Pioneers Trio of Indian English Fiction

Pioneers of trio in Indian English fiction M. K. Naik, a renouned and scholarly Indian critic makes a comment while discussing the novel: “One of the most notable gifts of English education to India is prose fiction, for though India was probably the fountainhead of story-telling, the novel as we know today was an importation from the West. ” Indian English literature originated as a necessary outcome of the introduction of English education in India under colonial rule. In recent years it has attracted widespread interest, both in India and abroad. It is now recognized that Indian

English literature is not only part of Commonwealth literature, but also occupies a “great significance in the World literature. ” Today, a number of Indian writers in English have contributed substantially to modern English literature. Ram Mohan Roy who heralded the Indian Renaissance and Macaulay who recommended English language education in India were probably aware of what was in store for the Indians in terms of literary awareness. Today it has won for itself international acclaim and distinction. The first English novel was borne with the publication of Pamela [1740] written in epistolary stile by Richardson.

On the Indian land, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s RaJmohan’s Wife [1864] enjoyed the status of being first Indian English novel which faithfully follows pattern. This fiction copies many of the besetting sins of its models particularly, their sprawling construction, their tendency to divide people into sheep and goats and their passion for authorial intrusion into the narrative. By 1930, Indian English literature was more than a century old; and yet, curiously enough, it had not yet produced a single novelist with a substantial output.

And then came a sudden flowering when the Gandhian age (1920-1947) had perhaps reached ts highest point of glory during the Civil Disobedience Movement of the ‘thirties. It is possible to see the connection here, if one remembers that by this decade the nationalist upsurge had stirred the whole country to the roots toa degree and on a scale unprecedented earlier, making it acutely conscious of its present and its past and filling it with new hopes for the future. A society compelled into self- awareness like this provides a fertile soil for fiction and it is no accident that the three major Indian English novelists- Mulk Raj Anand, R.

K. Narayan and Raja Rao, came to light during this phase. It was, in fact, during this period that Indian English fiction discovered some of its most significant themes such as the ordeal of the freedom- struggle, East- West relationship, the communal problem and the plight of the untouchables, the landless poor, the economically exploited etc. The tradition of the novel of social portraiture set by RaJmohan’s Wife was considerably diversified in Indian English fiction acquired a respectable status and remarkable momentum consequent in the hands of Mulk Raj Anand, R.

K. Narayan and Raja Rao are considered to be the pioneers trio of the Indian English novel, who started their riting career in the Gandhian age and still continued to write thereafter, brought the novel to maturity, the contribution of post-Independence novelists (especially the younger generation) cannot be underestimated. Collectively, the contribution of this generation novelists perhaps even preponderates over that of older generation novel and this is no overstatement.

At the same time, it is indisputable that the younger generation novelists cannot be set beside Anand, Narayan and Rao, modern sensibility and technique, the new novelists would appear to have a distinct advantage. l, therefore, modestly differ from the statement of Professor M. K. Naik that “the achievement of the post- Independence novelists cannot, on the whole, be said to match that of Anand and his two major contemporaries. ” The purpose of the paper is to highlight and emphasize the real merit of these three novelists and their contribution to Indian English fiction.

Critics like William Walsh, Alstair Niven, K. R. S. lyengar, C. D. Narasimhaiah and M. K. Naik have evaluated the works of these great trio, and labeled them as: ‘If Anand is the novelist as reformer, Raja Rao is the novelist as metaphysical poet, Narayan is the novelist as moral analyst’, says William Walsh. C. D. Narasimhaiah says: Where distinctions are made they fall into neat categories of Anand the Marxist, progressive or committed writer; Narayan the comic genius or writer pure and simple; and Raja Rao the religious or philosophical novelist. These three novelists have broken new grounds in Indian English fiction in terms of making innovations in themes and techniques. They have re-created their characters in their own situations-social, as well as psychological. If Anand is known for humanism, Narayan is known for social and psychological realism and Rao for metaphysical ideas. It is interesting to know that our pioneering novelists, Anand and Narayan published their first novels with the help of British novelists, E. M. Forster and Graham Greene respectively. Narayan and Rao have many things in common.

All the Big Three’ as William Walsh called them, were influenced by Gandhi and tried to make a myth around Gandhi in their novels. All these three lived abroad, and were exposed to western life and culture. Unlike diasporic writers they never thought of ‘imaginary homeland’ – they were firmly rooted in India. All of them won Sahitya Akademi Award for their novels – R. K. Narayan for The Guide in 1960, Raja Rao for The Serpent and the Rope in 1963 home and abroad. For example, Raja Rao got the prestigious Neustadt Literary Prize in U. S. A. for his novel, The Chessmaster and His Moves.

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