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Autobiography of an Unknown Indian

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  332 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
A new edition of the autobiographical account of Chaudhuri's first twenty-four years in Calcutta, which was originally published in 1951 by Macmillan.
Paperback, 610 pages
Published March 11th 2004 by Jaico Publishing House (first published 1951)
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Claire S
His masterpiece, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian (ISBN 0-201-15576-1), published in 1951, put him on the short list of great Indian English writers. He courted controversy in the newly independent India in the dedication of the book itself which ran thus:

“ To the memory of the British Empire in India,

Which conferred subjecthood upon us,
But withheld citizenship.
To which yet every one of us threw out the challenge:
"Civis Britannicus sum"
Because all that was good and living within us
Was made
...more
Anil Swarup
This voluminous presentation by Nirad Babu is much more than his autobiography. The book leaves the reader in no doubt about the levels of erudition that the author had achieved and his command over the English language. First half of the book deals with his personal life and is the more difficult part from reader's perspective. His elaborate description of the days spent in the village and then his ruminations about what he found in Kolkata are perhaps for the purists and not a casual reader. H ...more
Anurag
Sep 24, 2015 Anurag rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
This once controversial book now appears to be a must-read to understanding the extent of Indian colonialism. Although it is dedicated to the memories of British empire, it is hardly an account of railways, town halls or the administrative paraphernalia - things that we attribute India's modernity to. It is an account of the Indian ambiguity towards the empire's legacy.

The account is beautiful in the way Chaudhuri's life is intertwined with that of the Raj. His excitement about Queen Victoria c
...more
Sean de la Rosa
More than 500 pages of autobiographical work on the life of Nirad Chaudhuri, an unknown Indian born in 1897 in Kishorganj, a small town in present Bangladesh.

For the book: it relays wonderful facts, tales, myths and superstitions about India in the early twentieth century. He also refers to the works of Ghandi and Tagore quite a bit which I enjoyed.

Against the book: I found Chaudhuri patronizing in places with the endless use of unnecessarily long words and quotes in French and German with no
...more
Tom Leland
Very rare that I don't finish a book -- perhaps 10 times in 30 years; I now know much about growing up in Bengal (now Bangladesh) at turn of 20th century, but other than that I couldn't muster interest for this chronicle of his life/study of his people and their theologies. Word choice is often odd to me, and it's old enough that I'm sure much has changed - and since I'm not bent on getting into Indian life of the last 50 years or so, which would help me understand what's transpired since this b ...more
Srikanth
Jan 29, 2014 Srikanth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a Magnum opus in the real sense, I wish i had any other word to convey the meaning. It isnt exactly his story but a story of his surroundings also. A brutally honest in your face book.I say that anyone who loves his country will have the balls to write about her fallacies which Nirad has done. Tit bits like how sarojini naidu refused to give back the costly pen, that she signed an autograph. He was the right man at the right places at the right turn of events. A must read. Good english ...more
Mohit Sharma
Mar 09, 2014 Mohit Sharma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nirad Chaudhari clearaly has great behavioural insight. Although he gives some form of historical perspective most of the book revolves around the author's young life and how his surroundings affected his views and thoughts. It's indeed a fascinating read if you're interested in the social and political stratum around early 20th century.

Here's my favorite quote from this book "I understood the life around me better, not from love, which everybody acknowledges to be a great teacher, but from est
...more
Gregory
Feb 20, 2009 Gregory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful account of growing up in mid 20th century India, from the dynamics of family life in rural villages to the political dynamics during the time of Gandhi. The first half, concerning childhood, was especially entertaining for me, and I happily soaked up every little detail about a family life that differed so much from my own.
Soumya
Sep 13, 2015 Soumya rated it liked it
A complex mind, a declared anglophile, an encyclopedic, a historian with penchant for objectivity and a tendency to ruffle feathers - Nirad C. Chaudhuri represents all of these. His voracious criticism of the national movement from 1905, the English in India and life in Calcutta and his views on Indian nationalism and history can interest people as well as enrage less liberal minds. He was a strange contrast of a man who fell in love with the Bengali countryside and yet looked at England as the ...more
Omar Ali
Jun 11, 2016 Omar Ali rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read book. Nirad Choudhry is politically incorrect and turns some people off, but he is a master writer, he is hugely intelligent, he is very observant and he is terrifyingly honest, about himself and about everyone else. I just started reading this book again, and I am liking it much more than when i first read it as a young man. I guess Nirad Choudhry has not changed, but I have. A little.
Tarun
Sep 18, 2014 Tarun rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The quality of writing is superb. Nirad C. Chaudhuri style reminds me of the English of India's founding fathers. His grasp on the language is unwavering.That said, I couldn't finish the book. The first half was quite interesting but my desire to go on petered out somewhere after the middle.
Pankaj Sharma
May 29, 2016 Pankaj Sharma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me one year to finish this.description of his early life is excellent.later it dragged a bit .reading was tedious as I had to take help of dictionary but his flow of writing and first hand account of events was mesmerising.
Tamanjit Bindra
3.8 Forcing a 4. The book is just about bearable in the first half (40% to be precise). The author tries to talk about his childhood and the virginity of the Bengal semi urban state. Its all nice but kind of becomes irritating.
I was recommended this book because of the book covering the unfolding of the Indian National Movement from a common man's perspective. In this regard the book really picks up pace in the second half. Where the background is sightly more urban (Kolkata) for my taste and t
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Karan
Jul 22, 2012 Karan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Boring, partial and very descriptive. It was one of the books I loved even before I began reading it, but have been slowly and reluctantly grind into a critic.
Nirad Chaudhuri comes across as one of the foremost intellectuals of the country, but his overly descriptive writing style (which I suspect springs out of his desire to make this a historical record of the times and places that he lived in) and his unsubstantiated deductions (often right wing, though I do not consider myself an anti right
...more
Dr.J.G.
One sees almost a double vision - some things are new, and some one wonders why the writer is being obtuse about, some tell about his times, his life, and some about him.
Carol Harrison
This book was strong and interesting when the author stuck to the promise of the title: "Autobiography". Unfortunately he used the last quarter of the book, plus parts of the rest, to explain Indian history, expound his viewpoints, and analyze Bengali society of the time he was writing (late 1940s). Some of this would have been fine--it's just that there was too much. I couldn't finish it, though I had enjoyed the first parts.
Dayanand Prabhu
May 27, 2013 Dayanand Prabhu rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book should probably be renamed as 'The Autobiography of a arrogant Bengali'. This book starts out beautifully with the spot on description of a Indian village. After that it doesnt live up to it expectations at all. The author rambles on and on and what surprises you is how the authors 'India' is consistently restricted only to Bengal.
Shelagh Plunkett
Jun 27, 2013 Shelagh Plunkett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A delight to read, this book offers insight into the everyday lives of South Asians disrupted by the 1947 partitioning of India.
Aniket
May 17, 2011 Aniket rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Till now Addictive.
Manish Katyal
Oct 03, 2012 Manish Katyal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic.
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Nirad C. Chaudhuri (Bangla: নীরদ চনদর চৌধুরী Nirod Chôndro Choudhuri) was a BengaliEnglish writer and cultural commentator. He was born in 1897 in Kishoreganj, which today is part of Bangladesh but at that time was part of Bengal, a region of British India.

He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award, in 1975 for his biography on Max Müller called Scholar Extraordinary, by the Sahitya Akademi, India's
...more
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