Reading group: which book should we read to understand India's partition?

To mark the 70th anniversary since India and Pakistan were divided, let’s explore the legacy of the bloody and tumultuous partition through a rich body of fiction

Indian partition was one of the hinge moments of the 20th century. The midnight division of British India into India and Pakistan, on 14-15 August 1947, changed everything. It caused one of the largest mass migrations ever, the death of more than one million people, and political turmoil that remains unresolved. Partition has had huge and ongoing consequences that are still not properly understood or even acknowledged here in Britain. It is also an event that is almost impossible to fathom: millions of lives changed forever, homes lost and lands transformed over night.

Fortunately, many writers have helped explain the partition and its aftermath – and we’re going to look at one of them this month on the reading group.

In the English-speaking world, the most obvious choice is Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, a wonderful, rich and humane novel that is safe to call a classic. But there are many other fine books to choose from, including near-contemporary and tightly focused blasts of anger such as Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan, great epics like Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas, books about Bengali identity such as Qurratulain Hyder’s Fireflies in the Mist, vital female perspectives like those in Bapsi Sidhwa’s Cracking India, ambitious books about the diaspora like Amitav Ghosh’s Shadow Lines

As usual, I’m getting carried away with suggestions, when I really want to hear from you. Any ideas about books that can help us understand partition and post-1947 India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are very welcome.

If you’re looking for ideas, there are some fine reflections from writers such as Rushdie and Kamila Shamsie here. There are also some good suggestions with extracts here. And here is an excellent list of books with a female perspective.

To nominate a book, post its title and author in the comments. If you want to briefly explain your choice, so much the better. I’ll put the nominations into a hat in a few days and we’ll read the chosen book in September.

Contributor

Sam Jordison

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Reading group: Shame by Salman Rushdie is September's book
To mark the anniversary of Indian partition, we’ll be looking at a novel that may not as famous as some of his books but promises to be just as energetic

Sam Jordison

05, Sep, 2017 @12:35 PM

Article image
Reading group: which funny book should we read this month?
Terry Pratchett, PG Wodehouse, Muriel Spark, Beryl Bainbridge ... we want to start 2019 with a laugh, so nominate a book here

Sam Jordison

01, Jan, 2019 @9:00 AM

Article image
Salman Rushdie's Shame is unembarrassed about its daring
From the giddying digressions and fabulous detail of its first paragraph, this novel makes no secret of its vaulting ambition

Sam Jordison

12, Sep, 2017 @9:00 AM

Article image
Reading group: which fun book should we read in September?
As the world grows more serious, we’re dedicating next month to reading that will entertain and amuse. Nominate your choice below

Sam Jordison

27, Aug, 2019 @12:01 PM

Article image
Rushdie's Shame is about 70s Pakistan, but it speaks directly to us, now
The antic fairytale of billionaires and ‘badmashes’ is rooted in the details of a time that might sound remote, but it reads with startling immediacy

Sam Jordison

19, Sep, 2017 @12:04 PM

Article image
Reading group: which Beryl Bainbridge book should we read in October?
The many times she came close to winning the Booker prize show how good a novelist she was. Please help decide which of her books we’ll read this month

Sam Jordison

04, Oct, 2016 @8:15 AM

Article image
Reading group: which Doris Lessing book should we read in October?
This month marks the centenary of the British-Zimbabwean’s birth, and we’re celebrating her remarkable career. Help us choose a book

Sam Jordison

01, Oct, 2019 @12:54 PM

Article image
Reading group: which Margaret Atwood book should we read this month?
The Handmaid’s Tale is the obvious choice but let’s discuss the other possibilities in a phenomenal body of work

Sam Jordison

02, Apr, 2019 @10:00 AM

Article image
Reading group: which HG Wells book should we read in September?
He’s the creative force behind The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine and even the foundation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Help us choose a book to tackle together by the ‘man who invented tomorrow’

Sam Jordison

06, Sep, 2016 @12:30 PM

Article image
Reading group: which book about migrants should we read in August?
Stories of people on the move were told in the classical era and animate some of the best new fiction. From Virgil to VS Naipaul, please choose a destination

Sam Jordison

30, Jul, 2019 @10:12 AM