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 
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© K. D. Verma 2000

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