There are 42 critical essays on Anita Desai.
Critical Essays on Anita Desai
Critical Essay by Jasbir Jain
9,565 words, approx. 32 pages
In the following overview of Desai's works, Jain focuses on what he considers her "primary preoccupation": "The absurdity of human life, with the existential search for meaning in it and the inability of men to accept a religious solution."
Critical Essay by Rajeswari Mohan
9,447 words, approx. 32 pages
In the following essay, Mohan explores the effects of English literary studies on the subjectivities of the postcolonial urban Indian middle class in Desai's works, suggesting that the unspoken gendered and imperialist premises of colonial culture limit the potential and aesthetic growth of the colonized.
Critical Essay by Cindy Lacom
7,067 words, approx. 24 pages
In the following essay, Lacom examines the social contexts and ideologies of disabled characters in Clear Light of Day and Fatima Gallaire-Bourega's You Have Come Back, demonstrating the relationship between postcolonial and feminist studies and disabled persons.
Critical Essay by Katharine Capshaw Smith
5,989 words, approx. 20 pages
In the following essay, Smith contrasts the experiences of the imprisoned protagonist of Baumgartner's Bombay with the similar autobiographical account of Heinrich Harrar in Seven Years in Tibet, demonstrating not only the historical veracity of Desai's representation but also its effects on the development of Baumgartner's conflicted character.
Critical Essay by Bharati A. Parikh
5,908 words, approx. 20 pages
In the following essay, Parikh compares the treatment of female relationships in Toni Morrison's fiction with that in Desai's novels, emphasizing the alienation experienced by the characters in their respective cultures.
Critical Essay by Richard Cronin
5,896 words, approx. 20 pages
In the essay below, Cronin examines Desai's treatment of India and Indian life and culture in such works as The Village by the Sea, Fire on the Mountain, and Clear Light of Day.
Critical Essay by Tony Simoes da Silva
5,411 words, approx. 18 pages
In the following essay, da Silva focuses on the use of an Indian setting in Baumgartner's Bombay to represent the protagonist's existential crisis, contending that colonial appropriation of Indian cultural values persists in the postcolonial novel.
Critical Essay by Seema Jena
4,891 words, approx. 16 pages
In the following essay, Jena surveys Desai's early novels, highlighting the mental development of the female characters in terms of the patriarchal Indian family structure.
Critical Essay by Judie Newman
4,629 words, approx. 15 pages
In the essay below, Newman examines "the relation between discourse and history" in Baumgartner's Bombay.
Critical Essay by Pippa Brush
4,616 words, approx. 15 pages
In the following essay, Brush examines Desai's articulation of the largely neglected European emigrant to India in Baumgartner's Bombay, emphasizing the multiple marginalization of the protagonist's character.
Critical Essay by Shyam M. Asnani
3,180 words, approx. 11 pages
In the essay below, Asnani examines the themes of "alienation and incommunication" in Where Shall We Go This Summer?, stating that Desai's "fiction grapples with the intangible realities of life."
Critical Essay by Minoli Salgado
3,131 words, approx. 10 pages
In the following essay, Salgado analyzes the ways the individual stories of Games at Twilight question not only the concept of epiphany but also the potential for spiritual awareness in general, suggesting that Desai treats this culturally transcendent phenomenon within a culturally specific context.
Critical Essay by Ramachandra Rao
2,989 words, approx. 10 pages
In the essay below, Rao focuses on the short story collection Games at Twilight to examine Desai's "obsessive concern with the 'existential' problems of her characters and the continuity of theme which characterizes her work."
Critical Essay by K. Chellappan
2,907 words, approx. 10 pages
In the following essay, Chellappan examines existential themes of "being and becoming" in Where Shall We Go This Summer?, contrasting the work to The Ramayana and Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse.
Critical Review by Shouri Daniels
2,249 words, approx. 8 pages
In the generally positive review below, Daniels discusses the themes, characterization, and narrative structures in Clear Light of Day.
Critical Review by Brijraj Singh
2,057 words, approx. 7 pages
In the positive review of Clear Light of Day below, Singh discusses Indian elements in the novel as well as the themes of memory and familial relationships.
Critical Review by Gabriele Annan
1,838 words, approx. 6 pages
In the following review, Annan discusses Fasting, Feasting within the context of contemporary Anglo-Indian literature, focusing on its characterization and themes.
Critical Review by Shiv K Kumar
1,754 words, approx. 6 pages
In the following negative review of Desai's prose fiction, which was published in response to Singh's review above, Kumar concentrates on the short story collection Games at Twilight, stating that "I wish to explain why Desai fails to engage the reader's interest."
Critical Review by Caroline Moore
1,571 words, approx. 5 pages
Below, Moore offers a mixed review of Journey to Ithaca, stating that the novel "may not be Anita Desai's best book; but I suspect it will prove her most memorable."
Critical Review by Shirley Chew
1,204 words, approx. 4 pages
In the following review, Chew assesses the familial subject matter of Fasting, Feasting, implicating the text in the perpetuation of patriarchal society.
Critical Review by Gabriele Annan
1,154 words, approx. 4 pages
In the following mixed review of Journey to Ithaca, Annan faults the narrative for being full of "gaps and improbabilities," but praises Desai's sincerity and even-handedness.
Critical Review by Paul West
1,134 words, approx. 4 pages
West is a British novelist and critic. Below, he praises Baumgartner's Bombay, calling Desai a "superb observer of the human race."
Critical Review by Gabriele Annan
1,050 words, approx. 4 pages
In the review of Clear Light of Day below, Annan discusses characterization and plot, concluding that the ending of the book is too explicit.
Critical Review by Richard Bernstein
1,030 words, approx. 3 pages
In the generally positive review below, Bernstein comments on plot, themes, and characterization in Journey to Ithaca.
Critical Review by Sarah Curtis
988 words, approx. 3 pages
In the following review, Curtis compares the themes and characters of Diamond Dust to other works by Desai.
Critical Review by Shyamala A. Narayan
771 words, approx. 3 pages
In the following review, Narayan prefers the stories set abroad in Diamond Dust to those set in India, objecting to the latter's discomfiting perspective on contemporary Indian society and inappropriate use of Indian idiom.
Critical Essay by Katherine Paterson
731 words, approx. 2 pages
Clear Light of Day is about the journey backward and inward of two sisters, their exploration of what it means to be part of a family, to draw "from the same soil, the same secret darkness." It is a book about shared memory, how often it divides and deceives, but how, sometimes, miraculously, it heals and unites. Nearly all the action of this book takes place within the confines of the dusty house and garden of the Das family. Tara's visit [to her childhood home in Old Delhi] is the fra...
Critical Review by Rosemary Dinnage
683 words, approx. 2 pages
In the following excerpt, Dinnage comments on the "relentlessly dark" tone of Baumgartner's Bombay, calling it "the most pessimistic, but perhaps the most powerful" of Desai's works.
Critical Essay by Anne Tyler
625 words, approx. 2 pages
[Anita Desai's] work is known for its texture and for its ability to place us solidly within any scene, however foreign. She constructs her plots with infinite care, relying less upon physical events than upon a mosaic of details, thoughtfully selected and arranged. In "Clear Light of Day," she describes the airless, stagnant, dreamlike lives of a decaying family in post-partition India; and she draws us into these lives by giving her story an unusual shape. Appropriately, this is a boo...
Critical Review by Frederick Luis Aldama
606 words, approx. 2 pages
In the following review, Aldama outlines the plot of Fasting, Feasting, suggesting that the change of settings for the novel' s conclusion compromises the integrity of the narrative.
Critical Review by Uma Parameswaran
581 words, approx. 2 pages
In the following review, Parameswaran praises the complexity of the human relationships in Journey to Ithaca but finds their resolutions “too simplistic.”
Critical Essay by Katha Pollitt
315 words, approx. 1 pages
"Fire on the Mountain" is a slight tale very much in the style of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala…. Set in Kasauli, a Himalyan resort of some former grandeur and much present squalor, it gives a bleak but convincing picture of modern India; the dust and blazing sun, the pseudo-English declining gentry, the sullen and starving poor…. [The] aged Nanda Kaul seeks a haven from her troubled land and from her troublesome family, but her privacy is shattered by the arrival of her granddaughter, Ra...
Critical Essay by Ben Okri
308 words, approx. 1 pages
Silence is clarity and white heat in Anita Desai's Clear Light of Day, a novel about a family reunion, its unease, the disturbing remembrances that accompany it. Tara, now married to a diplomat, revisits her childhood home in Old Delhi and finds that, on the shabby surface, nothing has changed. The mind is forced back into rites of childhood. Anita Desai evokes the heat, the parrots squawking, the changes and nonchanges of characters, their subtle secret movements, and in her evocations is discovery&...
Critical Essay by John Leonard
234 words, approx. 1 pages
"Clear Light of Day" is a wonderful novel about silence and music, about the partition of a family as well as a nation, about memories that are as mutilated as the mulberries, about a past that is the unseen extra member in a party of explorers in an Antarctica of emotions, about childhood and boredom and waiting and deterioration and the desperate need for something "brighter," some "color and event and company."… Nothing seems to happen in "Clear Lig...
Critical Essay by Victoria Glendinning
229 words, approx. 1 pages
"Games at Twilight", the title-story [in Anita Desai's collection of short stories,] is a jewel. It recounts something that has happened in one way or another to nearly everyone in childhood…. [The children] play hide-and-seek. Raki has an inspiration to hide in a dusty shed where no one will find him: and no one does. His exhilaration changes to anxiety as time passes, and he suddenly realizes that in any case success must be clinched by a final rush back to the "den...
Critical Essay by Gabriele Annan
227 words, approx. 1 pages
It is fashionable to say that the Indian novel is taking the place of the Russian. Fire on the Mountain bears a resemblance to Turgenev's First Love. Both are poetic novels. In both at least one of the chief characters is not at all nice, but mysterious, fascinating, and romantic and one of them gradually becomes obsessed with the other. The atmosphere of summer in the summer resorts is similarly strong and pervasive—though the Indian summer with its violent heat and equally violent storms is ...
Critical Essay by The Times Literary Supplement
198 words, approx. 1 pages
[Voices in the City] is set in Calcutta, in an atmosphere of aimless corruption and destruction. [Mrs. Desai] traces the development of a sensitive and melancholic trio; Nirode, deliberate wastrel, editor of a little magazine, and his two sisters, Monisha, a connoisseur of Russian and English literature married into a large and conventional Calcutta family, and Amla, the youngest, who finds a bitter fulfilment in inspiring a new stage in the development of a middle-aged painter…. Mrs. Desai's ...
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