The greatest Indian autobiography appeared in 1951 entitled 'The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian'. Yet it soon became so very widely acclaimed that it virtually belied its title, also being more a picture of his society and culture than just autobiography. It can be recognised by scholars, critics and those who really know India as as an unsurpassed tour de force covering his life and total environment in a transparently frank and wholly authentic voice, going against the grain of all the overblown and uncritical propaganda of his countrymen about the real India, Gandhi's autocratic trickiness, the corrupt politics and organisation, ossified values, otherworldly fantasies and false holiness. A brilliantly expressive writing from the most profoundly erudite and self-perceptive mind whose deep and embracing investigation of both Indian and European thought can match any comparable work produced in the West. Mainly because it received such plaudits around the world, and also since it exposed the gross unfairness, greed and degeneration of British rule, it was lauded by English-speaking Indians at first, only to turn into castigation born of these inheriting brown sahibs' loss of face and envy of a person who dared to write the truth.
Chaudhuri later continued his autobiography to cover the period 1921-1952 in a one thousand page work which appeared in 1987, revealing all that the very fewest Indians were willing to let foreigners know about their world.

(reviewed by Robert Priddy)


Reviews of works by N.C. Chaudhuri