Geetanjali Shree picks three novelists who changed the face of Hindi literature

When the Hindi novel sand tomb won the Bookers International Price in May, it not only presented the Indian author Geetanjali Shree to an international audience, he also brought to light the rich literary culture of his native country.

Set in India and Pakistan and dealing with the memories and traumas of India’s partition, Shree’s novel follows a proud tradition of Hindi literary works that speak to current and historical concerns.

“Hindi fiction is a very big world”, says Shree The National to Sharjah International Book Fairwhich runs until Sunday.

“There are books that deal with history and today’s social reality in a poetic and very simple way.”

For newcomers to Hindi literature, Shree recommends the following revered writers.

1. Krishna Sobti

Described by the Indian press as the “grande dame” of Hindi literature, Sobti wrote novels, short stories and columns that took no prisoners, with their fiery tone and sensual subject matter.

Her works were also influenced by Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi literary traditions and featured fierce female characters challenging patriarchal societies and practices.

A number of Sobti’s novels have been translated into English, including the 2005 one The heart has its reasonswhich won the Hutch Crossword Book Award for Indian Language Fiction Translation.

Dedicated Shree sand tomb in Sobti, who died in 2019 at the age of 93.

“I consider her my literary guru,” Shree says. “I loved her independent spirit and she never cared whether her writing style would be approved or not. She was absolutely fearless.”

2. Premhand

Premchand was known as the "king of novelists".  Photo: Indian Post, 1980

Famous for his modern take on Hindustani literature, the 19th century writer Premchand, born Dhanpat Rai Srivastava, was considered a pioneer of Hindi and Urdu fiction with stories focusing on societal fissures such as caste hierarchies. in India and the struggles of women and workers.

Hailed by his peers as the “king of novelists”, he published more than a dozen novels, some of which are translated, such as that of 1925. The second wifeon India’s dowry system, and The gift of a cow of 1936 which examines the fate of the rural class.

“He lived in India when it was under foreign rule, so he made it his goal to show what is going on there in society and educate people on how they can improve society,” he said. said Shree.

“Premchand has always had this idea of ​​reform in his mind, and through that lens he has written many short stories and novels that are absolutely top notch.”

3. Nirmal Verma

Nirmal Verma's work examined the complexities of human relationships.  Getty Images

The novelist and translator is hailed as a pioneer of the Nai Kahani (New Story) literary movement in Hindi fiction.

Thriving between 1954 and 1953, the stories in this scene focused primarily on relationships established in a rapidly industrializing and urbanizing India.

Verma, who died in 2005 aged 76, had a number of novels translated, including the 1974 one Red tin roof and 1989 With every rain.

“He was a very complex writer with a very modern sensibility,” Shree says. “Where Premchand wrote about the outside, Verma was concerned with the inside and…the nature of modern man and the loneliness that comes with such an experience.”

Updated: November 11, 2022, 6:02 p.m.