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Insights into Contemporary Indian English Literature

New textbook on authors who have contributed to the development of Indian English literature over the last fifty years

Salman Rushdie's novel Midnight's Children (1981) is considered a watershed moment in Indian writing in English in the global literary landscape. It has concomitantly generated steady interest from literary studies as well. Published by Narr Francke Attempto Verlag, the book Contemporary Indian English Literature focuses on the recent history of Indian literature in English since the publication of Rushdie’s novel. “The decision to choose this temporal focus from Rushdie to the present was due to the fact that English-language literature in India has been so diverse and rich since the publication of, for example, Mulk Raj Anand's socially critical novel Untouchable in 1935,” said the editor Prof. Dr. Cecile Sandten, Chair of English Literatures at Chemnitz University of Technology. Sandten further explains: “In addition to 22 official languages, there are hundreds of dialects in India as well as the languages of the indigenous peoples. In this regard, the volume – despite its wealth of significant contributions – only covers a small area of Indian literature in English.”

The individual chapters in this volume deal with a wide range of authors who work in different literary genres including poetry, novel, short story and drama. In addition to Salman Rushdie, Shashi Deshpande, Amit Chaudhuri, Sujata Bhatt, Imtiaz Dharker, Amitav Ghosh, Anuradha Roy, Aravind Adiga, Pankaj Mishra, Annie Zaidi or Abhishek Majumdar are featured with their works, who contribute significantly to the proliferation of Indian literature in English. “It must be noted here,” as Sandten explains, “that English is just one language among many on the Indian subcontinent and in the diaspora.”

The volume is designed as a textbook for students and offers an introduction to current developments in Indian English literature and explains general ideas, historical contexts as well as the specific features and styles of selected authors from this broad spectrum. The volume is therefore aimed at students working in this area at university level and provides detailed reading lists, study questions and information boxes to encourage them to read, critically reflect on and write about Indian literature in English.

Sandten, who holds a doctorate in this area of literature and has published extensively in this field, teaches – together with assistant professor and co-editor of this volume, Dr. Indrani Karmakar – this sub-area, especially in the master's programme in English Studies, with an aim to familiarize students with the rich and multifarious literature of the Indian subcontinent. Over the years she has also built a solid network with Indian universities and researchers.

“A special thank you goes to my colleague Prof. Oliver von Knebel Doeberitz from the University of Leipzig, with whom I designed the book project. “Unfortunately, in February 2023, he passed away most unexpectedly and far too early,” said Sandten. The book is therefore also a tribute to him and souvenir of our collegial and productive collaboration.

Bibliographical information: Contemporary Indian English Literature: Contexts – Authors – Genres – Model Analyses. Eds. Cecile Sandten, Indrani Karmakar, Oliver von Knebel Doeberitz. Tübingen: Fool Francke Attempto, 2024, 321 pages.

Further information is available from Prof. Dr. Cecile Sandten, telephone 0371 531-37353, email cecile.sandten@phil.tu-chemnitz.de.

(Translation: Prof. Dr. Cecile Sandten)

Mario Steinebach

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