Mulk Raj Anand
Born(1905-12-12)12 December 1905
Peshawar, NWFP, British India
(now in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan)
Died28 September 2004(2004-09-28) (aged 98)
Pune, Maharashtra, India
Alma materCambridge University
University College London
Khalsa College, Amritsar
Period20th century
GenreRealistic fiction
Notable workCoolie; Untouchable
Notable awardsSahitya Akademi Award (1971)
Padma Bhushan (1968)
International Peace Prize (1953)
SpousesShirin Vajifdar

Mulk Raj Anand (12 December 1905 – 28 September 2004) was an Indian writer in English, recognised for his depiction of the lives of the poorer castes in traditional Indian society. One of the pioneers of Indo-Anglian fiction, he, together with R. K. Narayan, Ahmad Ali and Raja Rao, was one of the first India-based writers in English to gain an International readership. Anand is admired for his novels and short stories, which have acquired the status of classics of modern Indian English literature; they are noted for their perceptive insight into the lives of the oppressed and for their analysis of impoverishment, exploitation and misfortune.[1][2][3] He became known for his protest novel Untouchable (1935), followed by other works on the Indian poor such as Coolie (1936) and Two Leaves and a Bud (1937).[4] He is also noted for being among the first writers to incorporate Punjabi and Hindustani idioms into English,[5] and was a recipient of the civilian honour of the Padma Bhushan.[6]

Early life and education

Mulk Raj Anand was born in a Hindu Khatri family in Peshawar.[7] Anand studied at Khalsa College, Amritsar, graduating with honours in 1924[5] before moving to England. While working in a restaurant to support himself, he attended University College London as an undergraduate and later studied at Cambridge University, earning a Ph.D in Philosophy in 1929 with a dissertation on Bertrand Russell and the English empiricists.[8] During this time he forged friendships with members of the Bloomsbury Group. He also spent time in Geneva, lecturing at the League of Nations' International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.

Anand married English actress and communist Kathleen Van Gelder in 1938; they had a daughter, Susheela, before divorcing in 1948.[9]


Mulk Raj Anand's literary career was launched by a family tragedy arising from the rigidity of India's caste system. His first prose essay was a response to the suicide of an aunt excommunicated by her family for sharing a meal with a Muslim woman.[10][11] His first novel, Untouchable, published in 1935, is a chilling exposephical Novels], New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers, 1994.</ref>[12] His first novel, Untouchable, published in 1935, is a chilling expose

of the lives of India's untouchable caste which were neglected at that time. The novel follows a single day in the life of Bakha, a toilet-cleaner, who accidentally bumps into a member of a higher caste, triggering a series of humiliations. Bakha searches for salve to the tragedy of the destiny into which he was born, talking with a Christian missionary, listening to a speech about untouchability by Mahatma Gandhi and a subsequent conversation between two educated Indians, but by the end of the book Anand suggests that it is technology, in the form of the newly introduced flush toilet, that may be his savior by eliminating the need for a caste of toilet cleaners.

Untouchable, which captures the vernacular inventiveness of the Punjabi and Hindi idiom in English, was widely acclaimed, and won Anand his reputation as India's Charles Dickens. The novel's introduction was written by his friend E. M. Forster, whom he met while working on T. S. Eliot's magazine Criterion.[13] Forster writes: "Avoiding rhetoric and circumlocution, it has gone straight to the heart of its subject and purified it."

Dividing his time between London and India during the 1930s and 40s,[5] Anand was active in the Indian independence movement. While in London, he wrote propaganda on behalf of the Indian cause alongside India's future Defence Minister V. K. Krishna Menon, while trying to make a living as a novelist and journalist.[14] At the same time, he supported Left causes elsewhere around the globe, traveling to Spain to volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, although his role in the conflict was more journalistic than military. He spent World War II working as a scriptwriter for the BBC in London, where he became a friend of George Orwell. Orwell's review of Anand's 1942 novel The Sword and the Sickle hints at the significance of its publication: "Although Mr. Anand's novel would still be interesting on its own merits if it had been written by an Englishman, it is impossible to read it without remembering every few pages that it is also a cultural curiosity. The growth of an English-language Indian literature is a strange phenomenon, and it will have its effect on the post-war world".[15] He was also a friend of Picasso and had paintings by Picasso in his personal art collection.

Anand returned to India in 1947 and continued his prodigious literary output here. His work includes poetry and essays on a wide range of subjects, as well as autobiographies, novels and short stories. Prominent among his novels are The Village (1939), Across the Black Waters (1939), The Sword and the Sickle (1942), all written in England; Coolie (1936) and The Private Life of an Indian Prince (1953) are perhaps the most important of his works written in India. He also founded a literary magazine, Marg, and taught in various universities. During the 1970s, he worked with the International Progress Organization (IPO) on the issue of cultural self-awareness among nations. His contribution to the conference of the IPO in Innsbruck (Austria) in 1974[16] had a special influence on debates that later became known under the heading of the "Dialogue among Civilisations". Anand also delivered a series of lectures on eminent Indians, including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore, commemorating their achievements and significance and paying special attention to their distinct brands of humanism.

His 1953 novel The Private Life of an Indian Prince is autobiographical in the manner of the rest of his subsequent oeuvre. In 1950 Anand embarked on a project to write a seven-part autobiographical novel titled Seven Ages of Man, of which he was only able to complete four parts beginning in 1951 with Seven Summers, followed by Morning Face (1968), Confession of a Lover (1976) and The Bubble (1984).[17] Like much of his later work, it contains elements of his spiritual journey as he struggles to attain a higher degree of self-awareness.[18] His 1964 novel Death of a Hero was based on the life of Maqbool Sherwani. It was adapted as Maqbool Ki Vaapsi on DD Kashir.[19][20]

Anand was associated with the BBC's Eastern Service radio station in the 1940s where he broadcast literary programs including book reviews, author biographies, and interviews with authors like Inez Holden.[21] In a multi-part broadcast program that he hosted, he discussed poetry and literary criticism, often calling for working class narratives in fiction.[21]

Political orientation

Anand was a lifelong socialist. His novels attack various aspects of India's social structure as well as the legacy of British rule in India; they are considered important social statements as well as literary artefacts. Anand himself was steadfast in his belief that politics and literature remained inextricable from one another.[22] He was a founding member of the Progressive Writers’ Association and also he helped in drafting the manifesto of the association.[23]

Later life

Anand married Shirin Vajifdar, a Parsi classical dancer from Bombay in 1950.[24][25] He died of pneumonia in Pune on 28 September 2004 at the age 98.[24]

Works of Mulk Raj Anand


Short story collections

Children's literature

Books on Arts


Other works

Notable awards


  1. ^ Zakaria, Rafiq (29 September 2004). "Very English, more Indian". The Indian Express.
  2. ^ " can be said that they have taken over from British writers like E. M. Forster & Edward Thompson the task of interpreting modern India to itself & the world." The Oxford History of India, Vincent A. Smith (3rd edition, ed. Percival Spear), 1967, p. 838.
  3. ^ Hoskote, Ranjit (29 September 2004). "The last of Indian English fiction's grand troika: Encyclopaedia of arts". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 17 December 2004. Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  4. ^ Norwich, John Julius (1990). Oxford Illustrated Encyclopedia Of The Arts. USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 16. ISBN 978-0198691372.
  5. ^ a b c "Mulk Raj Anand Profile",
  6. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  7. ^ Singh, Gurharpal (1994). Communism in Punjab: A Study of the Movement Up to 1967. Ajanta Publications. p. 312. ISBN 978-81-202-0403-4.
  8. ^ Walsh, William, Indian Literature in English, Longman Group Limited (1990), p. 63.
  9. ^ "Mulk Raj Anand". The Daily Telegraph. 29 September 2004. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  10. ^ George, C. J., Mulk Raj Anand, His Art and Concerns: A Study of His Non-autobiographical Novels, New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers, 1994.
  11. ^ Wadikar, Shailaja B., "Silent Suffering and Agony in Mulk Raj Anand's Untouchable", in Amar Nath Prasad and Rajiv K. Malik, Indian English Poetry and Fiction: Critical Elucidations, Volume 1, New Delhi: Sarup & Sons, 2007, p. 144–155.
  12. ^ Wadikar, Shailaja B., "Silent Suffering and Agony in Mulk Raj Anand's Untouchable", in Amar Nath Prasad and Rajiv K. Malik, Indian English Poetry and Fiction: Critical Elucidations, Volume 1, New Delhi: Sarup & Sons, 2007, p. 144–155.
  13. ^ "Mulk Raj Anand", Penguin India.
  14. ^ Cowasjee, Saros. So Many Freedoms: A Study of the Major Fiction of Mulk Raj Anand, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1977.
  15. ^ Orwell, George. The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell – My Country Right or Left 1940–1943, London: Martin Secker & Warburg, 1968, pp. 216–220.
  16. ^ Text of lecture
  17. ^ Sahitya Akademi Award recipients in English Archived 13 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Pandey, Dr. Mamta (2010). The great Indian novelists. Delhi: Kusal Pustak Sansar. p. 10. ISBN 978-81-88614-23-3.
  19. ^ Anand, Mulk Raj (1968). Death of a Hero: Epitaph for Maqbool Sherwani. Hind Pocket Books.
  20. ^ ""Maqbool Ki Vaapsi" Title Song". M S Azaad. 28 August 2012. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021.
  21. ^ a b Morse, Daniel Ryan (10 November 2020). Radio Empire: The BBC's Eastern Service and the Emergence of the Global Anglophone Novel. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-55259-2.
  22. ^ Berry, Margaret (1968–1969). "'Purpose' in Mulk Raj Anand's Fiction". Mahfil. 5 (1/2 1968–1969). Michigan State University, Asian Studies Center: 85–90. JSTOR 40874218.
  23. ^ Malik, Hafeez (1967). "The Marxist Literary Movement in India and Pakistan". The Journal of Asian Studies. 26 (4): 649–664. doi:10.2307/2051241. ISSN 0021-9118. JSTOR 2051241. S2CID 159715083.
  24. ^ a b Kumar, Jai; Haresh Pandya (29 September 2004). "Mulk Raj Anand (obituary)". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  25. ^ Kothari, Sunil (3 October 2017). "Remembering Shirin Vajifdar – Pioneer in All Schools of Dance". The Wire. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  26. ^ Anand, Mulk Raj (1 January 1999). Greatest Short Stories. Jaico Publishing House. ISBN 978-81-7224-749-2.
  27. ^ Coomaraswamy, Ananda; Mulk Raj Anand (1956). Introduction to Indian art.
  28. ^ Anand, Mulk Raj. Kama Kala.
  29. ^ Anand, Mulk Raj; Kramrisch, Stella. Homage to Khajuraho.
  30. ^ Mulk Raj Anand (1933). The Golden Breath.