The Fiction of Bhabani Bhattacharya
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The Fiction of Bhabani Bhattacharya

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Item Code: NAS254
Author: KH. Kunjo Singh
Publisher: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2002
ISBN: 9788126901838
Pages: 206
Other Details 8.50 X 5.50 inch
Weight 320 gm
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About the Book

The book provides a general survey of the Indo-Anglian fiction and a detailed analysis of the prominent political fictions and the fiction of Bhabani Bhattacharya. Showing Bhattacharya’s position and achievement in the domain of Indian fiction, the book studies his art of writing novels for political and social value.

The book also dwells on the Indo-Anglian fiction of varied themes—social, political, nationalistic, diplomatic, cultural, etc., of pre- and post-Independence periods and shows the significant place of the Indian political novels and those of Bhabani Bhattacharya. The Indian content of these political novels has created a context for the study of Bhattacharya’s novels.

The book also makes a critique on Bhattacharya’s six novels depicting contemporary social, political, economic and religious realities of India before and after Independence. It also highlights his plea for the social and moral function of art and for reality and truth in literature and also his defending of the use of contemporary events as worthy subjects for writing novels.

The author presents a perspective on Bhattacharya as an innovator and a free user of English language in an Indianised style. His authentic tone and Indianness are also shown through the common theme, traditional technique and typical Indian language of his novels.

About the Author

Dr. Kh. Kunjo Singh, born on 1st March, 1952, B.A. (English Hons.) from OD.M. College, Imphal, Gauhati University, Assam (1972); M.A. (English) from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi (1976); Ph.D. from Manipur University (1993) on indo-Anglian Political Fiction, D.Litt. from Gauhati University (1999), is an Associate Professor of English at Manipur University, Canchipur, Manipur and formerly Reader in English at Govemment Nambol L. Sanoi College, Nambol, Manipur.

At present, working as the President of the North East India Forum for English Studies (NEIFES), the first of its kind in the North Eastern Region of India with its permanent office at Guwahati, Assam and Vice-President of the same for more than 5 years, Dr. Kh. Kunjo Singh has contributed research papers regularly to Dialogue (NEIFES Journal), Points of View (Ghaziabad), Manipur Today (Imphal), Gyan-Vigyan Samiti Journal (Guwahati), Manipur University Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences (Canchipur), MALA Journal (Imphal), Bhabani-Bhattacharya: Some Points of View edited by Dr. K.K. Sharma, M/s K.K. Publications, Ghaziabad and a host of reputed journals throughout the country.

Besides, he is the author of more than 5 novels published in Manipuri, 2 volumes of English Word Book and a number of children’s books on different subjects and themes. He has published several series of travelogues and short-stories in Manipuri and has translated many popular modern Manipuri hit songs, film-scripts and radio plays into English. Stepping beyond literary confines, Dr. Singh has been working as the Vice-President of the United Nations Association, Manipur (UNAM), the first of its kind in the North-East India and has been participating in a large number of academic-UGC sponsored seminars and conferences as well as non-academic and political seminars and conferences.


Bhabani Bhattacharya, the earliest of the social realists of post-Independence Indian English fiction, is a well-known Indo- Anglian novelist. His books have been translated in more than two dozen foreign languages, sixteen of which are European and he has attained a world-wide renown. The coveted Sahitya Akademi award to him in 1967 for his fifth novel, Shadow from Ladakh, is a fitting recognition of his standing and achievement in Indian English fiction.

Under the strange coincidences of being a Bengali, born in 1906 in Bhagalpur town in Bihar, writing in an alien language and living in Nagpur in Maharashtra, he started his career as a freelance writer. With a doctorate degree from London University on historical research he worked for several years as press attache to the Indian Embassy in Washington. He travelled widely and was associated with a research centre at the University of Hawaii.

Bhattacharya is a novelist strongly influenced by the ideas of Tagore and Gandhi, while both his fictional theory and practice show his affinity with Mulk Raj Anand. He is a believer in the social character and significance of art and literature and believes that "Art must teach, but unobtrusively, by its vivid interpretation of life. Art must preach, but only by virtue of its being a vehicle of truth. If that is propaganda, there is no need to eschew the word."! Bhattacharya’s view of art, however foreign to the aesthetically inclined writer in the West, is not at all uncharacteristic in modern Indian literature with its intense socio-political consciousness. He is a novelist of ideas, not of art. He writes for instruction, not for entertainment. Aesthetically, Bhattacharya was insensitive and he rarely wrote in an idiomatic English, a language made great by literary masters.

Bhattacharya once remarked that "a novel must have a social purpose. It must place before the reader something from the society’s point of view. Art is not necessarily for art’s sake. Purposeless art and literature which is much in vogue does not appear to me to be a sound judgement."? All his novels present a true picture of India and its teeming millions. His outlook is highly constructive and purposeful.

Smt. Lila Ray writes: "As we read his writing, we hear the dialogue between man and his situation, between man and man and between man and the ideas he lives by." High idealism permeates his works and they record the hopes and aspirations of people heroically involved in the struggle between the old and the new and inspired by the vision of a just social order. He portrays full-blooded men and women, creatures of their society, victims of its unjust persecutions and yet possessing inevitable strength to carry the banner of the ideals of a new India. He faithfully and soberly depicts the horrors characteristic of alien rule and the old mode of life; he portrays the grandeur of the peasant and the downtrodden and their role in remaking the motherland, the dream of the Indian nationalist.

Bhattacharya’s works consist of translations from Tagore, entitled The Golden Boat, Indian Cavalcade, a collection of historical sketches; Towards Universal Man, a commemoration volume published on the eve of the birth centenary of Tagore; Steel Hawk, a collection of fifteen short stories; Gandhi, the Writer: The Image as It Grew, a highly stimulating and provocative study released on the occasion of the birth centenary of Mahatma Gandhi and, what is more important, six novels— So Many Hungers! (1947); Music for Mohini (1952); He Who Rides a Tiger (1954); A Goddess Named Gold (1960); Shadow from Ladakh (1966) and A Dream in Hawaii (1978). These six novels may be grouped into the following three categories (according to their thematic structure but not according to their year of writing or publication):

1. Rural Novels

The first novel So Many Hungers! was set against the background of the Quit India Movement and the Bengal Famine of 1943. It deals with the theme of exploitation—political, economic and social. The "so many hungers" of the title hints at different kinds of hungers— (i) for political freedom (in the case of India); (ii) for imperial expansion (in the case of the axis powers); (iii) for money (in the case of the capitalists who create artificial famine by hoarding rice); (iv) for food (in the case of the starved Bengali poor); (v) for sex (in the case of the sex- starved soldiers one of whom rapes the destitute rustic girl Kajoli); (vi) for human dignity and self-respect (in the case of Kajoli who rejects prostitution even though she is starving) and (vii) the hunger as a spiritual weapon employed by the freedom fighters (in the case of Devata’s fast unto death in jail). Its main theme is hunger for food and the novelist gives a detailed, graphic and moving picture of the hunger and heavy loss of human lives resulting from it.

He Who Rides a Tiger, the third novel in the chronology of publication deals with an attack on both those who profited by people’s misery during the famine and those who exploited them as caste tyrants. The novel discusses a variation on the theme of hunger. With a fascinating beginning, the story runs rapidly surging with emotion and agitation. It is a grim satire on Hindu orthodoxy telling the story of Kalo, a poor blacksmith, who, jailed for stealing a bunch of bananas, vows revenge on society. He makes a living for himself and his daughter by faking a miracle—a miracle that begins as a fraud and ends as a legend—and passing himself off as a Brahmin Priest. The story ends with a note of triumph for the soul over the flesh. There is an intricate criss-cross of themes here such as the conflict between appearance and reality, the haves and the have-nots, and religious hypocrisy. The novel is based on the ancient saying— "He who rides a tiger" cannot dismount.

2. Social Novels

Music for Mohini, the second of his novels, moves on two levels—on the personal level, the city-bred, village-wed girl Mohini’s adjustment to her new life style and on the social level, the story of the old Eastern view of life connecting with the new semi-Western outlook, an attempt to wed the ‘horoscope’ with the ‘microscope.’ The representative of the old Eastern view of life is Jayadev, a quiet scholar and villager, while the new semi-Western outlook is represented by his wife Mohini. The psychological interest of the novel lies in the opposition between Jayadev and his excessively conservative mother. She is impressed, at last, by the works of her son and daughter-in-law and the value of changes they bring to the village and so she is prepared to give up her resistance to all their modernising works.

The fourth novel A Goddess Named Gold is beautiful a novel on Indian social life and a masterly satire on those who live by the lure of gold. Meera’s grandfather, a wandering minstrel, gives her an amulet (taveez) telling that it will turn the base metals into gold if she does an act of real kindness. She rescues a child. Seth Samsunderji seeks to profit out of India’s new found freedom and enters into a business deal with Meera on a fifty-fifty basis. Disgusted with the amulet as it does not work properly, Meera throws it into the river. Luckily the minstrel comes back and tells the people that "freedom," not the taveez, is the real touchstone.


Indo-Anglian Literature has become popular by forming an integral part of English literature and by reflecting and echoing events of great importance and significance in the history of India. The attainment of Independence is the greatest event in modern Indian history. The period preceding this event was packed with political struggle, suffering and hope, but the period following it was full of unexpected trials and turmoils. In the midst of these stresses and strains many valiant efforts have been made to create a new order.

The book entitled The Fiction of Bhabani Bhattacharya studies the more remarkable political novels of eminent Indian novelists. It makes a thorough and objective study of the celebrated novelist Bhabani Bhattacharya’s novels, constituting a social document of post-Independence India.

The book has been prepared under the able and loving supervision of Dr. K.K. Chatterjee, Professor of English, Manipur University, Canchipur. So, I am deeply beholden to the esteemed supervisor of mine for his constant encouragement and perennial source of suggestions which made the completion of my book possible within three years.

I am indebted to the authorities of the following libraries for their generous and prompt services: the Manipur University Library, Canchipur; the C.I.E. & F.L., Regional Centre Library, Shillong; the Gauhati University Library, Guwahati; the National Library, Kolkata and the N.L.S. College Library, Nambol.

I am grateful to Dr. N. Khagendra Singh, Dean, School of Humanities, Manipur University for his kind suggestions towards the undertaking and completion of the book in time.

I acknowledge my indebtedness to my Senior Colleague, Shri Ch. Iboton Singh, Head of Department of English, N.L.S. College, Nambol, for providing an invaluable stimulation and generous help through several personal discussions and conversations.

I am also grateful to Dr. G.S. Balarama Gupta, Editor, The Journal of Indian Writing in English, Gulbarga, for sending to me all the back numbers of the JIWE publications when they were very much needed and for his kind suggestions and encouragement in my endeavour to prepare this work.

I express my gratitude to M/s Writers Workshop, Calcutta for providing me with all the books J needed out of their publications.

I also do not forget to thank Dr. S.C. Saha, Vice-Chancellor, Assam University, Silchar and formerly Associate Professor of English, Manipur University for his constant encouragement and useful suggestions towards the completion of my work.

I am particularly thankful to Mr. A. Deben Singh, Steno- typist, Department of English, Manipur University for his kind and invaluable help in typing this work within a short time.

I express my gratitude and thanks to my loving wife Mrs. Memcha Devi for her great and unforgettable help in various ways in the completion this study.

Last but not the least, my thanks are also due to M/s Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, B-2, Vishal Enclave, opposite Rajouri Garden, New Delhi, India for undertaking the publication of this book successfully within a short time.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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