Indian Novels: Colonial and Post-Colonial History

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Marc Baer

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Through the study of historical fiction, valuable perspectives on historical events can be gained. Unlike history textbooks, novels probe deeper and more personally into significant events and their impact on people and nations. Postcolonial Indian novels show the power of fiction to inform the study of history by providing insight into a watershed period of South Asian history. Train to Pakistan by Khushwat Singh, tells the story of a fictional town on the Border of India and Pakistan following the 1947 Partition of India. Using the tool of fictional prose, Singh shows the complex religious and social ramifications of the political decision to split Pakistan and India into separate countries following India’s independence. The Man-Eater of Malgudi, by R.K. Narayan, provides an analysis of how Indian lifestyles were impacted and ultimately altered by British colonialism in the region. The struggles of building a modern state that retained Indian culture are explored by individuals, allowing the reader to experience a deeper understanding of what the people of India experienced in the postcolonial era. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie is a metaphysical novel set mostly in Bombay and the Kashmir region following the independence of India in 1947. It centers on the struggles of constructing a national identity after colonialism and the difficulties faced by the Indian people and the government given the Partition of India. These three works provide important insights into the period and setting of postcolonial India and in doing so reveal the novel as an important source of historical understanding. By reading and analyzing these novels both the historian and layman can gain valuable insight into the human reality of a people, time, and place.

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