Anand, Mulk Raj (Vol. 23)
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.)
E. M. Forster
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. On the other hand they have evolved a hideous nightmare unknown to the west: the belief that the products are ritually unclean as well as physically unpleasant, and that those who carry them away or otherwise help to dispose of them are outcastes from society. (pp. 7-8)
Untouchable could only have been written by an Indian and by an Indian who observed from the outside. No European, however sympathetic, could have created the character of Bakha, because he would not have known enough about his troubles. And no Untouchable could have written the book, because he would have been involved in indignation and self-pity. Mr. Anand stands in the ideal position. By caste he is a Kshatriya, and he might have been expected...
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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 social and economic particularism and inequality in Indian society.' The author nevertheless sees this system as crucial, 'tying together all the other elements into a rigid structure.' At every level of society the characters more or less precisely understand their caste positions and, except for the reformers, acquiesce in caste cruelties….
[With] untouchability, Brahmanism is a major target of Anand's attack on the Indian social order. Even Brahmans of lowly occupation—waterboys, cooks, other menials—are typically portrayed as grasping, hypocritical, lascivious bullies, distinguished only by circumstances and crudeness from temple priests and family chaplains. Such figures are Lachman of The Untouchable and...
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Krishna Nandan Sinha
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)
The Coolie touches the pathetic and the sublime areas of human experience. Here, Anand explores the limits of pain central to existence. He places Munoo in opposition to a debasing and debased society—a frail, defenseless figure in a predominantly hostile world. Society is the great destroyer that fells Munoo and his like. The tragedy of Munoo is an indictment of the evils of capitalism. But the purpose of the novelist is not to present a gloomy picture of life. On the contrary, he wishes to arouse the conscience of humanity against the ruthless exploitation of the weak. He handles in this prose epic the realities of the human situation as he sees and understands them.
The characterization of...
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M. K. Naik
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 the situation demand. (p. 133)
As a short story writer, Anand's forte is his versatility and range. His more than threescore stories exhibit an astonishing variety of theme and setting, mood and tone, character and personality. He knows his Indian city as well as he understands the villages. He sketches the village belle and other rustic characters with as much sureness of touch as he can depict to perfection a society lady and other urban types. He is at home both with the aristocrat and the beggar. He dips his pen in a multitude of colours, and can give us in turn, pathos and tragedy, satire and irony, farce and pure fun, lyricism and description, social criticism and the eternal verities. He handles with equal ease...
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R. T. Robertson
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)
The figure of a tribal man becoming individualised is very common in Commonwealth fiction because it often recapitulates the writer's own story and therefore is the handiest material for a first novel, and because the novel is an especially suitable form in which to pursue social conflict, even the isolation of the individual from society, which is probably the staple of all modern fiction.
That conflict is most powerfully (and hence archetypally) expressed in Commonwealth literature when two basic considerations are observed by the writer: The hero is typical of a group in his society, who share his aspirations—he is not a self-centred isolate as in Camus' Stranger; and the conflict reaches epic...
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Shyam M. Asnani
[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), and the emphasis is on bringing home to the reader the pathos of the plight of men and women crushed by forces too strong for them to bear. These tales of pathos are also full of overtones of social criticism. The third group, entitled "The Social Scene," encompasses five stories, led by "The Power of Darkness." These tales treat social ills such as superstition, feudal exploitation, outdated conventions, et cetera. The last three tales, "The Tamarind Tree," "The Silver Bangles" and "The Thief," are studies in human psychology….
As a short story writer Anand is esthetically distinctive and technically effective. His art excels in various spheres of the short story, such as mode of narration, method of description,...
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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 classes and minorities in India lends to Anand's work a poignant contemporaniety. But political and sociological relevance does not wholly explain the success of these novels, and it is possible to discover an aesthetic framework for an adequate appreciation of the novelist. (p. 85)
In Untouchable Anand successfully resists the pressures of ideology to make his characters mere types: they have an extra dimension which gives them breath, rootedness and humanity….
[For] Anand, the delineation of the lives of the wretched was as much a kind of reciprocation for the compassion he had received from them, as a literary device. (p. 86)
The novelist does not, however, allow his moral...
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