Anglo-Indian fiction has generally interested non-Indians more than Indians, hence it is appropriate that Bhupal Singh’s pioneering work should achieve a new impression under the joint imprint of Curzon Press (London) and Rowman & Littlefield (Totowa N.J.). The volume is being distributed in India by Oxford University Press, who originally published the work in 1934. A tell-tale OUP sticker carries the hand-written price of £4.00, perhaps a wise precaution against the pound’s current decline.
All is old in this new impression but the Foreword (the copyright of which is owned by Curzon Press) and a supplementary bibliography which precedes the original author’s preface. In terms of the conventions of book-making, it must be quite unusual for a supplementary bibliography to appear three hundred pages before the bibliography does. It would surely have been far more useful for the prospective buyer if the original bibliography of 1934 had carried a reasonably complete 1934-74 supplement. This would have greatly enhanced the ‘reference volume’ value of the work.
The supplementary bibliography given here is an oddity for other reasons also. It contains fifteen entries, of which as many as eight have nothing to do with Anglo-Indian fiction. Such a compilation quite contradicts the explanation given in the Foreword that the supplement was added ‘in order to take notice of some of the more recent works dealing with the subject.’ Obviously the foreword-writer is not familiar with items listed here, nor does he know much about the ‘subject’. How else would he consider that Indians writing in English is ‘a legacy, if not a continuation, of Anglo-Indian literature’? Bhupal Singh, incidentally, has an appendix presenting ‘A Note on some Indian Writers of English Fiction’, where he concludes (in 1934) that ‘their contribution to Anglo-Indian fiction is of little importance’.
Bhupal Singh’s book remains as important today as it was when it appeared more than forty years ago, because it continues to fulfill the function he bestowed upon it—namely, a criticism of the criticism that Anglo-Indian fiction offered of English men and women in India and of Indians. His criticism may sound unbalanced because of its ‘nationalist’ (circa 1934) view-point, nor is he overly concerned with literary art. But no later investigator of the same material has yet been able to do without Bhupal Singh’s survey, and the publishers of the present reprint ought therefore to be thanked for making it available again.
Sujit Mukherjee works for a publishing firm in New Delhi.