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Untouchable

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3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  2,584 Ratings  ·  212 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. This 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.
Paperback, Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics Series, 160 pages
Published July 3rd 1990 by Penguin Books (first published 1935)
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LitaVore A young boy from one of the lower branches of the untouchables of India, and his family, struggledt to find his identity in a society that hates him…moreA young boy from one of the lower branches of the untouchables of India, and his family, struggledt to find his identity in a society that hates him and his modest aspirations to find joy.(less)

Community Reviews

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Samadrita
It amuses me to no end how there has been no perceivable ebb in the flow of Holocaust-World War II novels and yet every time a Toni Morrison and an Alice Walker and a Richard Wright and a Ralph Ellison have tried to address the elephant in the room or America's endemic race problem which like a many-headed monster continues to rampage on unvanquished, they have been accused of betraying an overt political mindedness and a violation of that much harped upon maxim of 'art for art's sake.'
"Oh Toni
...more
Petra Eggs
This is only a short book and the first two-thirds are quite interesting - 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. It is true that flush lavatories would solve the problem for the toilet-cleaning caste, but it is hardly a solution for the Untouchables, no matter what name Gandhi gave them.

Part of the problem of the Untouchable caste is that it isn't actually a problem at all for anyone who
...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
Anushka
I almost feel guilty for not liking this book.

It's about my country and one of the gravest problems it has faced (and continues to), the atrocious caste system and from which arose the worst possible outcome - untouchability. I did feel pitiful and sympathetic towards the character but I did not like the book which is mostly because I didn't like the narration so much. The writing, at best, is average and the story just tumbles down somewhere in the last 20 pages.

This book does its job of rousin
...more
Mike Clinton
Feb 12, 2013 Mike Clinton rated it really liked it
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
Nov 29, 2009 Lisa rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
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
May 17, 2009 Neha rated it it was ok
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
Radhika
Jan 23, 2012 Radhika rated it really liked it
I have written a book review on this book.
Can find it on my blog- silentlywescream.blogspot.com
Hope that helps :)
Mackenzie Griffin
Jan 15, 2015 Mackenzie Griffin rated it really liked it
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
Book Wormy
Jun 27, 2014 Book Wormy rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1001-read
Untouchable Mulk Raj Anand
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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 a
...more
Simon Wood
Sep 08, 2013 Simon Wood rated it really liked it
THE LOWEST OF THE LOW. . .

Mulk Raj Anands 1935 novel sympatheticaly portrays a day in the life of Bakha who as a sweeper and latrine-cleaner is on the lowest rung of Indias caste system. Written simply and directly it captures the many humiliations, trials and tribulations that Bakha and his father, younger brother and sister experience at the hands of higher caste Hindus.

It's a relatively short but enlightening read and vividly creates the atmosphere of the times and place for this reader at a
...more
Lauren
Dec 18, 2012 Lauren rated it liked it
Shelves: 1305
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
Nov 19, 2012 Suhasini Srihari rated it really liked it
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!
Jessica
Where do I even start with this book? It was a brilliant example of the caste system, had some interesting ideas about British colonialism, and even more interesting ideas about religion.
HOWEVER, it took about ten pages to describe a woman getting water from a well? Literally nothing happened until the very end and that felt forced and cut short.
And why was the main character so obsessed with trousers?! I mean I know why! It explained why! BUT WHY IT WAS SO RIDICULOUS!
Preeti
Apr 09, 2015 Preeti rated it really liked it
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
Saravana Kumar
Mar 05, 2016 Saravana Kumar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Untouchables' tells us about a day in the life of a sweeper in pre-independence India. I am not sure if I should use the adjective 'pre-independence', because the picture this book presents transcends time. The picture is very similar to the life of a sweeper in today's India, although the caste discrimination might have assumed a modern form.
The author describes a beggar near a railway station as "She had a little child in her arms, another in a bag on her back, a third holding on to her skir
...more
Ratna
Nov 11, 2010 Ratna rated it really liked it
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
Jun 25, 2013 Radhika rated it really liked it
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
Saralovesbooks
3.5 Stars

Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand is a book full of heart wrenching and clenching fist moments.
It follows Bakha, a young Indian sweeper who belonged to the lower cast of hinduism, the 'Untouchables'. The story goes through the daily life of this man, showing the presence of multiple unfair and inhuman treats from society to him, his family and other untouchables.
+ As an assigned reading from school, my mindset reading this book was mainly analysis more than pleasure. This being said I high
...more
Aishath Shama
Jan 12, 2015 Aishath Shama rated it really liked it
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
Connie D
Jan 26, 2016 Connie D rated it really liked it
First of all, I have to say it's pretty awesome to have E. M. Forster write the preface for your book.

Briefly, this is the story of one day in the life of a young untouchable (latrine-cleaner, lowest caste of Hindu society). We experience all his emotions and all the abuse that is heaped on him and clearly see the horrors of the caste society, but it is much more interesting than that. We experience the teeming vibrancy of Indian life and the convoluted thoughts and feelings of a frustrated teen
...more
Arathi Mohan
Mar 17, 2015 Arathi Mohan rated it liked it
Shelves: india, fiction
A day in the life of a young untouchable (manual scavenger) in colonial India. Young Bakha rebels in the little ways that he can, despite knowing the futility of his struggles. He feels confused, frustrated and hurt by the aversion of high-caste people towards him. However, the book ends on hopeful note.
Sam
Nov 07, 2015 Sam rated it liked it
Shelves: tower-teams-iv, 2016
It's not a fast read even though the book is short...
Kayla
Jan 02, 2013 Kayla rated it liked it
Shelves: classics, india, 2013
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
abhishek  Chakraborty
Jun 28, 2015 abhishek Chakraborty rated it did not like it
The 'preface' of this book by E.M.Forster is a stunner! having read through this 4 pages long preface, I got this weird idea that Forster is up for making our life easy! First he proposes what a good novelist must do like not being "indescribably clean", "(not) going straight into the heart of its subject and purified it", and then he makes a distinctions between oriental and western novelists/readers, and goes on enumerating what Mulk Raj Anand's book lacks in a tongue-in-cheek manner! and fina ...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
Krishnakant Jonnalgadda
Mar 26, 2016 Krishnakant Jonnalgadda rated it really liked it
One of the strongest binding agents of human life is its ability to live in denial. The bubble becomes larger when it is coupled with oblivion. Caste discrimination has been a sad reality for centuries now. You really cannot dry clean the fabric of the society when it is blemished with the blood and sweat of the underprivileged.

The book 'Untouchable' holds nothing back and makes you eat the frog in the first few pages itself. The graphic description of the day in the life of a sweeper hits you a
...more
Mohammad Sabbir  Shaikh
Aug 02, 2015 Mohammad Sabbir Shaikh rated it really liked it
It's a great book. It is about a day in the life of an untouchable - Bakha. Halfway through the book the story seems ordinary, but the unthinkable ending takes it to another level.

Although, for the ones who are reading Mulkh Raj Anand’s book for the first time will be sort of disappointed. The author is known to use Hindustani words in his novels. But in this novel he has translated literal meanings of some words. So while reading, you will come across characters calling 'brother-in-law' to othe
...more
Marcy
Nov 28, 2014 Marcy rated it liked it
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
Priyanshu Mani
Jan 18, 2015 Priyanshu Mani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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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“Charat Singh was feeling kind, though he did not relax the grin which symbolized six thousand years of racial and class superiority.” 2 likes
“Oh, Maharaj! Maharaj! Won’t you draw us some water, please? We beg you. We have been waiting here a long time, we will be grateful,’ shouted the chorus of voices as they pressed towards him, some standing up, bending and joining their palms in beggary, others twisting their lips in various attitudes of servile appeal and abject humility as they remained seated. Either” 1 likes
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