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Nayantara Sahgal Biography

(1927– ), Prison and Chocolate Cake, From Fear Set Free, A Time To Be Happy

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: M(acha)L(ouis) Rosenthal Biography to William Sansom [Norman Trevor Sansom] Biography

Indian memoirist, novelist, and political analyst, born in Allahabad, India, educated there and at Wellesley College, Massachusetts. The fascinating events that formed her intellect are chronicled in two autobiographical works, Prison and Chocolate Cake (1954) and From Fear Set Free (1963). Sahgal grew up in the heart of India's struggle for independence; her mother was Vijayalaxmi Pandit and her uncle the renowned Jawaharlal Nehru, and her childhood experiences were of political struggle, ideological debate, and even imprisonment. Her first novel, A Time To Be Happy (1958), attempts to deal with the concerns and sensibilities of an emergent post-colonial generation uneasily enthusiastic about the future and unable to dispense with the burden of the past. Many of her novels, including This Time of Morning (1966), Storm in Chandigarh (1969), and The Day in Shadow (1971), reflect Sahgal's intimate knowledge of the complex machinations of Indian politics and her abiding concern with the status of women in contemporary India. A Situation in New Delhi (1977) fictionalizes the aftermath of the death of Nehru. Rich Like Us (1985) intertwines the first-person narrative of an independent, strong-willed, and motivated woman with the story of a family's systematic eradication of the opponent—an ageing English-woman—in their midst; Plans For Departure (1986) imaginatively recreates the world of the Raj; and Mistaken Identity (1988) gives a richly entertaining account of an aristocratic family's struggle for independence.

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