India is a land of many languages, 22 of which are recognised by the Constitution itself. We are fortunate enough to have a rich canon of literature associated with our regional languages. While the topics are diverse and worldly, the books in this list give us glimpses into the regions from which they originate and showcase the diversity in India brilliantly.

This list curates 10 books written by Indian regional authors which have been translated into English. Please note that, at this point, we have only looked at male Indian regional authors, as this is part of reading recommendations for The Extraordinary Reading Challenge 2018.

01

Bharathipura

U. R. Ananthamurthy, Susheela Punitha (Tr.)

U. R. Ananthamurthy has received the Padma Bhushan and the Jnanpith Award for his outstanding work in Kannada literature and is one of the most well-known Indian regional authors. Bharathipura revolves around the practice of untouchability and the caste system in India. Jagannatha, an enlightened modern Indian, attempts to take ‘untouchables’ inside Manjunatha temple and a series of unexpected violent events follow that expose the hidden social injustice prevailing in India.

Buy it here.

02

The Legends Of Khasak

O. V. Vijayan (Author and Translator)

O. V. Vijayan was a renowned author of Malayalam literature. He has won many prestigious awards like the Padma Bhushan and the Sahitya Akademi Award. The Legends of Khasak is the story of Ravi, who embarks on a journey to get rid of his guilt, restlessness, and despair. He ends up in a remote village called Khasak where he becomes a school teacher. As he learns about the people in the village and their beliefs, he is forced to confront his own past and understand that there is no escape from karma.

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03

Cobalt Blue

Sachin Kundalkar, Jerry Pinto (Tr.)

Sachin Kundalkar is a Marathi writer and an award-winning film director. Cobalt Blue, his first novel, revolves around a Marathi family and a paying guest who comes to live with them. He pays his rent on time and is always ready to help. Both brother and sister fall in love with him, which shatters the traditional family. Cobalt Blue is a beautiful tale of love and heartbreak, written by one of the most promising Indian regional authors.

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04

Umrao Jan Ada

Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa, Khushwant Singh (Tr.), M. A. Husaini (Tr.)

Mirza Hadi Ruswa was a popular Urdu poet and writer. His novel, Umrao Jan Ada is considered to be the first Urdu novel by many. The book covers the life of Umrao Jan, a courtesan in Lucknow. Born as Amiran, she was kidnapped and sold to Khanum Jaan, the head of the ‘kotha’. As Umrao grows, she learns poetry, classical music, and dance which attracts many wealthy clients. This is the story of her failed love affairs, her search for happiness, the rejection by her family and her tragic fate.

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05

Chemmeen

T. S. Pillai, Anita Nair (Tr.)

T. S. Pillai was a recipient of the Padma Bhushan and the Jnanpith Award for his exceptional work in Malayalam literature. Chemmeen is the love story of Karutthamma, a Hindu woman of the fishermen community and Pareekkutty, a Muslim man. When the members of her community find out that she is in love with a Muslim, she is married off to Palani.  Palani is aware of her past but trusts her. His trust is reaffirmed each time he goes to sea and comes back safe since it is believed that the safe return of a fisherman depends on the fidelity of the wife. The story turns when one night Palani is at sea, and Karutthamma and Pareekkutty meet and their love rekindles. This is a story of love, longing, and trust.

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06

One Part Woman

Perumal Murugan, Aniruddhan Vasudevan (Tr.)

One of the most popular Indian regional authors, Perumal Murugan writes in Tamil and has ten novels, five short story collections, and five poetry collections under his belt. One Part Woman is about Kali and Ponna, a married couple who are unable to conceive a child. They are constantly being humiliated and taunted by other members of the society. On the night of the chariot festival in the temple of Ardhanareeswara it is socially acceptable for any man and woman to have consensual sex. Their hope is hinged on the possibility that Ponna might get pregnant if she has sex with someone else.  This gives them hope but also puts their relationship to a test.

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07

Ghachar Ghochar

Vivek Shanbhag, Srinath Perur (Tr.)

Vivek Shanbhag is a Kannada author of eight novels and two plays. Ghachar Ghochar is his first translated work in English. It is about a family who becomes rich after the uncle starts a successful spice company. They move from a small ant-infested shack to a spacious bungalow on the other side of Bangalore. As they begin to adjust to their new lifestyle, the entire family dynamic changes- everything is ghachar ghochar, or a hotchpotch. This book shows that the consequences of untimely and unexpected success can be humorous, playful, and suspenseful.

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08

The Fakir

Sunil Gangopadhyay, Monabi Mitra (Tr.)

Sunil Gangopadhyay was a Bengali poet and author who has won many prestigious awards including the Sahitya Akademi Award. The Fakir is a fictional adaptation that tells of the legends of the Bengali mystic Lalan Fakir, who united people of all communities with his songs that teach about love and humanity. He is considered an outcast by both the Hindu and Muslim communities. It is a simple tale of a man who attempts to create a better society despite not having any formal education.

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09

Litanies Of Dutch Battery

N. S. Madhavan, Rajesh Rajamohan (Tr.)

N. S. Madhavan is a contemporary Malayalam writer who has won many awards including the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award. 2007 Man Asian Literary Prize Nominee, Litanies of Dutch Battery is told through the eyes of Edwina Jessica who was born on Dutch Battery, one of the many islands that speckle the Kochi waters. She observes the victories, failures, and redemptions of the other residents of the island and gets involved in the events as they unfold. The book is a wonderful mix of history and imagination, giving us a glimpse of life 50 years ago.

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10

Tamas

Bhisham Sahni (Author and Translator)

Bhisham Sahni was a Hindi writer who received the Padma Bhushan and the Sahitya Akademi Award. Tamas is told through the eyes of Nathu, a sweeper who was deceived by a Muslim politician to cut a pig. When the dead pig was found outside the local mosque, Muslims were enraged and killed hundreds of Hindus and Sikhs, who, in turn, killed every Muslim they could find. It is a gripping true story as seen by the writer himself and described in detail that will leave you in a state of shock.

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Have you read any of these Indian regional authors? Do you have any other recommendations? Share with us in the comments.

Ankit Mahawar

Ankit Mahawar

Ankit loves stories, be it in any form- print, media or theatre. After reading Angels and Demons, he fell in love with books, especially suspense, thriller, and fantasy. He is a big fan of Harry Potter series. He quit his engineering career to become a writer and currently works with The Curious Reader. Apart from writing he also loves filmmaking, photography, traveling and cooking. You can reach him on Instagram.