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Untouchable

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  1,797 ratings  ·  135 reviews
Bakha is a young man, proud and even attractive, yet none the less he is an outcast in India's caste system: an Untouchable. In deceptively simple prose this groundbreaking novel describes a day in the life of Bakha, sweeper and toilet-cleaner, as he searches for a meaning to the tragic existence he has been born into - and comes to an unexpected conclusion. Mulk Raj Anand ...more
Paperback, 169 pages
Published June 2003 by Mehta Publishing House (first published 1935)
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Mummy
This was some tedious reading. It's only a short book and the first two-thirds isn't too bad - a day in the life of a downtrodden Untouchable latrine cleaner and his rat-eating family. The preaching of the last third rather spoiled it though.

Part of the problem of the Untouchable caste is that it isn't actually a problem at all for anyone who isn't Untouchable, in fact it's desirable to have them. Since they, the pariahs of society, do all the work that no one else wants to do, and at minimum wa
...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Forget about Batman, Superman or the Hulk. They are all just comic book super heroes. This is the real deal. Enlarge the picture in the book's cover so you can get a good look at him, the photo courtesy of the India Office Library and Records. A flesh and blood Untouchable with god-given superhuman powers. Here are some amazing things he is capable of:

1. He can part a throng of people with just the words: "Posh, posh, sweeper coming!" as he comes carrying his broom (cf. Moses with his stick, par
...more
Mike Clinton
Written in 1935, this novel is told from the perspective of Bakha, a sweeper, of the lowest level of the outcaste Untouchables. It has a message that gets presented through a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of Bakha as a complex human being with limits and aspirations. He clearly strives to attain a life beyond his station, adopting Western dress from the second-hand and discarded motley of British military clothing that he wears and even his style of sleeping. Still, the attitudes and behaviors ...more
Lisa
Just 157 pages and one day in the life of eighteen year old Bakha, a "sweeper" in charge of cleaning three rows of public latrines on the edge of his town. He is an Untouchable.

Bakha starts his day working "earnestly, quickly, without loss of effort". He dreams of the day he will be able to do the work of his father, the head of all the local sweepers and who is responsible for cleaning the streets of the town and the temple courtyard. His wish is fulfilled that very day when his father becomes
...more
Neha
I have been reading this book for past one year and finished it only today. Reading in between the time when I finished other books and was getting a new one, I had to recall whatever happened till the pages I had read. so we can conclude that this book didn't leave much of an impression on my mind or memory. anyways I read it because I wanted to read a book by Mulk raj Anand and moreover the topic seemed quite a different one than the usual ones. It talks about a day in the life of an untouchab ...more
Lauren
I would highly recommend this book but I cannot seem to give it more than 3 stars.

I think that has to do with the GR rating system and the words that pop up. I didn't really like it, I certainly didn't love it. It was not just okay and my sentiments are not that I didn't like it. I can't even say that I liked it. More or less I found the subject matter to be interesting but not really enjoyable. The concept of "untouchables" has bothered me for quite some time and reading a novel in which one i
...more
Suhasini Srihari
Mulk Raj Anand has used simple english to ask an effective question through the narration of a story. The text probes the readers to question as who were the actual tyrants, the British or our very own people who were socalled 'upper-caste'? The protagonist, Baku encounters various injustuce done to him and he is the depiction of the whole race of the then called 'lower-caste' people. It was a nice read overall!
Radhika
I have written a book review on this book.
Can find it on my blog- silentlywescream.blogspot.com
Hope that helps :)
Book Wormy
Untouchable Mulk Raj Anand


Penguin Paperback 157 pages

Untouchable is the story of a day in the life of Bakha a member of the Hindu caste of Untouchables. Bakha is a sweeper which means he cleans the streets and latrines so that the "clean" Hindus do not have to worry about there own waste.

Because touching Bakha would make a Hindu "polluted" he must announce his presence at all times by calling out sweeper coming, so that the other castes can avoid him.

As a caste Untouchables are not allowed to ge
...more
Kelly V
Feb 19, 2009 Kelly V rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people curious about the Indian caste system
Slice-of-life vignettes can be good or bad, mostly depending on how much you get drawn into the character. In Untouchable, we see one day's worth of one 18-year-old Untouchable's experiences in Gandhi-era India. And I at least got totally drawn in. Bakha is a sweeper--someone who cleans latrines among other things--and considered the lowest of the low, where even the other Untouchables shun him. For the most part he accepts this as a part of life. After all, that's how he was raised. But several ...more
Priyanshu Mani
The book describes the kind of untouchability which was earlier practiced in India in stark detail. There are some areas in the book where the author very expertly describes the kind of thoughts which occupy teenagers, the simple desires of clothes, delicacies, food, love and respect. These desires are even more difficult for Bakha (the protagonist) to handle as it is not because of his volition that he does not get these things but because he is an outcast (an untouchable sweeper) who only gets ...more
Anita Pomerantz
Untouchable is an interesting peek into the life of one "untouchable", Bakha, through his eyes during the time span of a single day. To say his life is rough and pretty much hopeless would be an understatement. He cleans latrines and spends his days working very hard and begging. Anand shows the reader the many trials and travails these folks faced, and it's painful. In one instance, Bakha inadvertently touches someone from a higher caste, and the tumult that ensues is just awful. Sort of the wa ...more
Marcy
This is quite a powerful novel. In some ways it reminds me of James Weldon Johnson's Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man>/> or perhaps a slave narrative like Frederick Douglass' autobiography. It has that tenor and is a contemporary of New Negro Movement literature. I found that following the thought processes of Bhaka, the protagonist, both heart-wrenching and powerful. Anand did a terrific job showing what it feels like to be forever being told that your mere existence is "polluting". To ...more
Mackenzie Griffin
My To-Read books:
1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
2. The Shining by Stephen King
3. The Notebook by Nicolas Sparks
4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
6. Perfume by Patrick Suskind
7. The boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
8. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
9. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
10. Carrie by Stephen King

My first book love book this year was "Untouchable", written by Mulk Raj Anand. I choose this novel to help me better understand our
...more
Kayla
Untouchable is one of those 'day in the life' books, in this case it's the day in the life of an 18 year old sweeper named Bahka living in colonial India.

Being a sweeper, Bahka's status in society is the lowest of the low - he actually has to call out and warn people of his approach, lest they accidentally touch him and pollute themselves. Throughout the day, Bahka is subjected to endless abuse and humiliation, but a life of conditioning makes it difficult for him to truly express and act on his
...more
Ratna
This book is a rare glimpse into the Hindu society of India before 1950's. A graphic tale of a social evil that will forever prick the collective conscience of our country. The story of an eventful day in the life of Bakha; an untouchable, someone living at the fringes of the Hindu society.

Bakha is a young man with zest for life, yet struggling as a latrine cleaner. A profession that places him among the lower most rung of Hindu hierarchy. On this eventful day everything that could go wrong goes
...more
Radhika
A thought provoking wonderful prose by Mr Mulk Raj Anand. Untouchability is so deep rooted in the Indian society that we can still see the effects of it on the fringes of modern India. On the face of it everyone acts that they do not discriminate, but where do we go with a century of psyche and conditioned mind that lived in the society where caste system is still rampant.Change is coming but slowly and that is what I liked about this book, the author was able to bring out the subject and show h ...more
Aishath Shama
Through the story Untouchable, Mulk Raj Anand gives a rare glimpse at the social evil deeply rooted within the Hindu society during the pre-independent India. At the core of the novel it brings forth the many injustices faced by the outcaste societies on a daily basis and the hypocrisy and dehumanizing attitude towards the low caste people by the upper class Hindus. Mulk Raj Anand also highlights the impact of the industrial technology introduced by the British into India on the attitudes and id ...more
Niradhip
Untouchability was a serious concern during pre independence. Mulk Raj Anad has portrayed the hitches of casteism through Bakha’s eyes. The idea was good but somehow I felt the overall story writing is bit monotonous. Even though the intent is good and character formation justify the crisis neatly but the story is not self driven and it’s required lots of effort from reader side to go through and complete the story. I also feel Gandhi’s touch at the later part of the story can be handled in a be ...more
Joe
I don't know nearly enough about Indian literature to read this with nuance but to finish up a paper a reviewer noted I check this out. Here's some initial efforts to get a hold on it:

Untouchable follows a day in the life of Bakha, a young latrine cleaner and member of the untouchable caste hovering between a desire for the play of childhood, liberation from his condition via imitation of British colonial culture (he's obsessed with clothes), and a more politically conscious adulthood. As in mu
...more
Kristel
Published: 1935

Tags/Categories: Indian author, 1001 books, social commentary, India, caste system, Hindu

Review: This is a short read that depicts a day in the life of a young 18 y/o man of the lowest caste in India. While this was not a thrilling novel to read I found it interesting and also uncomfortable. I never realized how difficult life for an untouchable was. What a system which really is a system of bullying. It appeared to me that an untouchable did all the work no one else wanted to do
...more
Preeti
It is comfortably easy to argue against the practice of untouchability when one isn't at the receiving end. Mulk Raj Anand erases that gulf and puts the reader right into the uncomfortable and worn down ammunition shoes of Bakha, an eighteen year old manual scavenger. The book is relatively short, accounting for only a day in Bakha's life. And Anand ensures that a single day is enough.

The arguments against the practice normally revolve around the socio-economic (and sometimes, political) aspect
...more
Sundeep Supertramp


The original review of this book is posted on my blog...

If you want to read the original review, click here...


Foreword:

In my spree of reading more Indian books than international authors, I have read a quite a wide array of books. Most of them were love stories. IITians. IIMs. Contemporary college romances. Some chic-lits. Then came intense stories and authors, like Amitav Ghosh, R. K. Narayan. With Narayan came Mulk Raj Anand.

A line in the author's introduction in this book goes like this,

"...
...more
Sankrutyayan
After being connected to R.K.Narayan's portrayal of simple,naive characters of South India. It was not so hard to droop a little in the hierarchy of Indian class system. The characters were so alive as all the swear words and proverbs were directly translated into English. Narrator took so small of a gesture and molded it into a significant thing to contemplate about. He wants us to notice how there will be considerable amount of good and bad in every person. This has been justified when Bakha l ...more
Diksha
Aug 01, 2014 Diksha rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who enjoy old Indian literature
Recommended to Diksha by: a book salesman with a wandering eye
It is not exactly a pleasure for me to review books on a public platform. However, I feel inclined to share my experience reading Mulk Raj Anand's 'Untouchable' with the future and current readers of the book.

I shall begin by saying that the subject of untouchability is very close to my heart. Being a descendant of those previously called 'untouchables', I bought this book and expected it to strike some chords deep within my psyche. That did not happen, sadly.

Maybe it's because of my low IQ bu
...more
Literary Relish
Whether I appreciated this novella and social commentary from Anand all the more for having visited the country previously and having had a fraction of that poverty thrust before my eyes I don’t know. An important point, albeit a laboured one, is being made here and is one that many would do well to listen to nowadays, with the problem of caste discrimination still rife.

Although both the characters and setting of Bakha’s day is at times so vivid you can smell the dung steaming off the streets, l
...more
John
A day in the life of an Untouchable. The writing comes across as a bit stilted, but ultimately Anand seems to think that Ghandi and modernization might help rectify the issues of the underclass in India. In all kind of a strange little book, I'm interested to see what my incredibly smart prof has to say.
Shubham Dabas
I'll remember this book for the insights it gave me into the problem of untouchablity. Also for the great pity that Anand evokes for his protagonist. Otherwise, purely as a novel, I didn't like it much. The book itself was short but still it seemed stretched, the descriptions were, many times, tardy and often Anand's over use of adjectives was irritating. The story ran for just one day in the life of Bakha the sweeper. All those incidents, of great importance in Bakha's life, being compressed in ...more
Rebecca
Absolutely haunting. I've read books about segregation and the Holocaust, but not sure I've ever read a book with such classism where merely touching someone of a higher caste, even accidentally, is such a mortal sin. Bakha is aware enough to question his society, but so weighted down that he doesn't know how to fight it. Three options for improving the lot of the untouchables are presented; without spoiling it let's just say the third option, which is the most pragmatic, may be the most surpris ...more
Ajay Gautam
There are two aspects of this book.
One is the story of a day in the life of the main character Bakha, the young, Untouchable boy. The story is presented in a good way (if not the best way). Backha goes through the day juggling through different emotions. Sad, Angry, Happy, Depressed and still goes on with his life. I salute him :)

Other aspect is the Social System of Untouchability presented in the book.
And as surprising as it may sound, it is still in practice after 81 years of the first print o
...more
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Mulk Raj Anand was an Indian writer in English, notable for his depiction of the lives of the poorer castes in traditional Indian society. One of the pioneers of Indo-Anglian fiction, he, together with R. K. Narayan, Ahmad Ali and Raja Rao, was one of the first India-based writers in English to gain an international readership. Anand is admired for his novels and short stories, which have acquired ...more
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