Historical fiction/ non-fiction is a literary genre in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past or recounts incidents from the past for people to read. The words of a historical work, if written poignantly, weave in a sense of understanding, a way in which readers almost experience the situations years later, adding a sense of understanding, melancholy.
As India celebrates its 72 Independence Day, we look at a few books that have documented India's struggle for freedom and have left a mark in our conscience.
Autobiography Of An Unknown Indian by Nirad Chaudhuri (non-fiction): Winston Churchill considered it to be one of the best books he had ever read and Chaudhuri’s magnum opus does not disappoint.
The autobiography tells of a childhood in rural Bengal and youth in a politically active Kolkata till the country’s independence. According to critics, the book, written in a sparkling tone and wit is the story of modern day India through the eyes of one man.
Freedom At Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre (non-fiction): Another non-fiction one, Freedom At Midnight tells the story of the last year of the British raj. ocusing on the Indian independence movement during 1946 and 1948, it gives incredible details regarding Indian history. The book gives a detailed account of the last year of the British Raj, the princely states' reactions to independence, the partition of British India, and the bloodshed that followed. The book also includes interviews with Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of British India.
The assassination of Gandhi and the events that led up to it are also explored.
Train To Pakistan by Khushwant Singh (fiction): Focusing on a human story while most books look at a socio-politically active India, the book is set in a fictional village on the border of India and Pakistan. There, a local money-lender is murdered, and suspicion falls upon Juggut Singh, the village gangster who is in love with a Muslim girl.
When a train arrives, carrying the bodies of dead Sikhs, the village is transformed into a battlefield, and neither the magistrate nor the police are able to stem the rising tide of violence. Amidst conflicting loyalties, it is left to Juggut Singh to redeem himself and reclaim peace for his village.
The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857 by William Dalrymple (non-fiction): Not exactly a book on the final years of Indian Independence, this book in fact traces the history of when it all started. In 1857, the first war against the British (known popularly as the Sepoy Mutinee) marked the end of the Mughal rule. William lists the manner in which these events unfolded and the impact it had on the country – both politically and culturally.
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (fiction): The 1981 novel deals with the transition from British colonialism to independence and the partition of British India. The postcolonial literature that is often considered to have elements of magical realism is told by its chief protagonist, Saleem Sinai, and is set in the context of actual historical events as with historical fiction.