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A Small Town Narcissus

Ka Naa Subramanyam

By Mulk Raj Anand
Arnold-Heinemann, 1976, 404, 50.00

VOLUME I NUMBER 3 July - September 1976

Mulk Raj Anand is one of the pioneers of the modern Indo-Anglian novel. Since his first novels were written and published abroad he has added to his reputation as a humanist, as an art critic, as a committee man who has served in various capaci­ties and as one known to people who are worth being known to. There is an ambiguity about his reputation as a novelist that has puzzled me. There are those who think of him as a great novelist who has been add­ing to his stature with every new novel he writes; there are those who think of him as having done the best work he was capable of with his first books and who has been living on that reputation adding nothing substantially. There are those who think of him as being on the bandwagon of progressives, without any remarkable achievements to his credit; there are those who think of him as largely a huma­nist who sometimes uses the novel form to inflict his ideas, if not ideologies, on the unwary reader. There are those who think of him as a sincere and crafty storyteller; there are others who think of him as a not-so-good novelist adding nothing to the craft or technique of fiction. In between there are all shades of other opinions, ranging the whole gamut. But whatever the various readers might think of him he has persisted in writing novels, one by one by one till he has a substantial number of novels and collections of stories to his credit—19 of them as the note on the jacket tells us. I have not said anything about his English which provokes quite a few to admiration and others to irritation. His sometimes irritating habit of translating from the Punjabi into English especially in dialogue cannot by any means be claimed to be in­effective. A writer of what is called creative work in a language alien to his own larger milieu can establish his native roots in this manner; it also adds to the exoticism of the writing especially for foreign readers. But I am yet to come across two writers in English in India who can agree about the worth or value or quality of a third writer in Eng­lish, except for academic purposes. Against this background when we take up a new novel by Mulk Raj Anand for ...

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