Manohar Malgonkar, a writer born on this day in a hamlet in Karnataka, is a contemporary of Mulk Raj Anand, about whom we know very little. He was a Lt. Col. in the Army, a columnist, a government worker, a game hunter, a mining owner in Jagalbet, and a farmer.
Those who have read his (very few) short stories, essays, fiction novels, and nonfiction tomes like the princes will know that the center of his work on India during and after British colonialism (The Princes, A Bend in the Ganges) (Distant Drum). The Hindi film Shalimar is based on his work A Spy in Amber.
Manohar Malgonkar’s work has been largely overlooked despite its significance to Indian English literature.
The contributions of Manohar Malgonkar
Malgonkar was born in the hamlet of Jagalbet, Karwar dist, located close to Londa, Belgaum dist. His great-grandfather on his mother’s side was the former governor of Gwalior State. His formal schooling started in Belgaum. When he was older, he moved to Dharwad to finish his education before moving to Mumbai to get his degree. He then enlisted in the Army, becoming a Lieutenant Colonel in the Maratha Light Infantry. Much of his writing takes place in the years leading up to and immediately after India’s independence. His books, which are often action-packed adventures, are set against the historical and social contexts of the eras in which they are placed. He also contributed to the nonfiction genre with works of biography and history.
Manohar Malgonkar, a multitalented Indian fiction writer, embodies the experiences of both pre-and post-independent India, which have left significant marks on our national history and culture. A superb ability to weave storylines of exceptional originality can be seen in his books “Distant Drum” (1960), “Combat of Shadows” (1962), “The Princes” (1963), “A Bend in the Ganges” (1964), and “The Devil’s Wind” (1972). His wide range of subject matter—from military life and nobility to everyday life and the Partition of India to violence, sex, hunting, betrayal, and revenge—allows us to probe the complexity of human connections. “To term him an “INDIAN KIPLING” would not be an exaggeration.
Malgonkar is reminiscent of R. K. Narayan. Both are contemporary Indian authors writing in English who have dabbled in linguistic innovation. He sees India struggling to adapt to industrialization and higher education demands, and he urges us to do the same. To this day, Malgonkar, a contemporary of authors like Mulk Raj Anand and Khushwant Singh, is mainly forgotten for his contribution to what is now known as Indian Writing like story books in English. To this day, Manohar Malgonkar, a contemporary of authors like Mulk Raj Anand, Khushwant Singh, and Kamala Markandya, is mainly forgotten for his contributions to what is now known as Indian Writing in English (IWE). Though he spent, his last days in a quiet hamlet on the Goa–Karnataka border, this prolific novelist, short story writer, and essayist was part of the previous generation to see the dramatic shifts in our country’s history and culture.
Malgonkar’s seminal and helpful contributions to IWE canon include the novels A Bend in the Ganges, which follows the lives of three characters in the violent aftermath of Partition, and Distant Drum (his first novel, published in 1960), which provides an eye-opening account of life in the Indian Army during the days of the Raj. Malgonkar may have deserved to be read more extensively given that he also created unselfconsciously fascinating books like Open Season (originally a film screenplay that was subsequently turned into a novel), A Spy in Amber (which was adapted into the Hindi film Shalimar), and Bandicoot Run (a detective thriller).
Malgonkar was utterly engrossed in history. Ravi Belagare, one of the last individuals to have interviewed him and translator of The Devil’s Wind and The Men Who Killed Gandhi into Kannada, has said, “Malgonkar was one of the Indian writers whose based their works on the British rule in India.” The Princes, about an Indian royal family, and A Bend in the Ganges are two of his greatest works. Malgonkar often drew inspiration from his own life, including his time spent serving in the British Indian Army during World War II, which served as the basis for his novel Distant Drum.
Malgonkar is most known for his historical novels, but he also penned nonfiction works Puars of Dewas Senior (1962) and Chhatrapatis of Kolhapur (1964). (1971). Malgonkar descended from a Maharashtrian royal family, and always found the Indian aristocracy fascinating. Malgonkar, formerly an avid shikari, later transitioned into an environmentalist, lending his support to organizations in the Karwar and Belgaum districts working to protect the Western Ghats since the 1990s.
The works of the author, whom RK Narayan called his “favorite Indian novelist in English,” were also translated into several European tongues. “a writer who has not yet achieved full critical acclaim as a notable Indo-English novelist,” writes A Padmanabhan in his book The Fictional World of Manohar Malgonkar. Considered as a whole, his novels and short tales show that he is deeply engaged in the social life of India. He was a farmer, mine owner, explorer, big-game hunter, and serving in the military during World War II. When he was older, he began a career in journalism and eventually turned to novel writing. History, romance, and the military all find their way into his novels, just as they did into his life. Numerous European languages now boast translations of his writings. In 1965, he was recognized as “one of India’s most flamboyant storytellers” in a New York Times article. Manohar Malgonkar’s most well-known works have illustrious historical subjects and serve as symbols of his extensive storytelling abilities in bringing past events to life on a contemporary stage. Manohar Malgonkar’s other seminal works, such as A devil’s Wind (1972) and A Bend in the Ganges (1964), include the full expressions of his creative and aesthetic sensibilities. Currently, the author is alone in a remote part of India’s Karnataka state.