hello! do you have any recommendations for indian historical fiction? ;; also! i recently read miri jiyori(about a tribe) and chinatown days(indo china war of the 1960s), both are translations and i think that you might like them too!
hello! thank you, i will definitely check those out. here are a few i’ve read/are on my list (mind you, i don’t read as much historical fiction as i would like to, but we’re also in luck because what I read tends to be indian/south asian)
a flight of pigeons by ruskin bond: set during the revolt of 1857 in north india; about a family who is at the receiving end of rebel anger and who take hindu and muslim help to save themselves; it is ruskin bond so i don’t even need to spell out why it’s great
midnight’s children by salman rushdie: set in bombay right after independence, revolves around salim and a thousand other people who are all born at the stroke of midnight of august 15 and all of whom are extraordinarily talented; about the transition in the 1940s, early indepdence bombay and india
a fine balance by rohinton mistry: about four people in bombay in 1975 just after the emergency was declared who are brought together given the political and social upheavals; explores caste, privilege, friendship against the backdrop of turbulent politics
the lives of others by neel mukherjee: about a family in kolkata which is representative of changes in west bengal and india with the east pakistan crisis and the naxal movement; this is for you if you love stories spanning generations
fortune’s soldier by alex rutherford: a fictionalised take on robert clive and his arrival in india and subsequent career in the east india company as one of its highly gifted generals; really nice because it is complex in its portrait of clive and his times; explores both the indian social dynamics and, more importantly, the scottish presence in early mercantile operations in india
the black hill by mamang dai: set in 19th century arunachal pradesh, a little before the revolt of 1857; about a bunch of people in upper assam (around the brahmaputra), one of them is a missionary, others are villagers, and hill tribes; about local responses to foreign rule; shows the tensions in tribal villages against the backdrop of british annexations and assimilative policies really well;
the glass palace by amitav ghosh: set in burma in 1885, just around the british annexation of the land; abut a boy who ends up building a teak empire in burma’s forests, and his search for a young woman as a rich man years later across burma, india, and malaya
kanthapura by raja rao: i’m not sure this entirely fits the historical fiction bill, but it’s an important book either way; about how gandhian independence struggle arrived in a south indian village and how people received gandhian principles; it’s kind of heavy with the mythological references and everything, so mind that
aavarana by s. l. bhyrappa (translated by sandeep balakrishna): about a woman in aurangzeb’s india who converts from hinduism to islam but is later disillusioned when she sees religious ethic being used to justify a great deal of oppression; it’s very raw but it’s also brutally honest
if you read hindi, there’s tamas (तमस) by bhisham sahni, which is about partition riots; it explores people on both sides of the communal divide and it’s partly based on sahni’s life and experiences with the partition too. i’m not sure if there’s a translation and if there is one who’s it by so you’ll have to check that
tamrapat by rangnath pathare: it’s marathi, and i’m unsure if there’s a translation, but you can keep track if one comes along; it’s an absolute giant of a book and it kind of intimidates me; paints a picture of politics and society from 1942 to 1979 through stories of a series of people and associations
and now for two that aren’t technically indian but i think you should check out anyway
a case of exploding mangoes by mohammad hanif: based on the plane crash that killed general zia ul-haq; the novel dramatizes it, in that it’s about a pakistani air force pilot who is on a mission to kill the general and so he assembles a motley crew; the book was well-received and it’s supposed to darkly funny
in the time of the others by nadeem zaman: about a man who’s stuck in east pakistan during 1971 as the pakistani army attacks and as the mukti bahini gathers steam; about living in violent times and tensions in south asia during then
i hope you find something you like in these. happy reading :)
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I want to think about the tactics Roy deploys in her representation of adivasi resistance, particularly in the book's eponymous central narrative, and what the audience is for her intervention. Indeed, in my current seminar on postcolonial ecologies and their representations, we've seen three rather different attempts at representing indigenous/autochthonous experience and resistance: Amitav Ghosh's 'The Hungry Tide,' the three stories of Mahasweta Devi's 'Imaginary Maps' (translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak), and now Roy's text. I tend to see the first as a principally aesthetic treatment, the second—complicated by various translation issues—as didactic, and the latter as descriptive or journalistic, but these are admittedly contingent categories. Put another way, what are the impacts, or potential impacts, of these authors' interventions given their respective forms?
An excerpt from my ruminations on Arundhati Roy's Walking With the Comrades.
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