: Lalit Srivastava
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN/UPC (if available): 978-0-19-569666-0
Premchand s Karmabhumi is set in the Uttar Pradesh of the 1930s. By the beginning of the 20th century, Islam and Hinduism had coexisted in India for over a thousand years, and barring the occasional outbursts of violence, the two religious communities had lived together peacefully and shared strong social bonds except marriage.
English education, however, drove a wedge between these two communities.
India of the early 1930s consisted of a great mass of poor and illiterate people who were exploited by the rich and powerful, irrespective of either caste or religion. The author s sympathy for these poor and toiling masses are clearly reflected in his writings. It is against this backdrop that Premchand wrote Karmabhumi.
Being greatly influenced by Gandhiji' s satyagraha movement, Premchand weaves this novel around the social goals championed by this movement. Human life is portrayed as a field of action in which the character and destinies of individuals are formed and revealed t hrough their actions. Some of these actions, which might seem melodramatic in ordinary realistic fiction, gain resonance in Karmabhumi, placed as they are within this symbolic and philosophical framework.
Each character (or group) is depicted as coming to a point of moral awakening where he, she, or they must act on their convictions. The climax of the novel takes place in an assembly of the poor and dispossessed, where they voice their demand for land. The youngest of the speakers is put to death by a policeman s bullet but this incident eventually leads to victory of the cause of land for the poor. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
In Karmabhumi Premchand explores the complex world of human relationships while firmly grounding his characters in the social and political realities of his times. Through his protagonists and their yearnings, love, laughter, tears, trials, and tribulations, the author subtly brings alive the India of the early decades of the twentieth century, while at the same time delivering a powerful social and political message.
With its focus on the nationalist movement and strong political and social overtones, the novel will interest general readers, as well as students and scholars of literature, Indian literature in translation, and social history.