Mulk Raj Anand 1905–
Indian novelist, short story writer, critic, and nonfiction writer.
Anand was educated in India and England and writes in English. Along with R. K. Narayan and Raja Rao, Anand is responsible for defining modern Indo-English literature in terms of themes, characterization, and philosophical concerns.
Anand is distinguished for his ideological commitment to the reform of India's political, social, and cultural institutions. Such early fictional works as The Coolie and Untouchable deal with the cruelties inherent in the caste system and the suffering induced by poverty. For a time, Anand's work was highly political, often attributing India's problems to British rule and capitalism. However, the didacticism and stereotyped characterization which marred these early novels yield to a deeper psychological and humanistic interpretation in such later works as The Private Life of an Indian Prince. Anand is currently working on a septet of autobiographical fiction designed to illustrate the "Seven Ages of Man."
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 65-68.)
This remarkable novel [Untouchable] describes a day in the life of a sweeper in an Indian city with every realistic circumstance…. Avoiding rhetoric and circumlocution, it has gone straight to the heart of its subject and purified it. None of us are pure—we shouldn't be alive if we were. But to the straightforward all things can become pure, and it is to the directness of his attack that Mr. Anand's success is probably due.
What a strange business has been made of this business of the human body relieving itself…. Indians, like most Orientals, are refreshingly frank; they have none of our complexes about functioning, they accept the process as something necessary and natural, like sleep....
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In attacking Indian institutions, Anand employs, in his novels, direct and indirect means. Direct assault occurs in the author's own commentaries and, in narrative or dramatic framework, as discussion and debate between characters or monologue and soliloquy of single characters. Indirect attacks appear in plots, settings, situations, episodes, above all in characterizations, as these are affected by Indian institutions.
Major social institutions which Anand portrays as wholly or partially damaging to individual human persons are caste, religion, aspects of sex and marriage, and system of education. (p. 44)
Anand's novels present caste as only one element 'in the complex texture of...
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The first three novels of Mulk Raj Anand—Untouchable, Coolie, and Two Leaves and a Bud—are in a class by themselves. They not only present a mirror reflection of the actual life lived by the less fortunate, the lowly, and the disinherited, but move us also to the catharsis of pity. The range of their realism is unlimited. While Untouchable deals with the life and fortune of a humble scavenger, Coolie and Two Leaves and a Bud weave the tragedy of the working class. The human situation in each one comes in for sharp criticism, but the irony is diluted to some extent by a tender, moving pathos. These are, indeed, rich, human documents, having varying degrees of excellence. (p. 27)...
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In Anand's [short stories, the qualities of lyric awareness and a compassionate sense of humor] are supplemented by a deep awareness of both the strength and the limitations of the traditional Indian way of life and a rich understanding of the impact of modernity on it. The locale for all his stories is India, with the exception of three stories in The Tractor and the Corn Goddess ("Professor Cheeta", "Little Flower" and "The Lady and the Pedlar") in which the setting is England and as in his novels, Anand is acutely conscious of these twin forces at work in modern Indian life. In exposing the limitations of tradition, Anand's mood is in turn compassionate, indignant, ironic and satirical, as the subject and...
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In Commonwealth literary studies we know that certain early works in a national literature create a figure and a pattern of events which are then repeated in variations in later works in that national literature so that they become a stock property and a significant indicator of a principal constituent in that literature….
These recurrent figures and patterns are recognised by the very fact of their recurrence and can be named after their first clear manifestation….
The archetypal power of these figures and patterns resides in the realisation by the national writer that something is so true of his culture that he can capture it in one representative figure or pattern. (p. 339)...
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[The twenty-two stories in Selected Short Stories of Mulk Raj Anand are divided] into five groups from the thematic point of view. The first group of six stories represents those of "lyric awareness," in which are treated the elemental themes of birth and death, beauty, love and childhood. "Lost Child" is the most significant story in this group, one that reveals a symbolic dimension, the heightening of style apropos the mood and tone of the narrative.
The second group of five stories, which includes "Lajwanti," "The Gold Watch" and "Old Bapu," is entitled "The Tears at the Heart of Things." The treatment here … is in the main not symbolic but realistic (though symbolic overtones do occur),...
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Anand's limitations as a creative writer are so obvious that one does not have to construct elaborate rhetorical defences to justify his ideological commitments or rationalize the flaws of his prose style. Even a casual reading of Untouchable makes one conscious of stylistic clumsiness, inappropriate metaphors and compulsive repetitions. (p. 84)
Still, Anand's lack of stylistic vigilance has not seriously undermined his popularity, and even today, in an increasingly competitive literary market, novels such as Untouchable and Coolie enjoy a stable reputation. It could be argued, with some justification, that the highly politicized issue of the rights of scheduled castes, backward...
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