Premchand is one of the most outstanding figures in twentieth-century Hindi literature. His novels and short stories dealing with the lives of everyday heroes have attained the status of classics. His work continues to be rediscovered and to captivate new generations of readers in India and abroad. The inhumanity of caste hierarchies and the plight of women stirred his indignation and remained constant themes through his work.
This omnibus brings together a range of his short stories, a genre he pioneered in Hindi literature, and two of his women-centric novels. Also included is an essay by Premchand on the aim of literature, translated especially for this volume. Francesca Orsini introduces readers to these works in an essay describing Premchand's impressive craft of reworking contemporary debates in fictional form.
The stories in The World of Premchand, translated by David Rubin, are characterized by compassion for the poor and outrage at the cruelty of the privileged classes. There are vivid and dramatic portrayls of tradition-bound villages and towns, the turmoil of the Independence movement, and the violent clash of new and old ideas. In Widows, Wives and Other Heroines, Premchand focuses on the position and role of women, as well as on other socially relevant issues such as middle-class values and aspirations, poverty and the clash between democratic stirrings and a strongly hierarchical society.
The novel Nirmala, translated by Alok Rai, is a classic text of the woman as victim. Nirmala's father is unable to pay dowry and therefore marries her to an elderly lawyer with three sons. It was originally serialized in a women's journal and was a huge success in its time, being perceived as a progressive indictment of a corrupt patriarchal society. Gaban, translated by Christopher R King, tells the story of a woman's excessive love for jewellery and a series of tragic events that unfold as an outcome of her obsession. The novel showcases Premchand's deeply held views on the ills of his own Kayasth community.
The Oxford India Premchand is a delightful book for avid readers of Premchand and for enthusiasts of Indian literature and culture.
General readers, scholars of and those interested in Indian/Hindi literature in translation or otherwise.
Alok Rai (Translator) Premchand's grandson and also Professor of English at the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi. He has edited Dickens' Great Expectations (OUP College and University Level Text).