Special Guest: Amit Chaudhuri

Amit Chaudhuri

Author, Odysseus Abroad


Amit Chaudhuri is the author of six novels, the latest of which is Odysseus Abroad. His first major work of non-fiction, Calcutta: Two Years in the City, was published in the UK and India in 2013. It was published by Knopf in the US in September 2013. His second book of essays, Telling Tales, was published in the UK in August 2013.

Jonathan Coe in the London Review of Books has said that ‘Chaudhuri has already proved that he can write better than just about anybody of his generation’, the Guardian called him ‘one of his generation’s best writers’, the Village Voice said he was ‘one of the most talented and versatile writers of his generation’, and, according to the Boston Globe, ‘In the gloriously crowded world of modern Indian fiction, Amit Chaudhuri stands out as a master craftsman who, with exquisite wit and grace, can depict a rapidly changing India in a single life and an entire life in a single detail.’ The Irish critic Eileen Battersby said in the Irish Times: ‘Even in the context of contemporary Indian writing in English, much of which is outstanding, Chaudhuri is the best’.

The critic James Wood cited him as one of his three favourite younger living writers in the New York Times, along with Alan Hollinghurst and Ben Marcus.

Among the prizes he has won for his fiction are the Commonwealth Literature Prize, the Betty Trask award, the Encore Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the Indian government’s Sahitya Akademi Award. In 2012, he was awarded the West Bengal government’s Rabindra Puraskar for his book On Tagore.

Amit Chaudhuri is one of the most influential critics of his generation. His monograph, D H Lawrence and ‘Difference’ was called a ‘classic’ by Tom Paulin in his preface to the book, and a ‘path-breaking work’ by Terry Eagleton in the London Review of Books. His book of critical essays, Clearing a Space, was called the ‘best work of criticism by an Indian’ by Caravan magazine, India’s leading journal of the ideas. In 2013, he became the first person to be awarded the Infosys Prize for outstanding contribution to the humanities in Literary Studies, from a jury comprising Amartya Sen, the philosopher Akeel Bilgrami (Columbia University), the critic Homi Bhabha (Harvard), the South Asia scholar Sheldon Pollock (Columbia), former Indian chief justice Leila Seth, and the legal thinker Upendra Baxi (Warwick).

In his congratulatory address, Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize winner and jury chair of the first Infosys Prize for the Humanities, said: ‘He is of course a remarkable intellectual with a great record of literary writing showing a level of sensibility as well as a kind of quiet humanity which is quite rare. It really is quite extraordinary that someone could have had that kind of range that Amit Chaudhuri has in terms of his work and it could be so consistently of the highest quality.’ Chaudhuri is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the English Association, and was a judge of the Man Booker International Prize. In 2008, a Guardian editorial about him appeared in the newspaper’s famous ‘In Praise of…’ series, the first time an Indian writer was so honoured. In its editorial, the Guardian called him ‘a publisher’s nightmare’ for his artistic impulses and experimental tendencies.

His first novel, A Strange and Sublime Address, is included in Colm Toibin and Carmen Callil’s Two Hundred Best Novels of the Last Fifty Years. His second novel, Afternoon Raag, was on Anne Enright’s list of 10 Best Short Novels in the Guardian. He is Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of East Anglia, and is editor of the Picador/ Vintage Book of Modern Indian Literature. He has one book of poetry, St Cyril Road And Other Poems.

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