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Meet Kunwar Narain: One of the Finest Writers of Modern Time

Kunwar Narain (1927-2017), an iconic figure in Indian literature. He is regarded as one of the finest writers and thinkers of modern time.


Kunwar Narain

He read widely, across literatures and disciplines, and blended an international sensibility with a grounding in Indian history and thought.

1960s, Lucknow Study

He has written in diverse genres of poetry and prose, including three epics recognised as classics of Indian literature, poems across eight collections, translations of poets like Cavafy, Borges, Herbert and Rózewicz, two short story collections, criticism, essays, memoirs, and writings on world cinema, ideas and the arts.

1980s, Lucknow Study

His oeuvre of seven decades, since his first book in 1956, has evolved continuously and embodies, above all, a unique interplay of the simple and the complex.

1950s, Kilbury Forest

After over five decades in Lucknow, where a major part of his writing was done, he moved to Delhi. Widely translated, his honours include the Sahitya Akademi Award; Kabir Samman; Warsaw University’s honorary medal; Italy’s Premio Feronia for distinguished world author; India’s civilian honour Padma Bhushan; the Senior Fellowship of India’s Academy of Letters; and the Jnanpith, India’s highest literary award.

2000s, Delhi Study

A reclusive presence, he has published selectively; some works remain unpublished.

1994, Venice

In vivid English translation for the first time, The Play of Dolls is a collection of Kunwar Narain’s short stories. These unusual short stories broke new ground and rejuvenated the genre when they appeared on the Indian literary landscape in 1971. The collection also offers valuable insight into what India’s struggle with social change looked like in the sixties.

1970s, Lucknow House Garden

The Play of Dolls is available now.

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