The Great Indian Novel is a satirical novel by Shashi Tharoor. It is a fictional work that takes the story of the Mahabharata, the epic of Hindu mythology, and recasts and resets it in the context of the Indian Independence Movement and the first three decades post-independence. Figures from Indian history are transformed into characters from mythology, and the mythical story of India is retold as a history of Indian independence and subsequent history, up through the 1980s. The work includes numerous puns and allusions to famous works about India, such as those by Rudyard Kipling, Paul Scott, and E. M. Forster.
The Mahabharata is an epic tale describing the historical dynastic struggle over the throne of the kingdom of Hastinapur between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, two branches of the heirs of the king Shantanu. In this novel, Tharoor recasts the story of the nascent Indian democracy as a struggle between groups and individuals closely related by their personal and political histories. Through his cantankerous narrator, Tharoor takes an irreverent tone towards figures such as Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, who are ordinarily treated with reverence by Indians.
The phrase "great Indian novel" is an allusion to the long-standing idea of the "Great American Novel" and is also a pun, roughly translating "Mahabharata" (maha "great"; Bharata "India"). The Mahabharata, which is not a novel but an epic poem, can be understood, according to Tharoor, to represent Hinduism's greatest literary achievement and thus serves as an appropriate paradigm in which to frame a retelling of recent Indian history.
A significant characteristic of Tharoor's version of the story is the emphasis on the older generations (e.g., Bhishma, Dhritarashtra, and Pandu) and the resulting de-emphasis on the actions of the Kauravas and the Pandavas.
Indians are proud of two things: the great epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana and the freedom movement. And Shashi Tharoor has done a brilliant job by mixing these two together in his one-of-a-kind novel, The Great Indian Novel.
"Nothing [can] prepare us for the breathtaking quality of its brilliance.... [R]everberates with wit and the author's obvious delight in writing it.... Shashi Tharoor has indeed written the Great Indian Novel."
By Kislay Verma
The Great Indian Novel (TGIN) is a satirical/historical novel by Shashi Tharoor. It was first published by Viking Press on 24 August, 1989. The name of the book is a reference to the Mahabharata (literally – “Great India”) by Ved Vyas which is the longest epic in the world.
I\'d actually give this book 4.5 stars or 9 out of 10. I only give 5\'s to books I\'m certain I will want to read again.
"An entertaining tour de force"
- Sunday Times