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2014: The year of Indian American and pulp fiction writings

2014 saw the flowering of a lot of Indian American writers, apart from a fair sprinkling of original Indian writing and a lot of pulp fiction. As the year comes to a close, Hindustan Times gives you a ringside view of the Indian literary scenario.

books Updated: Dec 25, 2014 19:40 IST
Nivedita Mishra

With more than a hundred-year old legacy, Indian writing in English now has established roots. From colonial and post colonial writing to an entire legion of writers penning works in mythological ‘ithaasa’, the body of work has indeed been rich.

In time, there has been a growing trend of writers of Indian origin coming up with works of diaspora experiences across the world. 2014 saw a good deal of popular fiction churned out in India, a sprinkling of scholarly work and a great deal of non-resident Indian writing.

Indian origin writing

Essayist and literary critic Vijay Seshadri burst into the horizon when his work 3 Sections won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Amazon in its summary of the book writes: "3 Sections confronts perplexing divisions of contemporary life—a wayward history, an indeterminate future, and a present condition of wanting to outthink time. This is an extraordinary book, witty and vivacious, by one of America’s best poets."



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Seshadri moved to the US at the age of five when his father took up a job at the Ohio University to teach Chemistry in the 1960s. The New York based Seshadri has been the editor of The New Yorker, working in capacities of book reviewer and essayist with the magazine.

Neel Mukherjee’s latest novel The Lives of Others came up for much praise and made it to the Man Booker shortlist in 2014. Mukherjee’s work didn’t eventually make it at the Man Booker ceremony but it did get a lot of applause. Set in late 1960s, it traverses two intertwining worlds – of the poor and marginalised farmers in Medinipur district of West Bengal and the wealthy land-owning Kolkata family, the Ghoshes. If Jhumpa Lahiri’s work last year The Lowland brought the Naxal uprising in West Bengal to focus, then Neel Mukherjee’s latest book certainly took things head-on.



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Writing in The Guardian, critic AS Byatt says, "One of Mukherjee's great gifts is precisely his capacity to imagine the lives of others. He can move from inside one head to inside another in a conversation or conflict and take the reader with him."

Taking a narrative further were of host of other Indian origin writers who produced works of great character. Akhil Sharma’s Family Life is a tender tale of personal loss and a family's sense of disorientation on moving to America in the late ’70s.



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In the non fiction category, US-based journalist and writer Anand Gopal’s No Good Men Among The Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes is a stunning account of why and how Afghan war ended up being such a hopeless war.Indian American writer Vikram Chandra’s Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty (Non Fiction) is an interesting take at the connections between art and technology.



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Other notable mentions include Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (Non Fiction) and The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas by Anand Giridharadas (Non Fiction).

Popular fiction writing
The popular Indian writing segment was abuzz with a whole bunch of writers writing primarily for the Indian readership, talking of issues that interest the Indian middle-class reader.

Sitting comfortably was Chetan Bhagat with his Half Girlfriend. Scanning the urban Indian landscape, Bhagat comes up a tale which had many mainstream takers despite being panned by critics.



http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/12/halfgirlfriend_chetanbhagat.jpgContinuing his dream run with mythology-based novels was Devdutt Pattnaik’s Sita. A retelling of the Mahabharata, this time seen from the perspective of Rama’s consort, Sita who, many believe, was instrumental in transforming the stoic prince into a god.



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Chronicling the English-knowing urban Indian’s emotional and sexual world has been in vogue for a while now. Adding to that list was a new title called Of Course I Love You Till I Find Someone Better by Durjoy Datta, Maanvi Ahuja (Fiction).

Scholarly works

In the more scholarly segment, historian Ramachandra Guha’s work on the Mahatma, Gandhi Before India is a treatise of the makings of a man who would go on to dominate the landscape of the sub continent like none have in recent past. The work examines in great detail, Gandhi in his formative years in South Africa.



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Coming out a few days after the new government formation was Sanjaya Baru’s The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh. As the media advisor to the former prime minister, Baru tells us of the machinations of the world of Indian politics while providing an insider's perspective of the Manmohan years.

Notable mentions



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One of the most publisized books of 2014 was cricketing great Sachin Tendulkar's autobiography Playing it My Way. Packed with data, it talks of all the important milestones in his life. Durjoy Datta's Hold My Hand, a breezy urban Indian romance and Ravi Subramanian's Bankerupt were the other titles that made it to the Indian bestseller list. Coming up in December will be a fictional work by Delhi-based Aatish Taseer. His new novel The Way Things Were is a broad narrative of the last 40 years of Indian contemporary history. It burrows its title from the Sanskrit ‘itihasa’.