Mulk Raj Anand: A Reappraisal

  • K. D. Verma


Mulk Raj Anand can be rightly characterized as a Renaissance man, a novelist, an essayist, a literary critic and a thinker. His status as a novelist has been widely debated since the appearance of his classic work Untouchable. Although it has been customary to consider Anand along with Raja Rao and R. K. Narayan, three stalwarts of Indo-Anglian fiction, the first Indian novelist to receive wide acclaim is Mulk Raj Anand. Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of Untouchable, E. M. Forster’s striking valuation of the “prose-poem” and his decision to write a preface to the novel can hardly be discounted by any student of Anand. The critical reputation of Coolie has not been any less striking. In his review of Coolie, Ronald Dewsbury maintains that although the novel deals with the “evils of exploitation and graft,” it “goes much further by showing the inhumanity of man to man, proletarian to proletarian, bourgeois to bourgeois.”1 According to Peter Burra, Munoo of Coolie “is a universal kind of figure … the passion not only of India but of mankind.”2 And, of course, so is Bakha of Untouchable.3 These two books alone give Anand the well-deserved recognition and status of a novelist who is capable of portraying something very genuine and authentic about human nature and the Indian social scene. In the famous preface, Forster is quick and forthright to admit that Anand has been able to accomplish that which he himself could not do in his A Passage to India. Stephen Spender in his review of Two Leaves and a Bud candidly recognizes that Anand occupies “a leading position amongst contemporary, revolutionary novelists in England.”4


Indian Imagination Moral Evil Intellectual Debate Indian Thought British Colonial Rule 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Ronald Dewsbury, rev. of Coolie, Life and Letters To-Day 15.4 (Autumn 1936): 208–10.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Peter Burra, rev. of Coolie, The Spectator 26 June 1936: 1186.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Mulk Raj Anand, Untouchable (London: Wishart, 1935);Google Scholar
  4. See Saros Cowasjee’s Coolie: An Assessment (Delhi: Oxford UP, 1976) 5–6.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Stephen Spender, rev. of Two Leaves and a Bud, Life and Letters To-day 16.8 (1937): 155.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    See Marlene Fisher, “Mulk Raj Anand and Autobiography,” South Asian Review 15.12 (1991): 12–17.Google Scholar
  7. For a more comprehensive treatment of the relationship between psychobiography and fiction in Mulk Raj Anand see Fisher’s The Wisdom of the Heart: A Study of the Works of Mulk Raj Anand (New Delhi: Sterling, 1985).Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    See Friedrich Nietzsche, “From ‘On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense’,” The Portable Nietzsche, ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Viking, 1968) 42–47.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    I am indebted to Harold Bloom for the central thesis of his essay “The In-ternalization of Quest-Romance,” Romanticism and Consciousness ed. Harold Bloom (New York: Norton, 1970) 3–24.Google Scholar
  10. And thus every man can have his own truth, and yet truth is still one (cited by Ernst Cassirer in “Goethe and the Kantian Philosophy,” Rousseau, Kant and Goethe: Two Essays trans. James Gutmann et al. [Princeton: Princeton UP, 1970] 97).Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    See Suresh Raval’s valuable discussion of some of the critical theories in his Metacriticism especially chapter 3, “Intention and Contemporary Liter-ary Theory” (Athens: U of Georgia P, 1981).Google Scholar
  12. 14.
    Herbert Read, The True Voice of Feeling: Studies in English Romantic Poetry (London: Faber, 1968) 272.Google Scholar
  13. 15.
    See Alan Liu’s argument in the introductory chapters, “The History in ‘Imagination’,” and “History, Literature, Form,” of Wordsworth:The Sense of History (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1989).Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    Edmund Wilson’s two essays, “Dos Passos and the Social Revolution” and “The Historical Interpretation of Literature,” The Portable Edmund Wil-son ed. Lewis M. Dabney (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983).Google Scholar
  15. 20.
    Introduction to Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975) 15.Google Scholar
  16. 26.
    James Joyce, “Daniel Defoe,” Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe: An Authorita-tive Text, Backgrounds and Sources [and] Criticism, ed. Michael Shinagel (New York: Norton, 1975) 356.Google Scholar
  17. 27.
    See Edward W Said’s The World, the Text, and the Critic (Cambridge: Har-vard UP, 1983) 48.Google Scholar
  18. 28.
    See Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Shakespearean Criticism 2 vols., ed. Thomas Middleton Raysor (New York: Dutton, 1961) 1. 120.Google Scholar
  19. 29.
    Sandra Clark, William Shakespeare:The Tempest (London: Penguin, 1986) 76.Google Scholar
  20. 31.
    See Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s discussion of the subaltern in chapters 12 and 14 of In Other Worlds (New York: Methuen, 1987).Google Scholar
  21. 32.
    P N. Furbank, E. M. Forster: A Life $12 vols. (New York: Harcourt, 1981) 1. 220.Google Scholar
  22. 33.
    See Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s discussion of colonialism and imperialism in “Imperialism and Sexual Difference,” Contemporary Literary Criticism: Literary and Cultural Studies 2nd ed., eds. Robert Con Davis and Ronald Schleifer (New York: Longman, 1989) 517–29.Google Scholar
  23. Also see Janet Powers, “Mulk Raj Anand: The Text in Response to Colonialism,” South Asian Review 15.12 (1991): 57–65.Google Scholar
  24. 34.
    See C. Northcote Parkinson, East and West (New York: New American, 1965) 236ff.Google Scholar
  25. 35.
    See Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India (New Delhi: Asia, 1969) 287, 297.Google Scholar
  26. 38.
    George Orwell, “Rudyard Kipling,” Five Approaches of Literary Criticism: An Arrangement of Contemporary Critical Essays ed. Wilbur S. Scott (New York: Collier, 1979) 163.Google Scholar
  27. In contrast, see Edward W Said’s interesting reading of Kipling in Culture and Imperialism (New York: Knopf, 1993) 133–62.Google Scholar
  28. 39.
    See Dorothy Figuiera, “Mulk Raj Anand’s Across the Black Waters: Europe as an Object of ‘Orientalist Discourse,”’ South Asian Review 15.12 (1991): 51–56.Google Scholar
  29. 41.
    Bonamy Dobrée, rev. of Across the Black Waters, The Spectator 22 Nov. 1940: 560.Google Scholar
  30. 46.
    See Mary Shelley’s “Note on Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound,” Shelley: Poetical Works ed. Thomas Hutchinson (London: Oxford UP, 1967) 271.Google Scholar
  31. 47.
    M. K. Naik, Mulk Raj Anand (New York: Humanities, 1973) 183, 185.Google Scholar
  32. 49.
    K. D. Derma, “An Interview with Mulk Raj Anand,” South Asian Review 15. 12 (1991): 38.Google Scholar
  33. 50.
    See Margaret Berry’s Mulk Raj Anand: The Man and the Novelist (Ams-terdam. Oriental, 1971) 18ff.Google Scholar
  34. Also see S. C. Harrex’s interesting reading of Anand in his “Western Ideology and Eastern Forms of Fiction: The Case of Mulk Raj Anand,” Asian and Western Writers in Dialogue: New Cultural Identities, ed. Guy Amirthanayagam (London: Macmillan, 1982) 142–58.Google Scholar
  35. 53.
    See Meenakshi Mukherjee’s observation on Anand’s alienation in “Beyond The Village—An Aspect of Mulk Raj Anand,” Crit-ical Essays On Indian Writing in English ed. M. K. Naik et al. (Delhi: Macmillan, 1977) 244–45.Google Scholar
  36. 54.
    Mulk Raj Anand, “Tradition and Modernity in Literature,” Journal of South Asian Literature 10.1 (1974): 49, 50.Google Scholar
  37. 56.
    See P. K. Rajan’s interview with Mulk Raj Anand in Studies in Mulk Raj Anand (New Delhi: Abhinav, 1986) 110.Google Scholar
  38. For a more recent study of Butler’s posi-tion see Phyllis Greenacre, ’The Quest for the Father: A Study of the Darwin-Butler Controversy, As a Contribution to the Understanding of the Creative Individual (New York: International, 1963).Google Scholar
  39. 57.
    Dieter Riemenschneider, “The Bubble: A Literary Achievement,” The Nov-els of Mulk Raj Anand, ed. R. K. Dhawan (New Delhi: Prestige, 1992) 214.Google Scholar
  40. 59.
    See Philip Rieff, “Two Honest Men,” D. H. Lawrence: Sons and Lovers, Text, Background, and Criticism, ed. Julian Moynahan (New York: Penguin, 1977) 518–26.Google Scholar
  41. 60.
    See, for example Carl Gustav Jung, “Psychology and Literature,” The Creative Process: A Symposium ed. Brewster Ghiselin (Toronto: Mentor, 1967) 208–23.Google Scholar
  42. 61.
    Mulk Raj Anand, dedication to Morning Face (New Delhi: Arnold-Heine-mann, 1980) vii.Google Scholar
  43. 63.
    See E. M. Forster’s letter to Mulk Raj Anand about Untouchable, South Asian Review 15. 12 (1991): 93.Google Scholar
  44. 64.
    E. M. Forster, preface to Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand (London: Pen-guin, 1940) vii.Google Scholar
  45. 65.
    Inder Nath Kher, “The Emerging Woman in Mulk Raj Anand’s Gauri,” South Asian Review 15. 12 (1991): 43.Google Scholar
  46. 66.
    For a discussion of ars erotica and scientia sexualis see Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: vol. 1:An Introduction trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Pantheon, 1978) 53ff.Google Scholar
  47. 68.
    Mulk Raj Anand, Gauri (New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann, 1981) 263.Google Scholar
  48. 70.
    Note Dieter Riemenschneider’s observation in “Mulk Raj Anand,” Essays on Contemporary Post-Colonial Fiction eds. Hedwig Bock and Albert Wertheim (Munchen: Verlag, 1986): “With Gauri,Anand clearly propagates an image of a woman totally different from that of traditional Hindu society by empha-sizing her right to personal freedom and individual choice against the struc-tures imposed on women by religion in a patriarchal society” (184).Google Scholar
  49. 73.
    See E. P. Thompson, William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary (New York: Pan-theon, 1977) 671.Google Scholar
  50. 74.
    Northrop Frye, The Critical Path: An Essay on the Social Context of Literary Criticism (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1971) 102.Google Scholar
  51. 77.
    Mulk Raj Anand, Kama Kala: Some Notes on the Philosophical Basis of Hindu Erotic Sculpture (Geneva: Nagel, 1963) 8.Google Scholar
  52. 78.
    See Mulk Raj Anand, The Hindu View of Art, with an introductory essay on “Art and Reality” by Eric Gill, 2nd ed. (Bombay: Asia, 1957).Google Scholar
  53. 80.
    See Carl Gustav Jung’s essay “Approaching the unconscious,” Man and His Symbols by Carl G. Jung et al. (New York: Doubleday, 1983) 18–103.Google Scholar
  54. 83.
    See Ebrahim Alkazi’s foreword to Contemporary Indian Sculpture: The Madras Metaphor ed. Josef James (Madras: Oxford UP, 1993) 5–6.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© K. D. Verma 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. D. Verma

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations