An Account of Indo-Anglian Fiction
An Account of Indo-Anglian Fiction : The Indo-Anglian novel, since its birth, has passed through three main phases. The first one is the phase of the historical novel. This phase was short-lived. The second was the long-lived phase of the socially-and-politically-conscious novel. It was the phase of social realism. The third is the phase of the psychological novel with a concern for the private.
An Account of Indo-Anglian Fiction
The three phases of Indo-Anglian Fiction:
These phases have overlapped one another but they are distinctly visible in each period. And, therefore, according to trends, we may divide the history of Into-Anglian fiction in three successive periods : (1) from 1875 to 1920, (2i) from 1920to 1950, and (3) from 1950 onwards.
Influence of the great Bengali novels:
The workshop of the early Indo-Anglian novel shows some prominent formative influences. Indo-Anglian literature began in Bengal. Hence some Bengali novelists like R.C. Dutt, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Rabindra Nath Tagore whose novels were translated into English, exercised great influence on the early Indo-Anglian novelists. Then, there was the influence of the Russian and the French fiction in English translation as also the English novel.
Assessing the importance of the three Bengali masters, P. P. Mehta says, “The novels of Romesh Chandra Dutt, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Rabindra Nath Tagore, came at a time when Indo-Anglian fiction had nothing to compare with these great novels; presumably, therefore, these great Bengali novels left a deep impression on the mind and art of Indo-Anglian novelists. In fact, the works of Bankim Chandra and Tagore have blazed a trail, which even now is being followed. They gave the initial momentum to the Indo-Anglian novel.”
R. C. Dutt:
He wrote six Bengali novels out of which only two were translated into English by him. The Lake of Palms (1902) is a social novel dealing with the theme of widow-marriage which is, obviously, a theme of social reform. The Slave Girl of Agra (1909) is a historical romance dealing with the Moghul rule in the 16th and 17th centuries. R. C. Dutt’s novels are full of vivid narration, well- delineated characters and Indian scene.
Bankim Chandra Chatterjee:
He is a much more significant novelist than R. C. Dutt. Popularly known as the father of Bengali fiction he gave philosophical dimension to fiction. His novels include The Poison Tree (1884), Kapalkundala (1885), The Two Rings (1897), Krishnakanta’s Will (1895) etc. His historical novels provided a model to the Indo-Anglian historical novelists. In his historical novels we find a curious blend of Scott’s romanticism and Indian patriotism. He made philosophical approach to social problems. S. K. Ghosh’s The Prince of Destiny clearly shows the influence of his historical novels, which have been called the Bible of the new patriotism.”
His influence on Indo-Anglian literature was very salutary. He himself is regarded as an Indo-Anglian poet of merit. Mulk Raj Anand was greatly influenced by him. His Bengali novels which have been translated into English are Gora (1923). The Wreck (1921) and The Home And The World. All these novels are social though Gora has some patriotic motive. P. P. Mehta says. “If Romesh Chandra Dutt brought realism and reform to the novels with a romantic halo, Tagore revealed the inmost currents of man’s mind in his novels-he brought psychological delineation to the novel. He added depth and significance to the novel-a great Ieap forward in the development of the novel.”
Indo-Anglian Fiction upto 1920:
This period was one of tentative and derivative fiction. The novels of this period suffer from technical faults, overdose of romantic treatment and monotony. However, there were some good efforts, though imitative. The variety included the social novel, the Romance and the detective novel.
In the field of social novels we find Raj Laxmi Devi’s The Hindu Wife (1876) Kshetrapal Chakrabarti’s Sarta and Hinjana (1895). H. Dutt’s Bijoy Chand (1888), Rajam lyer’s Vasudeva Sastri (1905), A Madhaviah’s Thillai Govindan (1912). S. B. Banerjee’s Tales of Bengal (1910). Mrs. Ghosal’s Unfinished Song and The Fatal Garland. S M. Mitra’s Hindupore 1909), Nasrin by G.Jogendra Singh (1915). Balkrishna’s The Love of Kusuma (1910), Sorabji Cornelia’s Love and Life behind Purdah (1901). Sun Babies (1910), and Between the Twilights (1908). As is clear from the titles of these novels, they are social in temper but unrealistic. They deal with the condition of women, concept of love and religion in relation to the time-spirit. Naturally, these novels suffer from didacticism and propaganda.
The typical trend of the period was historical:
The typical trend of the period was historical. The historical novels include S. K. Ghosh’s The Prince of Destiny (1909) and Verdict of the Gods (1906). Sardar Jogendra Singh’s Nur-Juhen, the Romance of an Indian queen (1906). The historical novel was melodramatic and the past was romanticized in them. S. K. Ghosh’s The Prince of Destiny is a significant novel of that period. We have two views regarding Nur-Juhen. Bhupal Singh says. “Nur-Juhen is a failure. Sardar Jogendra Singh has little historical imagination.” But K.P.S Iyengar’s view is: “Sir Jogendra is a good story-teller. His novels have a considerable admixture of philosophy and propaganda, but they do not smother the human element in the stories.”
The historical Romance was also a very popular genre. It includes Toru Dutt’s Bianca or The Young Spanish Maiden, Kalikrishna’s Roshanara (1881), T. Ramkrishna’s Padmini (1903) and The Nights (1905). His novel, Prince of Destiny, is part history, part romance. These Romances represent the Romantic phase of Indo-Anglian fiction; they, however, lack originality and freshness.
This period gives us a variety of the romantic, the social, the historical and the detective but there were hardly half a dozen good novels. Some novelists like S. K. Ghosh, Sardar Jogendra Singh and S. M. Mitra are remarkable. This period lays the foundation for an impressive construction of the edifice of the novel in India.
Indo-Anglian Fiction between 1920 and 1950:
1920 is the year of the real beginning of the Indo-Anglian novel. The novelists are serious about their art. There is a conscious awareness of form and experiment. From a flirtation with history and romance they turn towards contemporary problems of politics and society. Political and social themes dominate the novels of this period. Social realism is the typical trend of this period.
K. S. Venkataramani:
His name was well-known during the twenties. He is a novelist and story writer. He wrote two novels Murugan, The Tiller (1927) and Kandan, The Patriot (1934). His other works of short story and prose-poems include Paper Boats and On the Sand Dunes. He is an agrarian novelist. He wrote on the struggle for Independence and rural society. His significance is mainly historical in the field of fiction. Gandhi and the National Movement influenced him to a great extent and he wrote novels steeped in Gandhian politics and ideology, urging the Indians to strive for freedom, and to return to the soil.
Though he was more successful in Tamil, he started his literary career with English works and became a writer of considerable reputation in the twenties. He made use of the many of the social and political ideas made popular by Gandhi and other national leaders in the twenties in his two novels for which he is chiefly known Indo- Anglian Literature. Murugan, The Tiller (1927) is a rural novel about a new agrarian society, an anarchical Utopia built around the self-sufficient village community which depends entirely upon the land for its basic needs.
D. F. Karaka:
He was a prominent novelist of his period. All his novels appeared from 1940 to 50. His three novels are Just Flesh (1914), There Lay the City (1942), and We Never Die (1944). He is an upper class novelist. His first novel is about life in London. The second novel depicts the city of Bombay. Here again D.F. Karaka depicts the upper class society. We Never Die deals with freedom struggle and communalism. There is a Muslim girl as the heroine of the novel. Karaka, on the whole, is a successful novelist. His style is journalistic, his plots are well-knit and he has a hold on human emotions. There is however, a certain lack of depth in his fiction.
Raja Rao hovers over Indo-Anglian fiction like a giant. He is one of the “Big Three” along with R. K. Narayan and Mulk Raj Anand. He brought philosophical dimension to Indo-Anglian fiction. His novels include Kanthapura (1938) Serpent and The Rope (1960). The Cat and Shakespeare (1965) and Comrade Kirrillov. He has two collections of short stories, Javni (1930) and The Cow of the Barricades (1947). His Magnum Opus, The Serpent and The Rope, is a metaphysical novel. Though his literary output is meargre, yet he has been accorded a high place both Indian and Foreign critics. Raja Rao is a major writer because he is perhaps the finest painter of India and East-West confrontation in all its aspects. He is aware of the problems of language and style. Though he is a philosophical novelist, there is some social concern in his novels.
Mulk Raj Anand:
Another celebrated Indo-Anglian novelist who is as profolic as Narayan but less popular than he is Mulk Raj Anand. He became an exciting name with his early novels. Untouchable (1935), Coolie (1936), and Two Leaves and a Bud (1957) in which he started the new trend of realism and social protest in Indo Anglian fiction. Over the years, he has become a vigorous champion of the oppressed and the downtrodden; Anand enjoys the reputation of being a pioneer novelist not only because of “a corpus of creative fiction of sufficient bulk and quality” but also his realism and humanism.
He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1967 and his novel Morning Face (1968) received the Sahitya Akademi award for 1971. In 1978 he won the E.M. Froster award of Rs. 3.000 for his novel Confession of a Lover which was adjudged the best book of “creative literature in the Indian English language.” This was the first annual award instituted by M/s Arnold Heinemann. He is, however, a major novelist having to his credit many novels, some collections of short stories and numerous other books on art, paintings and literature. He is distinguished from other Indian writers in English by his humanism, creative stamina, realism and what is called ‘Mulkese’—-realistic language abounding in literal translation of Indian words, expressions and swear-words.
R. K. Narayan:
R.K. Narayan is as prolific as Mulk Raj Anand both in the field of novels and short stories. He is the father of the regional novel in India. His only locale is Malgudi a small imaginary township in South India which gives him an opportunity to study South Indian middle class society in novel after novel. His novels are The Bachelor of Arts (1951), The Dark Room (1960), The English Teacher (1955), The Financial Expert (1958), Man-eater of Malgudi (1956) The Vendor of Sweets (1967), Mr. Sampath (1956) and Waiting For Mahatma (1955).
R. K. Narayan’s The Guide is his masterpiece, a tour-de-force of technique. His fiction is a fiction of average emotions. Essentially an artist, he pays attention to plot-construction and moral analysis. He is a master of South Indian middle class psychology. But he also depicts eternal verities of life. Story telling is his forte but humour and irony are his chief weapons of intellectual analysis of idea which constitutes Narayan plot.
Another novelist of the period who created some sensation is Ahmad Ali with his Twilight in Delhi (1940). It is a novel of the stature of E. M. Froster’s A Passage to India. It is a novel of the upper class Delhi society with its old world aura. Mr. Mir Nihal is the central character. He is a symbol of the old order. Aamir Ali is also a notable novelist. His novel Conflict (1947) depicts the 1942 “Quit India Movement.” It is full of national fervour and social bias. Khwaja Ahmed Abbas’ Tomorrow Is Ours (1943) was a trend setter.
It is a realistic fiction about Indian society. The other famous novels of the period include K. A. Abbas’ Inquilab (1955), Chinna Durai’s Sugirtha: An Indian Novel (1929), V. V. Chintamani’s Vedantam; The Clash of Traditions (1928) Venu Chitale’s In Transit (1950). Iqbalunnisa Hussian’s Purdah and Polygamy (1944), G. Isvani’s The Brocade Sari (1946) and Girl in Bombay (1947), Humayun Kabir’s Men and Rivers (1945), Vimla Kapur’s Life Goes on (1946), Kaveri Bai’s Meenakshi’s Memoris (1937), K. Nagarajan’s Athawar House (1939), Ram Narain’s The Tigress of the Harem (1930).
Feroze Khan Noon’s Scented Dust (1942) and Dilip Kumar Roy’s The Upward Spiral (1946) etc. A novel of this period noticed by T. S. Eliot is G. V. Desani’s All About Mr. Halter (1948). It reminds once of James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922). It is funny and Jocose.
Indo-Anglian Fiction from 1950 to 1979:
During this period the acknowledged masters such as R. K. Narayan, Raja Rao, Mulk Raj Anand and K. A. Abbas continued fiction-writing. At the same time, some new novelists appeared on the scene. Iı is during this period that the trend of introspective or psychological novel is seen. Sudhin N. Ghosh is one of the prominent novelists of this period. His novels are And Gazelles Leaping (1949), Cradle of the Clouds (1951), The Flame of the Forest (1955) and The Vermillion Boat. The prominent novelists of this period are Bhabani Bhattacharya, Khuswant Singh. Manohar Malgonkar, B. Rajan, Arun Joshi, Chaman Nahal etc. A distinct feature of this period is the emergence of women novelists who include Kamala Markandaya, Nayantara Sahgal, Ruth Jhabwala and Anita Desai.
The emergence of women novelists in Indo-Anglian Literature took place as early as the last quarter of 19th century but it was only after Independence that they could make solid contribution to Indo-Anglian fiction.
Toru Dutt’s Bianca, or, The Young Spanish Maiden (1878), Shevantibai Nikambe’s Ratnabai: A Sketch of Bombay High Caste Hindu Young Wife (1895), Krupabai Satthianadhan’s Kamala: A Story of Hindu Life (1899); and Saguna: A Story of Native Christian Life –(1895), Mrs. Ghosal’s An unfinished Song; A Novel (1913), Cornelia Sorabji’s India Calling (1835) ; and India Recalled (1936), Jyotsna Bhattacharya’s Shadows in the Sunshine, Iqbalunnisa Hussain’s Purdah and Polygamy (1944) and Vimla Kapur’s Life Goes On (1946) have all written one or two novels.
Most of these novels are a curious mixture of fiction, autobiography and sociology with a marked emphasis on the autobiographical. The chief motivation behind their novels is reformistic and sociological. These novelists are, however, almost non-entities. They are neither novelists of bulk nor those of literary merit. They made historical contribution to the growth of Indo-Anglian fiction in terms of vitality.
The post-Independent period-creative release of the feminine sensibility:
The post-Independence period, in sharp contrast, has brought to the forefront a number of noted women novelists who have enriched Indo-Anglian fiction by a “creative release of the feminine sensibility.” “In the development of the Indo-Anglian novel, the feminine sensibility has achieved an imaginative self-sufficiency which merits recognition in spite of its relatively later manifestation.” Indo-Anglian fiction can now boast of a number of women writers of fiction of both literary merit and bulk, many of whom have become major novelists.
Inclusion of new themes and new awareness of the feminine society:
The emergence of women novelists as a distinct group constitutes a distinct feature, if not a tradition, of the post-Independence Indo-Anglian novel. They are numerically large group. They have contributed to the development of the Indo-Anglian novel by inclusion of new themes and thereby given new awareness of the female society. In other novels they have presented varied levels of feminine sensibility.
“The women novelists have made a definite contribution in their intuitive and clear perception of a woman’s role in the present society. Jhabwala gives a penetrating analysis of domestic friction. Attia Hussain writes powerfully about the intense life of a Muslim girl in Purdah and its collision with the modern world; and Kamala Markandaya in her Silence of Desire presents a subtle study of the husband-wife relationships. Her most recent novel Two Virgins (1973) gives a sensitive portrayal of girl’s growing awareness of the adult world, and the irrevocable loss of childhood.”
Indian Women Novelists’ Developing Their Own Style:
However, it is not that these women novelists are engaged in fictionalizing the problems of women alone. They are perceptively aware of a larger world and its numerous problems. “Indian women novelists have developed a style of their own. Each one of them is different from the other: each one them has her own, World of experience, her own way of looking at things and her own way of portraying the characters. Nayantara Sahgal, for instance, depicts her world of experiences in her own very individual dual style. No other writer is so much concerned with the difference of ideologies, thought and philosophy of the East and West as Kamala Markandaya.
Ruth Prawer Jhabwala displays a rare insight into Indian character. No one else is so much concerned with the life of young men and women in India as Anita Desai. At the same time we have not to go far to search for the elements of satire and irony which are to be found in these very novelists. Anita Desai in Voices in the City censures the unwanted customs and traditions of our society. Nayantara Sahgal is sore at the political system and inefficient and corrupt bureaucracy. Attia Hussain in her only novel Sunlight on a Broken Column pulls no punches on the issue of Hindu-Muslim Unity”
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