The Great War: Indian Writings on the First World War

Editor | Non-Fiction

Rakhshanda Jalil brings together a collection of voices that reflect different perspectives of Indian thinkers and people on the Great War (Published by Bloomsbury, Price Rs 699).

It is very hard to endure the bombs, Father. It will be difficult for anyone to survive and come back safe and sound from the war. The son who is very lucky will see his father and mother…

(Extract from a letter by an Indian soldier serving in France, written on 14 January 1915 to his father)

The Great War, as the First World War was referred to, saw the service of over 1.3 million Indians, of whom 74,000 never made it back home. For their families, the War was something they could not fully fathom. Soldiers from the Indian subcontinent won over 12,908 awards for bravery, including 11 Victoria Crosses.

Yet this unprecedented show of valour by Indian soldiers remains largely unsung and unrecognised— particularly in India.

Commemorating hundred years of the end of the First World War, this volume brings together diverse voices              Rabindranath Tagore, Mulk Raj Anand, Sarojini Naidu, Mohamed Ali, Chandradhar Sharma Guleri and many more that reflect a variety of attitudes among Indians towards the War. Included too are Rakhshanda Jalil’s original translations of the works of Urdu poets of the time capturing their responses to the War.

This volume of writings, originally written in Urdu, Hindi, Bengali and English, attempts to recognise and remember the contribution of the unknown soldiers to the Great War.

About the author

Rakhshanda Jalil is a writer, critic and literary historian. She has published over fifteen books and written fifty and more academic papers and essays. Her book on the lesser known monuments of Delhi, Invisible City, continues to be a bestseller. Her recent works include: Liking Progress, Loving Change: A Literary History of the Progressive Writers’ Movement in Urdu (2014); a biography of Urdu feminist writer Dr Rashid Jahan, A Rebel and Her Cause (2014); a translation of The Sea Lies Ahead, Intizar Husain’s seminal novel on Karachi (2015); a translation of Krishan Chander’s partition novel Ghaddar (2017); an edited volume of critical writings on Ismat Chughtai titled An Uncivil Woman (2017); and most recently, a literary biography of the Urdu poet Shahryar. Dr Jalil runs the organisation Hindustani Awaaz, devoted to the popularisation of HindiUrdu literature and culture. Her debut collection of fiction, Release and Other Stories, published in 2011, had received critical acclaim. She was awarded the Kaifi Azmi Award for her contribution to Urdu.

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