Mulk Raj Anand (1905-2004)

Prominent Indian author of novels, short stories, and critical essays in English known for his realistic and sympathetic portrayal of the poor in India. Anand graduated with honors in 1924 from Punjab University, Lahore, and pursued additional studies at the University of Cambridge and at University College, London. While in Europe, he became active in India's struggle for independence and shortly thereafter wrote a series of books on diverse aspects of South Asian culture, including Persian Painting (1930), Curries and Other Indian Dishes (1932), The Hindu View of Art (1933), The Indian Theatre (1950), and Seven Little-Known Birds of the Inner Eye (1978).

("Anand, Mulk Raj." Merriam Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature, Merriam-Webster, 1995).


Mulk Raj Anand, a renaissance man, was a novelist, essayist, critic, and thinker. M. K. Naik compares him to an "august and many-branched" banyan tree. The most dramatic moment in the early and sudden recognition of Anand as a novelist came with the publication of two novels, Untouchable (1933) and The Coolie (1936). Untouchable deals with the ignominious problem of caste and untouchability in Indian society and includes a preface by E. M. Forster. Noting Anand's power of sharp observation, objectivity, and directness, Forster remarks, "Untouchable could only have been written by an Indian, and by an Indian who observed from the outside." Forster goes on to observe: "No European, however sympathetic, could have created the character of Bakha, because he would not have known about his troubles. And no Untouchable could have written the book, because he would have been involved in indignation and self-pity." Anand carries over this idea of human exploitation and social injustice in the characterization of Munoo in The Coolie. In a larger sense, untouchable and coolie are interrelated metaphors of universal human degradation, cruelty, and suffering. Anand further developed the metaphor of coolie and the sociopolitical issue of class structure in Two Leaves and a Bud (1937). Anand's first three novels, which appeared successively within a short period of three years, claimed for him the position of a progressive and unswerving advocate of the lower echelon of society--the oppressed, the victimized, and the dispossessed. In the four novels that followed, Anand persistently showed his preoccupation with man's inhumanity to man.

Anand's career can be divided into two stages: the Anand of the colonial period, who steadfastly critiqued class exploitation, the caste system, colonialism, imperialism, fascism, and racism; and the Anand of the postindependence era, who spread his energies and interests into several directions that became open with the new aspirations of India as a sovereign state. The Village trilogy--The Village (1939), Across the Black Waters (1940), and The Sword and the Sickle (1942)--deals with the three stages of growth of Lal Singh, a peasant's son, in the midst of the stormy struggle for India's independence and the various sociopolitical events that faced Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. Whereas The Village gives the reader the true picture of Indian village life, Across the Black Waters is a representation of Lal Singh's and his friends' experiences of fighting against the Germans in France during World War I. "Anand's achievement in the first two novels of the Trilogy," remarks Meenakshi Mukherjee, "has not been surpassed by an Indo-Anglian novelist." The first and only fictional account of the use of Indian troops in World War I, it raises the moral issue of the deployment of Indian troops in a British war. But The Sword and the Sickle (the title suggested by George Orwell from one of William Blake's poems) is literally and metaphorically a dramatization between the "sword" (the landlords) and the "sickle" (the peasants). Widely acclaimed as a successful novel, The Big Heart (1944) is a dramatic enactment of the conflict between the machine and laborers, the laborers in this case from the community of thathiars (coppersmiths), who are threatened with displacement from their hereditary profession. The Big Heart also replicates the fierce conflict that took place in Europe between modernity and tradition.

These seven novels of the pre-Independence era--all published in England--have given Anand a well-merited position as a successful and radical novelist. They provide a mirror image of Anand's active interest in the nationalist movement; his understanding of India's social and political problems; his opposition to colonialism, imperialism, and fascism; his uncompromising sympathies with the lowest part of humanity; and his analysis of all forms of social injustice and dehumanization. They also reflect the formation of the early Anand and the evolution of his personality during the pre-Independence era.

Born 12 December 1905 in Peshawar to a Kshatriya family--the second highest caste in the Hindu caste system--Anand was educated mostly in cantonment schools and later at Khalsa College, Amritsar (Punjab University). Anand's father, Lal Chand, began life as a coppersmith but became a military clerk in the British Indian army. His mother, Ishvar Kaur, a peasant girl from a Sikh family, had a religious bent. Mulk Raj was the third of the five children born to the Anands. Anand graduated in 1924 from Punjab University with an honors degree in English and became deeply involved in the nationalist movement. A few important events of the Amritsar period (1921-1924) that left a permanent mark on Anand were his active participation in the Civil Disobedience movement, the death of his nine-year-old cousin Kaushalya, and his love for Yasmin, a married Muslim woman who ultimately committed suicide. Anand enrolled at the University of London in 1925 for a Ph.D. in philosophy under the supervision of G. Dawes Hicks, a famous Kantian. The twenty years Anand spent in England were ones of an impressive intellectual and professional blossoming. By the time he had completed his Ph.D. in 1935, he had developed intimate relationships with prominent English writers and critics. Anand's deep immersion in European intellectual thought and his direct involvement in English politics helped him to understand the British mind, especially in relation to its response to India's nationalistic aspirations. In Conversations in Bloomsbury (1981), Anand reproduced from his memory his conversations with writers such as T. S. Eliot, Forster, Leonard and Virginia Woolf, and Aldous Huxley regarding the fundamental issues of freedom and equality for the Calibans of the Empire. During his stay in England, Anand met the English intelligentsia of the Right and the Left. For example, critic Bonamy Dobree, who took great interest in Anand and helped him ungrudgingly, was a professed Tory. Herbert Read, who liked Anand's first important work, Persian Paintings (1930), and to whom the work was dedicated, was an anarchist. Dobree greatly admired Anand's essay on Sarojini Naidu included in The Golden Breath: Studies in Five Poets of the New India (1933). Read also admired The Hindu View of Art (1933), Anand's work that was written under the early influence of Ananda Coomaraswamy and Sarvepalli Radhakrishanan and carries an introductory essay by artist Eric Gill. The two essays "The Religio-Philosophical Hypothesis" and "The Aesthetic Hypothesis" clearly show young Anand's aesthetic sensibility and his early search for philosophical and aesthetic formulation of art based on the religio-philosophical view of the Indian aesthetic of rasa, bhava, and ananda. Some of Anand's expositions come fairly close to Coomaraswamy's argument, and Anand's philosophical training enabled him to look at history as philosophy of history and at art as philosophy of art.

The publication of The Lost Child and Other Stories (1934), Anand's first published work of fiction, was facilitated by Gill's generous efforts. The story "The Lost Child" focuses on the desires of a young boy who gets lost at a festival. (Anand eventually transformed the story into a successful movie, which he himself directed and which was produced by the government of India.) In his autobiographical essay Apology for Heroism: An Essay in Search of Faith (1946), Anand revealed that he had undergone a dramatic change between 1934 and 1946. He became greatly involved with the problems of the oppressed people of the world, especially the British working class, but closer to his heart were the poverty of the Indian masses and tyranny of the British in India. Two works that ensued from Anand's encounter with Marxism are Marx and Engels on India (1933) and Letters on India (1942). The latter was also based on Anand's own experience with the British colonial governance of India and reflects his strong commitment to India's freedom. In his review of Letters on India, Orwell defended Anand for his anti-British position, and Read also praised the book, but a few of Anand's English friends were not happy with the radical positions he took in it.

The Apology for Heroism is a lucid statement of Anand's social, political, and philosophical thought. His Marxism enabled him to see "not only the history of India but the whole history of human society in some sort of inter-connection." The work is also part of the history of ideas, European and Eastern, that had preoccupied Anand's mind and that enabled him to survive the troublesome and despairing 1930s, the "pink decade." Rejecting the ideas of disinterestedness and escapism in art and aloofness and alienation of the artist in society, Anand boldly embraced Percy Bysshe Shelley 's idea of the poet as the "unacknowledged legislator of mankind." The function of art, according to Anand in Apology for Heroism, is not to escape from life and society but to communicate "the most intense vision of life." In the postscript to the work Anand clearly and forcefully defines his commitment to humanism based on the "world of values," but not divorced from the world of facts. Believing in the whole man and in his ability to reconstruct a new progressive social order, and admiring the humanity of Rabindranath Tagore, Mohandas Gandhi, and Radhakrishanan, Anand stresses the recognition of human dignity as a directional force in human relationships. He also stresses love, karuna (compassion), and bhakti (devotion) as central values in the transformation of human conduct and the development of higher consciousness as a basis for the search for the truth of human life. In attempting to strike a synthesis between the world of appearance, illusion, or maya and the world of reality, truth, beauty, and good, Anand concludes the postscript with words from the Mahabharata (A.D. 400): "Truth is always natural with the good--Truth is duty. Truth is penance--Everything rests on TRUTH."

Anand's humanism, especially with its central values of love, karuna, bhakti, and tenderness, has a spiritual dimension, for it exceeds the structural limits of scientific humanism and combines the developments of head and heart. Anand's socialism, despite its roots in British liberalism and socialism, has a spiritual dimension: "socialism," Anand explains in Apology for Heroism, "implies a spiritual change which will evolve its own internal checks, its own standard of values and its own ideals." Significantly, Anand's humanism has tilted toward the depressed, the dispossessed, and the exploited. One might see in it his effort to achieve an eclectic synthesis of various ideologies of social reconstruction, including Marxism, socialism, and humanism. The impact of the Gandhian ideas of moral and social reconstruction can also be seen.

Anand's realism derives its basis from his humanism. His attempt to transfuse history, ideology, and value in his fiction does not in any sense mean a compromise with tradition, nor does it show any slippage in his commitment to revealing human ugliness and depravity. He has stated candidly that the rediscovery of Indian ideals is as meaningful as is the rediscovery of European traditions. In Apology for Heroism, Anand undertakes an intellectual analysis of the significant ideas in the two cultural traditions in an attempt to seek a broader basis for his conception of humanism. He rejects fascism, colonialism, imperialism, racism, war, and oppression and prefaces his own concept of humanism with universalism and Indian religious-metaphysical values. Anand's exposure to Western intellectual thought helped him also to see his own heritage somewhat critically and objectively.

Untouchable and The Coolie are novels in which the central characters typify suffering humanity. Whereas Bakha is an untouchable, an outcaste in the Hindu caste structure, Munoo, the coolie, and Gangu are laborers of the Kshatriya caste. The untouchables and coolies are poor and impuissant laborers who have unjustly been repressed and victimized by those in society who have the power to control and dominate them. As colonial subjects, Bakha and Gangu are doubly colonized, "slaves of slaves." Bakha's situation in Untouchable is much more complex than that of Munoo, because as an untouchable he is permanently denigrated to servitude and placed at the lowest possible rung of society by a tradition against which he cannot rebel. Although a Hindu, he has been placed outside the Hindu caste system. Like all untouchables, he is destined to clean human excrement and sweep dirt and litter from the homes of upper-caste Hindus and public places. Because of his occupation, he must not touch upper-caste Hindus for fear of defiling them. Indeed, no salvation exists for Bakha. That he would remain imprisoned because of a cruel tradition is at the heart of the tragedy. Untouchable, compact in structure and inspired by James Joyce 's experiment in Ulysses (1922), as Naik and Marlene Fisher have noted, is a tragedy in the classic sense, with the exception that Bakha neither rebels nor resorts to incendiary action against social injustice and religious bigotry as classical tragic heroes do.

C. J. George has noted in Mulk Raj Anand: His Art and Concerns that Bakha's story is based on Anand's childhood friend, a sweeper boy of the same name, a point also supported by Anand's own essay "The Story of My Experiment with a White Lie." Lakha's three children--Bakha, Sohini, and Rakha--carry on the ancestral profession of cleaning up dung, but Rakha virtually lives in dung. The Brahmin priest's alleged attempt to make advances to Sohini, Bakha's visit to the temple and the alleged pollution of the temple, and the episode of "pollution by touch" all reveal the social and moral injustices of society. Bakha must announce "Posh, posh, sweeper is coming" whenever he is on the move. When Bakha is slapped on the face and his jalebis are thrown out, his realization is painfully authentic: "Untouchable! I am an untouchable." A young Brahmin priest accuses Bakha of polluting him but does not hesitate to touch Sohini. Bakha's self-reflective mood helps him to trace the sociohistoric origin of his ancestry to the peasant stock who because of the "serfdom of thousands of years" had changed their occupation. Bakha calmly reflects on the three possible alternatives offered for the eradication of servitude: the Gandhian path of wisdom, sympathy, forgiveness, and pacifism; the teachings of Christianity as interpreted by Colonel Hutchinson of the Salvation Army; and the boon of modern scientific and technological progress. Anand clearly sees the futility of all three positions. The message of Christ, for example, got intermingled with colonialism and imperialism. The assumption that the flush system will eradicate the evil of untouchability is as fanciful and misleading as the Gandhian discipline of self-abnegation and self-sacrifice.

Whereas Bakha is an innocent victim of the old Indian tradition of casteism, the fate of Munoo lies in the hands of the modernist forces--British colonial rule, the capitalistic attitudes of rich mill owners, and the snobbery of the Anglo-Indian community. The Coolie deals with the life of an orphan boy from a village in the Kangra Valley. The young boy runs away from abuse and poverty. (The story of the tragic loss of young Munoo's innocence to the world of experience is a common theme in Anand's works.) Leaving his ancestral village, Munoo comes to Sham Nagar and becomes a domestic servant in the house of Babu Nathu Ram. Munoo is beaten, abused, and humiliated. One night he escapes to Daulatpur to work in Seth Prabha Dyal's pickle factory. With the collapse of the bankrupt Seth, Munoo is able to make his way to Bombay, where he joins the inhabitants of urban slums. Two important events that change the course of Munoo's life in Bombay are the labor strike in Sir George Cotton Mills and the outbreak of Hindu-Muslim disturbances. Munoo gets hurt in an automobile accident. An Anglo-Indian lady, Mrs. Mainwaring, brings him to Simla, where he works as a rickshaw puller.

Jack Lindsay has maintained that the last chapter, in which Munoo ends up in Simla, is not an integral part of the total structure of the book. While disagreeing with their criticisms about the last chapter of the book, Saros Cowasjee maintains that "it was right of Anand to retrieve his hero from the horrors of Bombay and to help him to regain his identity." Also, bringing Munoo to Simla is consistent with the total design of the book, for it allows Anand to complete his portrait of British India by focusing on the colonial center of power. The portrait of Mr. England is as significant as the portrayal of colonized and dehumanized Indians such as Babu Nathu Ram and the emaciated subaltern, Mrs. Mainwaring. Munoo ends his life, however, not in Simla, the summer capital of the government of India, but in the natural setting of the hills. The village of his birth, Sham Nagar; Daulatpur; Bombay; and Simla are stages in Munoo's journey through the hell of someone who cannot fight the power structures of society. The beautiful Simla Hills remind Munoo of his childhood home in the Kangra Valley, but nature, like society, is of little or no help other than facilitating the final release from life.

In Two Leaves and a Bud , Gangu, a peasant from the Punjab, migrates with his family to Assam to work as an indentured laborer on the Macpherson Tea Estate. The novel focuses on the treatment of plantation workers by their colonial masters, the owners of tea gardens. The plantation coolies lead a life of degrading poverty, wretchedness, misery, and despair. Their inhuman working conditions are morally debilitating; the plantation workers are not only poorly paid but also often abused, beaten, and forced to work unusually long hours. Each worker has been promised a piece of land for cultivation, but the plantation owner Reggie Hunt's lust for women must be satisfied to obtain this favor. John de la Havre, the medical officer, and Barbara, colonial official Croft-Cooke's daughter, are the only two humane voices that lament the merciless exploitation of Indian coolies by their compatriots.

The three volumes of the Lalu trilogy portray the life of Lal Singh, the youngest of Nihal Singh's six children. Nandpur, where The Village is set, reflects once again Anand's fascination with rural settings. The simplicity, naturalness, vividness, and authenticity of his portrayal of the village; the untainted realism and the long descriptive passages of the novel; and the simple and casual details offered are characteristic of ballad and folklore. "The Village, " remarks Alastair Niven, "is perhaps the most rounded portrait of village and rural life that the Indian novel in English offers us." Yet, Nandpur has its unsavory side and problems that are also typical of Indian village life. By placing Nandpur in the historical context of British India, Anand shows that the structure of village life and economy was directly threatened by colonization and modernization. Nihal Singh's poverty, like that of so many other farmers in Nandpur, allows moneylenders such as Chaman Lal to thrive in the village. The collusive role of Sardar Bahadur Harbans Singh is as repugnant as is that of villager Mahant Nandigar. Lalu rebels against religious customs and blind tradition, and the reader knows through Lalu Mahant's hypocrisy and lechery, Sardar's cruel and authoritarian ways, and the moneylender's rapaciousness and cunning. The peasants' lack of awareness of the self-constricting and cruel tradition that has impeded social progress is also revealing. Finally, Lalu's affection for Maya forces the landlord to file a false charge of theft against him and forces him to escape by joining the army. In the British Indian Army, Lalu gets the affections of Kirpu, Dhanoo, and Lachman Singh--all surrogate father figures. He receives the news of his own father's death on the eve of the Ferozepur Brigade's departure for the war in Europe.

In 1939 Anand married Kathleen Van Gelder, an actress. The following year Across the Black Waters was published. It does not have a conventional plot, but the narrative is carefully organized around a series of movements that takes place in France during World War I. In his review of the novel, Dobree observed that Anand's book was the only war book showing "Indian troops in France" but that it was not as "a description of war" that the book achieved its interest, "but as a revelation of what the average Sepoy felt and thought during that strange adventure." The book is not really about World War I but is an account of the feelings and perceptions of the war theater and of Europe by Lalu and other Indian soldiers. Dorothy Figuiera in an essay for The Indian Imagination notes Anand's strategy of reversal; instead of a European experiencing the exoticism of the colonial "Other," the Asian subject experiences the exoticism of the European Other. Anand's remarkable strategy of placing Indian soldiers, the simple unsophisticated peasants from the Punjab, in their colonial masters' homeland enables them to see the drama of violent savagery and the meaning and purpose of war, death, and destruction. The Indian soldiers are greatly impressed by the manners and the ideas of the French people. These mercenary Indian soldiers--ill trained, ill equipped, and ill paid, especially when compared to their British counterparts--serve for the most part as cannon fodder. Anand, as Figuiera observes, indicts "the British High Command's incompetence and questions the morality of Indian troops to fight a British war." Anand's main point is that India's right to participate in a global war should be decided not by the colonial regime but by Indians.

Lalu is wounded and taken prisoner by the Germans. He then returns to India to become a revolutionary in The Sword and the Sickle. Lalu's hope of being rewarded by the British government for his service in the war is dashed. He finds that his mother is dead and that the family house has been auctioned. Professor Verma recruits him to work as an organizer of peasants. Thus, Lalu and his beloved Maya leave Punjab for Rajgarh, the new locale of the novel. The Sword and the Sickle is a sociopolitical novel and combines two major concerns: the social problem of the eviction of peasants by landlords and the political problem of national freedom. Anand's interest in Indian peasantry owes much to Leo Tolstoy , Gandhi, and Jawaharlal Nehru. The novel received laudatory reviews in England from such critics as Orwell. By presenting through Lalu's experience some of the major political ideologies of revolution and social reconstruction--communism, socialism, and Gandhian thought--Anand depicted the various options of bringing about change. With his expanded consciousness, Lalu understands "the need to curb malice, the need for men to stand together as brothers."

The Big Heart shows Anand's effort to portray the conflict between tradition and modernity, and the laborer and the machine. His greatest triumph in the novel is the creation of the tragic figure of Ananta, a coppersmith who is accidentally killed by Ralia, another coppersmith, who, because he is unemployed, is wrecking the machines. The conflict between the two groups of the coppersmith community in Amritsar, the ironmongers who represent the machine and the voice of modernity, and the thathiars, the workers who represent tradition, is at the center of the plot. At another level, one finds out that wealth divides the thathiar community of the same Kshatriya caste into adversarial classes. Thus, in the class war the socioeconomic category of class gets interchanged with the socioreligious category of caste. Anand's main point in the novel is that in the worker-owner relationship, industrialization without humanistic values represents profitability, greed, and exploitation. One can blame the machine or Ralia for Ananta's death, but Anand the novelist philosophizes about Ananta's death. The philosopher-poet Puran Singh explains to Janki on the eve of Ananta's death the nature of change and social progress: the old order must die in order to make room for the new. (The figure of the poet is a recurring figure in Anand's novels, starting with Untouchable and continuing to The Big Heart.) The poet's discourse on death, change, and progress is intended to provide some solace to Janki; but in a larger sense Ananta and the poet are two convergent voices of Anand himself. While the poet emphasizes the need for love, compassion, and bhakti as a basis for ideal brotherhood, Ananta stands not only for the machine and progress but also for the "big heart."

The critical debate about Anand's achievement as a novelist in the postindependence period is focused on the assumption that independent India would have offered Anand the opportunity to develop new aspirations for his vision and art. Anand returned from England as a well-established writer, but the dissolution of the colonial fantasy did not in any way impede his progress as a novelist. With the dissolution of the British Empire, Anand did not suddenly become bereft of subject matter for his novels. After India's independence from colonial subjugation, Anand seized the opportunity to reflect on the psychohistorical formation of himself in an attempt to achieve self-consciousness. The mature Anand was a philosopher and historian of culture, but he did not compromise with institutions of social injustice, oppression, and subjugation. He continued his search for a just humanistic order. Anand's "self-search" led to the exploration of the historical and psychological processes that went into the making of himself as a man and as a novelist.

Anand's novel Private Life of an Indian Prince (1953) is a dramatic departure from the subject of untouchables, coolies, and peasants, and yet the theme is similar, for Maharaja Ashok Kumar is also a victim. Cowasjee maintains that this novel is Anand's "most impressive work." It has some similarities with Manohar Malgonkar's The Princes (1963).

In 1948 Anand and Kathleen divorced. In 1949 he married Shirin Vajifdar, a classical dancer. A few years later, he began a projected seven-novel series.

The novels of the Seven Ages of Man series have shown distinct and enduring vitality. Of the projected seven novels, Anand completed four: Seven Summers (1951), Morning Face (1968), Confession of a Lover (1976), and The Bubble (1984). He also wrote Little Plays of Mahatma Gandhi (1991), the first part of the seven-part volume And So He Plays His Part. The remaining two novels were to be "The World Too Large, a World Too Wide" and "Last Scene." In the autobiographical novels of The Seven Ages series, Anand has used memory as a powerful tool for re-creating pictures and images of his own life.

The Seven Ages series is particularly memorable for Anand's creation of Krishan Chander. The treatment of his hero's childhood combines the romantic notion of innocence and experience. The TLS reviewer of Seven Summers describes Krishan Chander "as a Freudian baby [that] was never born in English fiction of the twenties and thirties." This Freudian characterization of Krishan Chander is more fully developed in Morning Face , a work in which Anand, influenced by Samuel Butler and George Bernard Shaw , explores fictively the relationship between his father and his family. A proper grasp of Krishan Chander's relationship with his family, especially his father, calls for a grasp of history, psychobiography, and psychoanalysis. Anand has subverted the Krishna myth in the novel, since Krishan Chander is not the Krishna of Hindu mythology but a human Krishna, a hero/antihero. However, his affinity with the mythical Krishna gives Krishan Chander a playfulness, vigor, and freedom not enjoyed by a Butlerian or a Joycean figure. The young Krishan's unreserved involvement with women and his growth as a radical nationalist are further developed in Confession of a Lover. During his four years of study at Khalsa College, Amritsar, the young Krishan Chander develops a strong interest in Gandhian ideas, nationalist politics, and poetry. Two notable influences on Krishan are poet Allama Iqbal, who inspires him to write poetry, and Professor Henry, who introduces him to Indian metaphysics. The most painful and probably the most tragic part of the narrative is Krishan's love for Yasmin, who becomes pregnant with his child but dies.

Although the novel Morning Face won Anand the prestigious Sahitya Akademy Award, The Bubble, the last volume that Anand completed in the proposed series, has been regarded as a greater work. D. Riemenschneider, for example, maintains that The Bubble "is perhaps the most ambitious book Anand has written so far because it tells us so much about the author himself." The Bubble deals with Krishan Chander's stay in England, his pursuit of a Ph.D. in philosophy, his love affairs, his quest for identity, and his search for the meaning of life. He confronts his own past, examines the sources of his emotional and ideological transformation, assesses the basis of his political thought, seeks validity for his philosophy of humanism, and attempts to redefine his philosophy of art in the larger context of the East-West synthesis. As a young artist in the making, he comes in contact with the important writers of the 1930s. Thus, Conversations in Bloomsbury is partly an expanded version of some of the ideas underlying the narrative of The Bubble. The two works together show Anand's great disillusionment with those English intellectuals who no doubt championed the cause of liberty but did not support the struggle for Indian freedom. Anand's essay Apology for Heroism directly deals with his search for truth and the formation of his intellectual thinking.

Conversations in Bloomsbury is one of the most original and imaginative works in the history of Indian writing in English. It has a complicated structure including confrontations, valuations, and representations of issues of ideology, culture, art, and history. Anand combined in it two perspectives: that of the 1930s, which represents the colonized mind, and that of the 1980s, which stands for the postcolonial mind. The perspective of the 1980s also serves as an intellectualizing principle in his imaginative re-creation of the opinions and attitudes of the Bloomsbury intellectual elite. Anand devotes four chapters to Eliot and focuses on Indian art, religion and metaphysics, and European literary and cultural traditions against the background of Eliot's conversion to royalism, classicism, and Catholicism. In the dialogue with Forster and Leonard Woolf , Anand introduces the metaphor of Caliban for Gandhi. The Prospero-Caliban analogy clearly defines the sociohistorical and sociopolitical contexts of India's struggle for independence. Despite their avowed liberalism, Forster and Woolf do not openly and unreservedly endorse the cause of Indian freedom. At the center of the text of Conversations in Bloomsbury is the urbane and civilized discourse in which Anand takes the role of a bold inquirer after truth who hopes that art, ideology, and consciousness can be unified at some point to create a more enduring vision of humanity.

In Little Plays of Mahatma Gandhi, Anand presents the portrait of the Mahatma as a saint and a politician. Krishan's ego, his intellectual elitism, is dramatically deflated by the Gandhian moral process of physical labor, of cleaning the latrines.

To assess the career of Anand completely, one must take into account his work as a critic of the arts, especially his work as editor (1945-1981) of the famous elitist journal Marg and as chairman (1963-1968) of the Lalit Kala Akademi. Early in this part of his career, Anand came under the influence of Coomaraswamy, Gill, and Read, but later he redefined his aesthetic formulations and was influenced by John Ruskin and William Morris. Following Morris, Anand went to his own ancestors, the thathiars--coppersmiths and silversmiths--to affirm that art belonged to the common man and the masses.

Until his death on 28 September 2004, Mulk Raj Anand continued to write tirelessly in a desperate attempt to complete the remaining two volumes in the Seven Ages series. He was also actively engaged in welfare work, even in his nineties. To the end, he remained committed to humanistic ideals of social reconstruction, although in the last phases of his life he placed more emphasis on the development of human consciousness. As he said in an interview with Kamal D. Verma: "The struggle for freedom by each individual is the only way by which the struggle to live a possible existence of calmness may fructify. . . . The struggle for higher consciousness is the only possible way for the good life." This philosophical conception of consciousness remains at the heart of Anand's work and art and makes them distinctive. Anand has staked a claim in Indian writing not only as one of India's leading novelists in the English language but also as a philosopher of culture who, with his expanded consciousness, looks upon history, time, reality, art, and culture as a unified whole.


From: Verma, Kamal D. "Mulk Raj Anand." South Asian Writers in English, edited by Fakrul Alam, Gale, 2006.


  • Further Reading
    • Mulk Raj Anand, "The Story of My Experience with a White Lie," Critical Essays on Indian Writing in English, second revised edition, edited by M. K. Naik, S. K. Desai, and G. S. Amur (Madras: Macmillan, 1972), pp. 4-18.
    • G. S. Balarama Gupta, Mulk Raj Anand: A Study of His Fiction in Humanist Perspective (Bareilly: Parkash Book Depot, 1974).
    • Margaret Berry, Mulk Raj Anand: The Man and the Novelist (Amsterdam: Oriental Press, 1971).
    • Saros Cowasjee, The Coolie: An Assessment (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1976).
    • Cowasjee, So Many Freedoms: A Study of the Major Fiction of Mulk Raj Anand (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1977).
    • R. K. Dhawan, ed., The Novels of Mulk Raj Anand (New Delhi: Prestige, 1992).
    • Marlene Fisher, The Wisdom of the Heart: A Study of the Works of Mulk Raj Anand (New Delhi: Sterling, 1985).
    • C. J. George, Mulk Raj Anand, His Art and Concerns (New Delhi: Atlantic, 1994).
    • S. C. Harrex, "Western Ideology and Eastern Forms of Fiction: The Case of Mulk Raj Anand," in Asian and Western Writers in Dialogue: New Cultural Identities, edited by Guy Amirthanayagam (New Delhi: Macmillan, 1996), pp. 142-158.
    • K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar, Indian Writing in English, fifth edition (New Delhi: Sterling, 1985).
    • Jack Lindsay, The Elephant and the Lotus: A Study of the Novels of Mulk Raj Anand, second revised edition (Bombay: Kutub-Popular, 1965).
    • Meenakshi Mukherjee, The Twice Born Fiction: Themes and Techniques of the Indian Novel in English, second edition (New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann India, 1973).
    • M. K. Naik, Mulk Raj Anand (New York: Humanities Press, 1973).
    • Alastair Niven, The Yoke of Pity: A Study in the Fictional Writing of Mulk Raj Anand (New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann India, 1978).
    • Premila Paul, The Novels of Mulk Raj Anand (New Delhi: Sterling, 1983).
    • T. Prabhakar, ed., The Indian Novel in English: Evaluations (New Delhi: Phoenix, 1995).
    • P. K. Rajan, Studies in Mulk Raj Anand (New Delhi: Abhinav, 1986).
    • D. Riemenschneider, An Ideal Man in Anand's Novels (Bombay: Kutub-Popular, 1967).
    • Kamal D. Verma, The Indian Imagination: Critical Essays on Indian Writing in English (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000).