The Vintage Book of Modern Indian Literature
Edited by Amit Chaudhuri (Vintage, 688 pages)
It's been years since a Bengali-to-English translation of Bibhuti Bhushan Banerjee's classic novel Pather Panchali has been in print in the United States. Similarly, the dark, Urdu short stories of Sadat Hasan Manto and the stylistically daring family tales told by Hindi author Krishna Sobti are largely unknown in this country, even to the ever-growing audiences falling in love with writers like Vikram Seth and Rohinton Mistry. Chaudhuri himself an author of no small renown attempts valiantly to correct that disparity with this excellent anthology, but in the end, he's derailed by the sheer volume of excellent Indian literature that exists. This collection is certainly wide-ranging; Hindi, Urdu and Bengali writers are represented as well as a substantial selection of English-language authors and an entire section called "The South" that succinctly represents the potpourri of languages and heightened literacy of the Southern subcontinent. However, attempting to showcase nearly three dozen writers in under 700 pages is a daunting task, especially given the verbosity that some Indian writers are prone to exhibit. Chaudhuri does admirable work though, giving a thorough (if glossy) sampling of some of the most exciting literature in the world.