Greatest Indian Novels: Jerry Pinto's list
1. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie.
In which an Indian writer revitalises the novel, tells the story of a nation, makes love to the language and writes back at the empire. Then he goes on to win a Booker and becomes a big international star and makes it easier for the next generations.
2. All About H. Hatterr by GV Desani
Because this is a book that is so audacious that no one has ever been able to follow it up. No one should try. Not even Desani could. This is The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy of India. And laugh out-loud funny.
3. The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh
So many to choose from - Shadow Lines is also a great favourite - but this one is a favourite: rivers, language, sediment, dolphins.
4. Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar
I don't think we do historical novels well but I think this one is a stand-out. What do you do when the other man in your love triangle is God and your soldiers have a default setting that says, "Fight unto defeat" because they've never heard of strategic retreats?
5. Fire on the Mountain by Anita Desai
A beautiful novel and Nanda Kaul, who resists love and all its blandishments as far as she is able, is one of those quiet and lovely achievements.
6. Coolie by Mulk Raj Anand
I could have gone with this one or The Untouchable but I chose this for personal reasons. It was one of the first Indian novels I read and it hit me hard.
7. Difficult Daughters by Manju Kapur
No one does the small savageries of Indian households better than Manju Kapur and this one is a favourite.
8. Room on the Roof by Ruskin Bond
I should like to write like this: like a mountain stream, limpid, clear, looking up into an untroubled sky, with small polished stones of love and friendship and abandonment and loneliness and the invention of family.
9. The Fig Tree by Aubrey Menen
Penguin brought Menen out again and he was as fresh and funny as he was so many decades ago.
10. The God of Small Things by Arundhathi Roy
I remember reading it at one go, not stopping, and being so dazzled by the quality of the writing.
Jerry Pinto is the author of Em and the Big Hoom (Aleph Book Company) which won the Hindu Lit for Life Award and the Crossword Award for Fiction and of A Bear for Felicia (Puffin). He co-authored, with Garima Gupta, a graphic novel When Crows are White (Scholastic) and Helen: the life and times of an H-Bomb (Penguin) which won the National Award for the Best Book on Cinema. He is at work on his next novel and has no idea when that will be finished, never mind published, so don't ask. His last book was Hey That's An A, an abecedarium for Tulika. He is translating Daya Pawar's magnificent autobiography, Baluta (Granthali, 1978).
From HT Brunch, June 22
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