Book Review: A Dictionary Of Indian English Litterateurs: 1794-2010

Mahendra S. Rana (Comp. and ed.). Assisted by Rekha Rana. A Dictionary of Indian English Litterateurs: 1794-2010. 2 volumes. set. New Delhi: Sarup Books Publishers Pvt Ltd., 2012. Size-Crown. ISBN 978-81-7625-809-8 (Set). Pages Vol. I, 566+Appendix+23 and Vol. II, 573+Appendix+ 7, Price Rs.6500/- (Set).

M.S. Rana, an alumnus of the universities of Allahabad and Delhi, has been a distinguished librarian, who worked in the universities of Kurukshetra, Delhi, Meerut, and Roorkee with credit. The compilation of the 2-volume Dictionary under review bespeaks his editorial skill, scholarly interest, and professional commitment.

It is also his labor of love, and well-rewarded, in that Rana spent about a decade in developing an authentic, systematic bio-bibliographical critical source book on over 4000 creative writers of Indian English. He includes the biographical sketches with bibliographies and critical articles on both well-known and less known poets, fiction and non-fiction writers, playwrights, and other creative personalities, male and female, of the last 220 years. Besides Indian men of letters, he also includes other writers whose roots are in India and who deal with Indian life and culture.

In the making of his massive dictionary of litterateurs, Rana takes help from literary advisers such as G.S. Balarama Gupta, Prema Nandakumar, R.K. Singh, C.S. Singh, A.P. Trivedi, Rajiv Verma, Badri N. Raina, Arun Kumar, and S.C. Dwivedi who also contribute critical articles and/or comments about various authors’ lives and work. He also takes assistance from Rekha Rana, though it is not clear what her specific contribution is.

The compiler also makes use of several scholarly journals, magazines, and dailies that include The Hindu, India Today, Outlook, Biblio, Creative Forum, Language Forum, Indian Literature, Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Journal of Indian Writing in English, Kavya Bharati, Litcrit, Mawaheb International, Metverse Muse, Poet, Poetcrit, Triveni, Cyber Literature, Commonwealth Quarterly etc. Some of these journals have ceased publication now.

The layout of the alphabetically arranged entries typically includes personal information, career history, including academics and honors, literary output — poetry, drama, fiction, prose, travelogue, letters, diaries, narratives, trans-creation, and other works. The critical bibliography appears in the form of major books and PhD. theses. Then, there is a note of appraisal on the literary endeavors of the author. Where available, the compiler provides the contact or email address at the end of the entry.

Needless to say, Rana tries to place the writers in the larger perspective of Indian English literary history just as he seeks to empower the interested researchers and scholars to decide about their areas of specialization and/or understanding of the topics of research (for M.Phil or PhD dissertation) via the information provided in the Dictionary.

The appendices reflect upon the status of Indian English at home and abroad even as it is encouraging to know that besides Indian universities, 89 foreign universities promote researches in Indian English literature.

At a time when study of literature is losing importance among our students, A Dictionary of Indian English Litterateurs should help promote Indian English Literature to study the humanities. It should also prove indispensable in effective study of and research in Indian English Writing to enhance critical understanding and human values.

Despite printing errors in several articles and comments culled from various books and journals, I find the Dictionary fascinating and significant, and recommend it to all English Departments and libraries in the country and abroad.