The Oxford India Premchand - An Omnibus

The Oxford India Premchand - An Omnibus

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Author: Premchand
Translator(s): David Rubin/ Alok Rai/ Chritopher King
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2004
Language: English
Pages: 965
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0195665015


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 captivates 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 portrayals 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 s 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.


Premchand can be humorous and ironic, somber and heart-rending in his depiction of the multifarious realities of his time without yielding up the thread of social comment that runs, through almost all the stories, The stories in this selection are, each, a delight and a revelation.
-Indian Reviews of Books

This collection reminds us that Premchand was pioneering in his efforts at a realistic appraisal of Indian family life and its pivot, the woman as mother or wife.
-Deccan Chronicle

Before Premchand, Hindi fiction avoided addressing uncomfortable social questions, He lifted fiction to the level of realism.
-The Telegraph

The subtle hues of village life, the intricacies and complexities of human emotions, the helplessness of being caught in the web of life, the struggles for survival and existential truths have all been well incorporated and translated.
-Indian Express

The translations are done with commendable skill.
-Manoj Das, The Hindu

DAVID RUBIN has spent many years teaching Indian literature at Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College. ALOK RAI is professor of English at the University of Delhi and Premchand's grandson. CHRISTOPHER R KING retired a associate professor of history and communication studies, University of Windsor. He is currently translating Premchand's Rangbhumi. FRANCESCA ORSINI is lecture in Hindi at the University of Cambridge.


Introduction by Francesca Orsini

PART I: SHORT STORIES (translated by David Rubin)

Introduction to The World of Premchand

Introduction to Widows, Wives and Other Heroines


The Road to Salvation
A Feast for the Holy Man
The Power of a Curse
A Catastrophe
January Night
The Story of Two Bullocks
The Thakur's Well
A Desperate Case


A Day in the Life of a Debt-Collector
A Car-Splashing
From Both Sides
A Moral Victory
Man's Highest Duty
A Lesson in the Holy Life
A Little Trick
The Writer
A Coward


A Servant of the Nation
The Chess Players
The Road to Hell
Miss Padma
My Big Brother
The Price of Milk
The Shroud
Two Autobiographical Sketches
A Note on Translation
Notes to the Stories


Widow with Sons
The Secret
Second Marriage
Wife into Husband
The Prostitute
The Funeral Feast
The Actress
Divided Hearths


Nirmala (translated by Alok Rai)
Gaban: The Stolen Jewels (translated by Christopher R King)

Appendix: The Aim of Literature by Francesca Orsini