Indian writing in English has been acclaimed around the world for its innovation, radical new approaches to the art of story telling and reworking of language. While the older generation continues to produce literary masterworks, a newer generation of writing talent has emerged, ensuring that the fount of imagination in the country has not run dry.
Here are 10 of the most influential Indian writers in English today:
Chetan Bhagat may not be the critics’ darling, but this IIM graduate and former investment banker has touched a chord with a youthful readership ranging from college students to IT employees. His first novel, Five Point Someone (2004), is one of the biggest selling English novels in the history of Indian publishing. His latest, 2 States – The Story of My Marriage, was the best selling book by an Indian author in 2009. Bhagat’s success has spawned a whole army of clones who churn out books that have mimic his colloquial language, college and corporate settings, linear narratives and lightweight plots. Bhagat and his loyal fans have learned to ignore the army of naysayers bemoaning the lack of intellectual heft in his books. He has in many ways, earned the right to crow from the rooftops – in the age of Facebook and Twitter, he’s managed to turn a large proportion of Indian youth into avid readers.
In 2006 Kiran Desai became only the second Indian woman to win the Man Booker prize for her second novel, The Inheritance of Loss. The daughter of eminent Indian novelist Anita Desai, Kiran Desai is at the vanguard of a new generation of Indian writers in English exploring themes of globalization and exploitation in 21st century India.
Aravind Adiga is the newest Indian writer to become a worldwide publishing phenomenon. A former journalist with Time magazine, Adiga’s first novel, The White Tiger (2008) won the Man Booker prize, making him the fourth Indian novelist do so. The White Tiger explored the dark underbelly of the new, modern India and was a fixture on best seller lists across the country.
One of the most acclaimed Indian writers in English, Amitav Ghosh’s novels have won recognition across the globe for the power of their story telling and historical settings. Ghosh, who has a D.Phil in Anthropology from Oxford University, has also written a number of non-fiction books that focus on a wide variety of topics ranging from fundamentalism to Egyptian and Judeo culture. His last novel, the epic Sea of Poppies (2008), the first volume in a trilogy, was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize.
Salman Rushdie may no longer dominate the best seller lists as he once used to, but he still wields enormous influence and remains much admired among Indian writers in English. His second book, Midnight’s Children, won the Booker of Bookers prize in in 1993 and 2008 – an award that honored the best book to ever win the Booker prize. His latest novel, the historical The Enchantress of Florence was published in 2008.
Amit Chaudhuri is probably the only Indian writer to be as renowned for his literary works as his musical career. An accomplished classical singer, he has performed in India, the UK and the US and has also released an album titled This is Not Fusion. Chaudhuri’s books have won his numerous awards around the globe, including the Los Angeles Times book prize in 2003 for Freedom Song. His latest novel, The Immortals (2009) combines his love for music and literature and has won critical acclaim for its depiction of the pleasures of music.
Vikram Seth made headlines when he received an enormous advance of GBP 500,000 for his novel, A Suitable Boy (1993). The 1,474 page novel of post-independence India became and overnight bestseller and garnered Seth worldwide fame. His last book was the memoir, Two Lives, published in 2005. A Suitable Girl, his eagerly awaited sequel to A Suitable Boy, is due to be published in 2013.
Anita Desai has long been considered one of the pre-eminent Indian women writers in English. Her books, which have explored themes of belonging and familial ties, remain popular. Desai has taught at universities and colleges in the US, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her most famous work is In Custody (1984) which was shortlisted for the Booker prize. Her last novel, The Zigzag Way was published in 2004.
Ruskin Bond’s books about small town life in the Himalayas, laced with gentle humor and nostalgia, remain firm favorites among Indian readers. Compilations of his work have been published in recent years and have proved to be popular among readers yearning for a bygone era when life was much simpler.
Shobhaa De, India’s best selling woman writer recently published her 16th book, sweet sixteenth (2009). De, a prolific columnist and blogger, writes books filled with privileged protagonists from Bombay’s high society. Known as the Indian Jackie Collins and “The Maharani of Muck”, De shows no signs of slowing down after two decades of scaling commercial highs.
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