The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian
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||This article reads like a review rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (July 2008)|
|Author||Nirad C. Chaudhuri|
|Subject||comparative– historical, cultural and sociological analysis of early 20th century India and the British colonial encounter in India|
|Genre||Autobiographical, non fiction|
Published in English
|954/.14031/092 B 21|
|LC Class||DS435.7.C5 A3 2001|
|Followed by||A Passage to England (1959)|
The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian is the 1951 autobiography of Nirad C. Chaudhuri, an Indian writer. Written when he was around 50, it records his life from his birth in 1897 in Kishorganj, a small town in present-day Bangladesh. The book relates his mental and intellectual development, his life and growth in Calcutta, his observations of vanishing landmarks, the connotation of this is dual—changing Indian situation and historical forces that was making exit of British from India an imminent affair.
Nirad, a self-professed Anglophile, is in any situation an explosive proposition and in the book he is at his best in observing as well as observing-at-a-distance and this dual perspective makes it a wonderful reading. His treatment of his childhood, his enchantment, disillusionment and gratitude to the colonial capital Calcutta is highly factual as well as artistic to the extent highly readable.
Arguably, his magnum opus considering his literary output that he could generate as late age as ninety years, Autobiography is not a single book, it is many. Consciously or unconsciously he has left traces of all his erudition, his spirit and learning. Declaring himself a cartographer of learning, the book is also a cartographic evidence of the author's mind and its varied geographies, of the map as well as of the mind.
The dedication of the book runs thus:
|“||To the memory of the British Empire in India,
Which conferred subjecthood upon us,
Over the years, the Autobiography has acquired many distinguished admirers. Winston Churchill thought it one of the best books he had ever read. V. S. Naipaul remarked: "No better account of the penetration of the Indian mind by the West - and by extension, of the penetration of one culture by another - will be or now can be written." In 1998, it was included, as one of the few Indian contributions, in The New Oxford Book of English Prose .
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