In an age when good Indian books are hard to come by, our thoughts turn to some great Indian writers who have not been accessible to us simply because their primary language isn’t English. Which is why we created this list of seven Indian authors that everyone must read to discover the rich literary legacy hiding right under our noses. The best part is that most of their books have been translated into English so you don’t have to face any language barrier anymore.
UR Ananthamurthy (Malayalam)
Nominated for the Man Booker International Prize in 2013, UR Ananthamurthy is known for pioneering the stream of the consciousness style of writing in Kannada literature. His famous work, Samskara, which describes the story of a brahmin who has sex with an ‘untouchable’ woman without mincing any details, was a path-breaking book that was followed by Mouni and Prasne in quick succession.
OV Vijayan (Kannada)
Vijayan became an overnight sensation with his first novel Khasakkinte Itihasam (The Legends of Khasak) was released in 1969. So much so that Malayalam novels today are often described as pre-Khasak and post-Khasak. His later works such as Dharmapuranam rely heavily on magic realism, in case you thought Salman Rushdie was the only Indian writer to do that.
Nirmal Verma (Hindi)
Verma wrote for more than five decades and is known as the father of the New Story literary movement that changed the theme and technique in which Hindi short stories were written in the ’70s. Yet, you’d be hard-pressed to name even a single book written by Verma, who won the highest literary award not only in India but also in France after winning the Chevalier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres in 2005.
Munshi Premchand (Urdu/ Hindi)
Dhanpat Rai Srivastav changed his pen name to Nawab Rai before finally settling on Premchand. As one of the foremost chroniclers of India during his lifetime spanning the early 20th century, Premchand earned the nickname of Upanyas Samrat or the ‘Emperor Among Novelists’ for his exhaustive work comprising of over a dozen novels, 250 short stories and innumerable essays. Incredibly, some of his best-known work such as Godaan, Karmabhoomi, Shatranj Ke Khiladi and Gaban are full of situations depicting society’s hypocrisies and corruption that are relatable to this day.
Amrita Pritam (Punjabi/ Hindi)
Best known for writing the Partition-era novel Pinjar, Pritam was rightly hailed as the first prominent woman writer from Punjab. Loved in both India and Pakistan, Pritam is also the first woman to win a Sahitya Akademi Award for her epic poem, Sunehade. She went on to win India’s highest literary honour, the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, and India’s second-highest civilian award, Padma Vibhushan, in her lifetime.
Rabindranath Tagore (Bengali)
Tagore’s legacy as India’s only Nobel laureate for Literature is not something we can overlook easily. His writings have held sway for over a century simply because his stories are timeless. Whether describing man’s individuality versus his duties in Ghare Baire or exposing feudalism and politics in Chokher Bali, Tagore never shied to tell things exactly as he saw it. His Nobel-winning book Gitanjali is a collection of poems that is profoundly sensitive and fresh even to this day.
Surender Mohan Pathak (Hindi)
Surender Mohan Pathak is one of India’s most entertaining and underrated authors. Pathak has authored more than 300 novels so far, with crime reporter Sunil – his favourite character – appearing in over 120 books. The crime detective and pulp fiction writer is known to recreate stories from India’s smaller towns and package them as bestsellers. Title names from his books – such as Painsath Lakh Ki Dakaiti, Daylight Robbery, Maut Ka Naach etc – along with arresting book covers are enough to tell you that Pathak is more or less India’s James Hadley Chase by a long mile.
Like this article? Also read: The Monthly Themed Reading Challenge 2017