Notable features of the novels by Bhabani Bhattacharya – and major novels by him you must read

March 6, 2023
4 min read

Perhaps the only novelist from India I can name to have written excellent novels and remained in the abyss of ignorance and oblivion has to be Bhabani Bhattacharya! Yes, the author of works like So Many Hungers, He Who Rides a Tiger and A Dream in Hawaii, Bhabani Bhattacharya’s publications and his distinguished writing style, fluid and often allegorical, did not enjoy fame (he deserved) and also remained bereaved from academic circles. Born in Bhagalpur, Bihar, in 1906, Bhabani’s most famous novel, as many believe, was He Who Rides a Tiger. However, many believe So Many Hungers was sensational and relevant in its social satire. Well, what are the features of Bhabani Bhattacharya’s writing that make him a distinguished figure in Indian English literature? Also, what are the elements in his novels that make him a must-read author for those who seek to read traditional, classic and sensible Indian English novels? In this article, we will discuss a few features of the works by Bhattacharya.

There are many features of the works by Bhabani Bhattacharya distinguishing his style from that of R K Narayan or Raja Rao. Albeit, it would rather seem to many readers who have read the works by Rao and Narayan, as well as Anand, that Bhabani’s language, writing style and theme, to an extent, are closer to Raja Rao than being different from the other two of the group of the most respected Indian English novelist of all time.

The first thing that strikes the readers, right after beginning to read Bhattacharya’s novels, are the characters that this author has drawn. Well-drawn, having multiple facets and many dimensions, and representing various social groups and cultural diversities of India – such are the characters you may find in many works by Bhattacharya. One striking feature is that the characters that Bhattacharcya’s novels bring to the fore have some internal crisis, conflict of ideas or a kind of flaw that helps in the growth of the novel’s plot. After characters, another aspect of the works of Bhattacharya, the forgotten Indian English novelist, to draw your attention might be the treatment of social and political issues. The author has treated such issues in his works, and also ventured into the spiritual and religious sentiments and thoughts, with a careful balance between the imaginary and the practical. For instance, A Dream in Hawaii treats the classic east-west encounter. However, you will find a subtle differentiator that distinguishes the work by Bhattacharya from the works by Raja Rao. To be more specific, readers may find colonial and post-colonial elements in the works by Bhattacharya along with elements that are constant in nature, irrespective of time and the social set-up.

To extend the argument of colonial and post-colonial treatment, Bhattacharya’s novels can also be said to have a historical awareness in terms of themes and issues that the author features in his works. India before independence, India during the independence struggle, revolutions and the impact, nationalism, the country after the independence and so on. Such elements are evident in the early works by Bhattacharya. Another striking feature in the works of the novelist is his engaging style of narrative that keeps the readers engaged with the work to the last, most of the time. And in the same breath, readers may also note the influence of many languages that the author and the novelist knew. So, the impact of dialects can be seen in the usage of the English language in his works.

So, readers, this was some of the notable features’ list that one can notice while reading the works by Bhabani Bhattacharya. You can know more about the author by reading a wonderful article prepared by the notable platform The Indian Authors – Bhabani Bhattacharya.

If you want to read the works by this novelist, you can pick up So Many Hungers, He Who Rides a Tiger, Shadow from Ladakh and A Dream in Hawaii.


By Vivek for Thoughtful Critic

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