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Attia Hosain (1913–1998)

Författare till Sunlight on a Broken Column

6+ verk 313 medlemmar 7 recensioner 2 favoritmärkta

Om författaren

Inkluderar namnen: A. Hosain, Attia Hossin, Attia Hosainn

Foto taget av: Courtesy of

Verk av Attia Hosain

Sunlight on a Broken Column (1961) 198 exemplar
Phoenix Fled (1953) 93 exemplar
Cooking the Indian Way (1962) 16 exemplar
Indian cooking (1981) 1 exemplar

Associerade verk

Infinite Riches (1993) — Bidragsgivare — 54 exemplar
A Different Sound: Stories by Mid-Century Women Writers (2023) — Bidragsgivare — 20 exemplar


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I feel like I should have had more appreciation for a novel which feels like Jane Austen writing about India in the 1930s - possibly why the title was referenced in Austen spin-off Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal - but the whole story just dragged. The first half, about a young girl forced to live in purdah until her grandfather's death when she is catapulted into the changing but still confining social world of a country in political flux, seemed more concerned with class and etiquette than an actual plot.

Laila is the poor relative of a Taluqdar (landowner) family in Lucknow and lives a comfortable and traditional life but her cousins are on the side of the Muslim League, who want to oust the English and their upper caste Indian servants. There is a large cast of local characters, including entitled cousins and poor cousins, servants, the Indian aristocracy (rajas and ranis), a former courtesan and an English governess, and I did get a sense of a dilapidated family estate lost in time like a fly trapped in amber, but I kept expecting history to catch up with the plot and throw everything into chaos.

But no. The second part of the story jumps ahead nine years into the future, skipping Partition and a lot of key moments in the lives of the characters, only to have to summarise everything like a drawn out epilogue. The language is beautiful but I was bored, sorry.
… (mer)
AdonisGuilfoyle | 5 andra recensioner | Apr 6, 2022 |
Attia Hosain’s only novel, first published in 1961 is a classic novel of Muslim life, portraying the traditional feudal society into which Attia Hosain was born, in pre-partition days.
“Her greatest strength lies in her ability to draw a rich, full portrait of her society – ignoring none of its many faults and cruelties, and capable of including not only men and women of immense power and privilege but, to an equal extent, the poor who laboured as their servants. Perhaps the most attractive aspect of her writing is the tenderness she shows for those who served her family, an empathy for a class not her own”
(Anita Desai – in the introduction to the 1988 Virago Modern Classics edition)
Set mainly in Lucknow of the 1930’s, Sunlight on a Broken Column centres on Laila, the orphaned daughter of a distinguished Muslim family. As the novel opens fifteen year old Laila is living in her grandfather’s house, brought up by her two aunts, who observe purdah, alongside her cousin Zahra. Zahra is frivolous yet happy to submit to the traditional life mapped out for her, as the novel begins conversations around Zahra’s marriage have already begun. Baba Jan, Laila’s grandfather is a formidable figure, hugely respected the entire household is run around him, he is old and ill as the novel opens, and his eventual death brings change for Laila.
Soon Laila is living with her uncle Hamid – a “liberal” though a cold and autocratic figure. As Laila grows up and starts to attend university – she is surrounded by a variety of people; politics is very much on the agenda for many relatives and friends, though Laila herself is unable to commit herself to any one cause, but that of her own freedom. Uncle Hamid’s more liberal household, and Zahra’s marriage allows Laila access to a society that unmarried girls traditionally didn’t experience. In the younger generation of Laila’s friends and relatives we are able to see something of the future of India and the changes that are on the horizon. While in the characters of Laila’s aunts, Aunt Abida in particular, Attia Hosain has portrayed the traditional self-sacrificing obedient role that Laila struggles to understand.
“I think Destiny's purpose is merely to shock us at moments into a state of awareness; those moments are milestones in between which we have to find our own way.”
Laila is a girl with a strong spirit – her struggle for her own independence matching that of India herself. Hosain portrays the claustrophobia of this world and frustration felt by a forward thinking young woman to perfection.Brought up in a world where the traditional rules of obedience, honour and dishonour are more important than personal happiness and the feudal society is still controlling the lives of the servant class, Laila begins to pull against these traditional ways. Laila is horrified when ignorance prevents a servant woman’s family seeking medical help – desperately trying to save the woman Laila sends her to hospital – only it’s too late. In these “Taluqhdari” families – into which Attia Hosain herself was born in 1913 – the rules for the servant classes are just as harsh, maybe more so, the judgments upon a female servant seduced or preyed upon by a man, abysmally cruel.
The conclusion of the novel – is brilliant – as through Laila’s older eyes we see the changes that partition brought to families of this kind, the fracturing of households and the ending of a way of life.
Sunlight on a broken Column is an engaging and evocative story of traditional family life in the decade before partition ripped India apart. I am not sure how well this novel is known now, but it certainly deserves to be well known. I have enjoyed reading this novel so much, – and very much look forward to hearing how Liz and Karen – who have been reading this novel at around the same time as me – feel about it. I really now need to find myself a copy of Attia Hosain’s short stories, what a shame she only ever wrote one novel.
… (mer)
1 rösta
Heaven-Ali | 5 andra recensioner | Mar 19, 2014 |
An Indian partition and love story all in one, how can you go wrong? This is the one book that I loved from my "Modern Muslim South Asia" class in college. For a few years I only had a photocopied version of the whole book, and then I finally found a cheap, used version online. Yay!
purplehena | 5 andra recensioner | Mar 31, 2013 |



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