Vasudha Dalmia offers a panoramic view of the intellectual and cultural life of North India over a century, from the aftermath of the 1857 uprising to the end of the Nehruvian era. The North’s historical cities, rooted in an Indo-Persianate culture, began changing more slowly than the Presidency towns founded by the British. Dalmia takes up eight canonical Hindi novels set in six of these cities—Agra, Allahabad, Banaras, Delhi, Lahore, and Lucknow—to trace a literary history of domestic and political cataclysms. Her exploration of the emerging Hindu middle classes, changing personal and professional ambitions, and new notions of married life provides a vivid sense of urban modernity. She argues that the radical social transformations associated with post-1857 urban restructuring, and the political flux resulting from social reform, Gandhian nationalism, communalism, Partition, and the Cold War shaped the realm of the intimate as much as the public sphere. Love and friendship, notions of privacy, attitudes to women’s work, and relationships within households are among the book’s major themes.
Vasudha Dalmia is Professor Emerita of Hindi and Modern South Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She has written, edited, and translated many books, including Hindu Pasts: Women, Religion, Histories, also published by SUNY Press; The Nationalization of Hindu Traditions: Bhāratendu Hariśchandra and Nineteenth-Century Banaras; and Poetics, Plays, and Performances: The Politics of Modern Indian Theatre.
Stapleton's attention to historical evidence and clear prose that directly addresses themes and characters from Family create a book that scholars, students, and general readers will enjoy. She focuses on Chengdu, China, Ba Jin's birthplace and the setting for Family, which was also a cultural and political center of western China. The city's richly preserved archives allow Stapleton to create an intimate portrait of a city that seemed far from the center of national politics of the day but clearly felt the forces of—and contributed to—the turbulent stream of Chinese history.