Saros Cowasjee's laudatory proposal to bring forth a commemorative volume of Mulk Raj Anand's two short novels, Lament on the Death of a Master of Arts and Death of a Hero, on his birthday will undoubtedly help readers to get acquainted with another challenging side of the celebrated author of Untouchable and Coolie.
While Lament on the Death of a Master of Arts, takes us back to the British colonial India of the modernist era of the thirties, Death of a Hero brings us face to face with the historical realities of the beginnings of free India.
Lament is a poetic dirge on the philosophies of pain, loss and grief, but Death as an epitaph is Anand's poetic aside on liberty and the function of the poet as reformer and legislator.
MULK RAJ ANAND (1905-2004) was born in Peshawar (now in Pakistan), and educated at the Universities of Punjab and London. He began his career by writing for T. S. Eliot’s Criterion and went on to win international fame with his heart-warming portraits of the Indian landscape and its people. With a sensitiveness which is uniquely tender and an imaginative fervour which is contagious, his stories and novels explore little known and not-so-familiar corners of the Indian soul and show the technical virtuosity of a master story-teller.
Author of more than a dozen novels, short stories, and critical writings, Mulk Raj Anand was honoured with Sahitya Akademi Award, the most prestigious and coveted Indian award for literary writing, in 1972. He held the Tagore Chair at the Punjab University and has edited Marg, a reputed quarterly devoted to the arts.
'One of the most eloquent and imaginative works to deal with this difficult and emotive subject' Martin Seymour-Smith
'It recalled to me very vividly the occasions I have walked 'the wrong way' in an Indian city, and it is a way down which no novelist has yet taken me' E. M. Forster
Ananta, a coppersmith, returns to his home town of Amritsar after having worked in the more industrialised cities of Bombay and Ahmedabad. Like most people of his craft, he has difficulty making a living as the introduction of machines is throwing the craftsmen out of work. The coppersmiths face both destitution and a break up of their whole society based on age-old traditions and customs.
Yet, Ananta can see both the utility and the inevitability of the machines and the need for the coppersmiths to band together so that power of the machine could offer a new life for those whom it threatens. But unsettled, tense and suspicious as the coppersmiths are, a spark of demagogy culminates in violence and wanton destruction which ends in sudden, unexpected tragedy.
The Big Heart is a memorable work. It is passionate, earthy and urgent. It’s also timeless in that it is an evocative story of the churn and roil that change and modernity always create in their wake. In Ananta, Mulk Raj Anand gives us an unforgettable character. He is virile and passionate, brave, strong and tender, of large appetites yet caring and generous of spirit. Though unlettered, Ananta intuitively grasps that the conflict created by the coming of the machines can only be resolved by a spirit of understanding and accommodation on all sides. Thus a big heart alone can help society meet the existential challenge that change throws up, especially for those less pre- pared for it. Equally, Anand draws a vivid portrait of the Punjab and its people — his language infused with the clamour, sights and smells of the land.
The Things They Carried won France's prestigious Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize; it was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.