Indian English literature began as an eventful encounter in the late eighteenth century between a vigorous and enterprising Britain and a stagnant and chaotic India, and is now nearly two hundred years old. It is literature written originally in English by authors Indian by birth, ancestry or nationality. It is no part of English literature, any more than American literature or Australian literature can be said to be a branch of British literature. It is legitimately a part of Indian literature, since its differentia is the expression in it of an Indian ethos.
Sahitya Akademi has accepted 'Indian English Literature' as the most suitable appellation for this body of writing. The term embassies two significant ideas: first that this literature constitutes one of the many streams that join the great ocean called Indian literature, which, though written different languages, has an unmistakable unity; and secondly, that it is an inevitable product of the notarization of the English language to express the Indian sensibility.
Professor Naik trace the course of this history from its beginnings to recent times, dividing it into convenient periods. In an analytical, critical and engaging style. Widely acclaimed, the book is now in its seventh printing.
Distinguished critic, editor and historian of Indian English Literature, M.K. Naik has published numerous studies including Raja Rao (1972 and 1982), Mulk Raj Anand (1973), A history of Indian English Literature (1982), The Ironic Vision : A Study of the Fiction of R.K Narayan (1983) and dimension of Indian English Literature (1984). Prominent among the collections edited by him are Critical Essays on Indian Writing in English (1968, 72 and 77), Aspects of Indian Writing in English (1979) and The Indian English Short Story : A Representative Anthology (1884).
Professor Naik was awarded a National Fellowship for research in 1978. He Presided over the thirty third session of the All India English Teachers' Conference held in Delhi in 1982.
Acknowledged 'with a civil leer' by many and damned 'with faint praise' by some for a long time, Indian English literature, designated variously as 'Indo-Anglian Literature', Indo-English Literature', and 'Indian Writing in English' (and once even regarded unjustly as part of 'Anglo-Indian Literature') , is now more than a hundred and seventy years old. In spite of the great pioneering efforts of Professor K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar– virtually the father of the serious study of this body of writing –in his Indo-Anglian Literature (1943), The Indian Contribution to English Literature (1945) and Indian Writing in English (1962, 1973), a systematic, comprehensive and critical history of this literature, clearly defining its nature and scope, adopting a proper period-division and relating writers and schools firmly to changing socio-political conditions, had not been attempted. Viewing Indian English literature as essentially a significant by-product of the eventful encounter between India and the Indian ethos on the one hand, and English the English language and Western culture on the other, the present work tries to trace the course of this literature from 1809, the year when probably the first composition in English of some length by an Indian-namely, C.V. Boriah's 'Account of the Jains'- appeared (in Asiatic Researches, Vol.' IX, 1809) to the end of 1979. While the needs of a systematic chronological survey have been kept in mind throughout, the responsibility of rigorous critical evaluation has not been sought to be evaded. Writers like Sri Aurobindo, Rabindranath Tagore and Sarojini Naidu have often driven critics and reviewers into opposite camps, generating both uncritical adulation and unthinking condemnation . The present work tries to adopt a balanced approach to these writers.
'A work is never necessarily finished', says Paul Valery, 'for he who made it is never complete'. This is perhaps specially true of a history of literature, which involves one single mind's encounters with a large number of authors belonging to different periods and schools and exemplifying different kinds of sensibility. The writing of a literary history must, therefore, necessarily involve the education of the historian's literary taste, and I must thank the authorities of the Sahitya Akademi for giving me this opportunity to acquire such an education.
I have received much help from numerous friends in the compilation of this history. A forbiddingly large number of books published in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were not easily available-some of them not even in reputed metropolitan libraries. B.A. Olkar-an old friend and a confirmed bibliophile-went expertly hunting in antique book-shops in Bombay, and similar operations zestfully carried out by my young friends, S. Subrahmanya Sarma and R. Raphael in Madras, S. Krishna Bhatta in Banglore and G.S. Balarama Gupta at Annamalainagar also yielded a sizable harvest. Dr. G. S. Dikshit, Dr. Amalendu Bose, Dr. V.M. Kulkarni, Mr. D.G. Angal, Mr. M.N. Nagaraj, Mr. N.B. Marathe, Dr. H.S. Saksena also made much valuable material available to me. Dr. V.K. Gokak, Dr. Chaman Nahal, Dr. Sisir Kumar Ghose, Dr. K. Krishnamoorthy, Mr. Ruskin Bond, Dr. Nirmal Mukharjee, Dr. Sujit Mukharjee, Dr. M. Sivaramakrishna, Dr. K. Ayyappa Panikar, Dr. K.N. Sinha, Mr. Lakhan Deb, Dr. H. Raizada, Dr. R.B. Patankar, Mr. V.D. Trivedi, Dr. Visvanath Chatterjee, Miss Eunice D'Souza and Miss Kaushiki Sen Verma answered my numerous queries (I strongly suspect that during the last two years many of my correspondents must have dreaded the periodic arrival of a hastily written little postcard from Dharwar asking for information).
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