Sunday, April 05, 2009

Five best books about India

Sudhir Kakar, whose books include The Indians: Portrait of a People and the forthcoming Mad and Divine: Spirit and Psyche in the Modern World, named a five best books about India list for the Wall Street Journal.

The oldest book on his list:
Autobiography of an Unknown Indian
by Nirad Chaudhuri
Macmillan, 1951

In his "Autobiography of an Unknown Indian," Nirad Chaudhuri (1897-1999) gives us a tragi-comic portrait of an Indian middle class eternally caught between the traditional and the modern. His memoir begins early in the 20th century, when he was growing up in rural Bengal; it then describes his youth in Calcutta and his life as a struggling writer in Delhi just after Indian independence in 1947. When the book was published, many Indians were outraged by Chaudhuri's paeans to the country's recently departed British rulers and by his detestation of all things Indian. With the passage of time, though, Chaudhuri's intemperate outbursts and his attacks on his countrymen's failings came to be regarded as part of his lovable eccentricity. The book remains one of the best chronicles of the Indian middle class's enduring love affair with the West, even if England has since been replaced by the U.S. as the object of desire.
Read about Number One on Kakar's list.

--Marshal Zeringue