Of Mangoes, Marriages and Spices

Posted by sepoy on May 12, 2006 · 1 min read

NYRoB asked a veritable who's who of contemporary fiction to name "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years." Result: Toni Morrison's Beloved! I haven't really paid close enough attention to fiction to say anything about the list. Still, Beloved surely deserves to be on any list. I think White Noise should have placed over Underworld [has anyone ever _finished_ it?]. Interestingly, counting Morrison, there be exactly 2 women on the whole list and no 'recent' work [if we discount Philip Roth] - DFW, where art thou?

So, this got me blog-thinking. What is the best work of Desi english fiction published in the last 25 years? With Rushdie celebrating the 25 years of Midnight's Children this year...he would get my vote.


desiknitter | May 12, 2006

I have to say Amitav Ghosh's "Shadow Lines," if you're looking for a single work of fiction. Or do you want a top-ten list or something?

sepoy | May 12, 2006

Vote early. Vote often. Vote for as many as you like. There will be only one winner, though.

dacoit | May 12, 2006

I second Ghosh's SL. Also, Rushdie (Satanic Verses, Midnight's Children, Moor's Last Sigh), Hanif Kureishi (Buddha of Suburbia), Vikram Chandra (Love and Longing in Bombay, likely to be superseded by his forthcoming book), Meera Syal (Anita & Me), Michael Ondaatje (English Patient), David Dabydeen (Counting House, The Intended), Mohsin Hameed (Moth Smoke). I say we leave Arundhati Roy off the list.

dacoit | May 12, 2006

btw, sepoy, while I love White Noise, and would not be willing to argue that Underworld is on the whole a superior novel, I do think that latter is a masterful work and in many ways richer than WN (yes, I did actually finish it).

Jonathan Dresner | May 12, 2006

I have no opinions whatsoever on Desi Fiction, I'm afraid. I will say, though, that I'm not at all surprised to learn that I haven't read any of the 25 vote-getting works. Not only that, having seen the list, I still don't have any desire to read any of them....

sepoy | May 12, 2006

Well, if you ever find a moment, there are at least 7 titles Beloved, Underworld, White Noise, Confedracy of Dunces, The Things They Carried, Jesus' Son, and Portnoy's Complaint that are worth reading. Ok, the last one is not on the list but that's my fav. Roth.

elizabeth | May 12, 2006

what, no Vikram Seth yet? Though I'm not sure I can choose between A Suitable Boy & An Equal Music. Otherwise, yes to (early) Rushdie, and Ondaatje--actualIy I second much of dacoit's list. I would add Amit Chaudhuri's Afternoon Raag, some of the stories in Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, and probably Nadeen Aslam's Maps for Lost Lovers as well.

desiknitter | May 12, 2006

I agree: how could Mrs. Rupa Mehra with her reddening nose from A Suitable Boy be left out? No Chaudhuri in my list, though. Haroun, to add to Rushdie's works. And yes, please, no Arundhati Roy.

pdcs | May 13, 2006

It's Mr. Rushdie. and I vote for both Shame and especailly Midnight's Children. I like most of the other's listed here but we start and end with Padmalakshmipati. By the way, Salman was guest hosting Charlie Rose tonight and interviewed Dipa Mehta. The SA love fest was fun to watch and you all can catch it on Google video tomorrow.

Sin | May 13, 2006

If we're going for Rushdie, then I vote for "Shame" or "The Ground Beneath Her Feet". If Kureishi, then "The Buddha of Suburbia". I'm also actually a huge fan of Bapsi Sidhwa's "The Crow-Eaters".

sepoy | May 13, 2006

I know I am biased against...but, no lovers of Sir Vidia?

nightingale | May 13, 2006

how about an underdog? mr. rushdie is obvious and larger than life. my vote would go for upamanyu chatterjee's "english, august". perhaps not at the very top OK, but nipping at the heels!

Morcy | May 13, 2006

_Opal Mehta_, obvie

exitr | May 13, 2006

Naipaul's a prick, but man can he write. He'd have to be included. I also vote for Raj Kamal Jha, "If You Are Afraid of Heights," and I liked Pankaj Mishra's "The Romantics" a lot, too. It's nonfiction, but Suketu Mehta's "Maximum City" is stellar.

Sahil | May 13, 2006

I'm a huge fan of Vikram Seth's Suitable Boy, and yes, Maximum City is stellar.

desiknitter | May 13, 2006

Re. Sir Vidia, I'd vote for "A House for Mr. Biswas." Easily his best, and among the best overall.

Sin | May 14, 2006

I recall my former vote(s). Maximum City it is.

sepoy | May 14, 2006

I always thought Maximum City sounded too fictional :)

dacoit | May 14, 2006

I do not think we can include Max City without opening the floodgates for all manner of memoir, travel writing and journalistic stuff (though I do love the book). I cast another vote for Upamanyu Chatterjee (thanks for mentioning it, nightingale), and also Naipaul's House for Mr. Bishwas. I thought about Vikram Seth, Jhumpa Lahiri and Amit Chaudhuri, but ultimately decided that none of them made the cut (Rupa Mehra and the adventures of her nose are somewhat too pulpy for greatness; and Chaudhuri's stule style annoys me immensely). Rohinton Mistry is in the same category. Have heard great things about Aslam's Maps for Lost Lovers, but have not gotten a chance to read it yet (in part because I was very underwhelmed by his first book). Three more writers who get an honorable mention but do not quite make the list: Ruchir Joshi, Allan Sealy, Rana Dasgupta. Also, Anita Desai anyone? Baumgartner's Bombay or In Custody?

smithers | May 14, 2006

Shadow Lines gets my vote. I like Rohinton Mistry--especially Such a Long Journey and Family Matters. Any takers for Shauna Singh Baldwin?

Qalandar | May 15, 2006

My vote would go to "The Satanic Verses"; Midnight's Children is a less flawed work, but I can forgive "The Satanic Verses" much for its ambition. Plus yaar, it features Bollywood!!!

FH Malik | May 29, 2006

Moth Smoke is a very well written look at Pakistan, I think it takes the cake for Pakistani Fiction; english or not.

lantern | May 30, 2006

moth smoke is the best pakistani fiction i have read. but my vote would go to vikram seth hands down. its vivid narrative all the way plus all the nuance of the context. rohinton mistry would perhaps be my second choice. upmanyu's oeuvre is too limited and indeed rushdie too larger than life.