The history of English literature is an interesting concept and there are many great literary historians who have achieved success in collecting ideas, chronology, interpretations and movements in this field for many centuries. However, when it comes to the history of Indian English literature, there are only a few authoritative books that you can be supplied with. For instance, K R Srinivas Iyengar, M K Naik and one recent attempt (almost two decades ago) by A K Mehrotra. However, there have been many other books that are honourable attempts but not as conclusive and authoritative as the ones mentioned before. Why? Well, a few scholars believe that Indian English literature, as such, is an elusive idea.
A K Mehrotra’s book, A Concise History of Indian Literature in English, is a little tricky one and it does not offer what you might have expected from the book as a student desperately looking for some authentic information on Indian English literature. Yes, it is about Indian literature in English, at large, but not precise. Yes, it is concise, however. The book is prepared in a paper format and the authors, generally from literary backgrounds, are offering their opinions about certain trends in Indian literature, authors, poets and literary figures as well as some non-literary figures – weird choices here – that many might not comprehend enough.
The introduction written to this book by the editor A K Mehrotra is rather a fancy, biased and lopsided judgemental conclusion of what he perceives of particular episodes and personalities rather than what should be there in a work of this grand scale. Now compare everything that Mehrotra does here with things that likes of David Daiches or Cazamian did in their seminal history books on English and you will be surprised to know your findings. I leave it up to you to execute this task.
The quality of papers written by scholars is good. Though it will only be helpful for those who already know many things about Indian English literature in terms of its development and chronological growth. If you are looking for some substantial material narrating everything about Indian English literature from the earliest years to now, you will be disappointed because the book just does not offer that. You can look for K R Srinivas Iyengar or M K Naik’s books on literature in English in India. This is only good for students beyond MA or research scholars who are actively looking for materials to quote in their papers and theses.
Review by Gunjan for Featured Books
A Concise History of Indian Literature in English by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra – Book Review
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This is a book meant to be studied by students pursuing their PhD and to be useful to them only…