her brushwork should be unparalleled.