Markandaya, Kamala 1924–2004

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Markandaya, Kamala 1924–2004

[A pseudonym]

(Kamala Purnaiya Taylor)

PERSONAL: Born 1924, in India; died of kidney failure, May 16, 2004, in London, England; married Bertrand Taylor; children: Kim (daughter). Education: Attended University of Madras. Religion: Hindu-Brahmin.

CAREER: Worked briefly for a small weekly newspaper in India; immigrated to England, 1948.

MEMBER: British Society of Authors.

AWARDS, HONORS: Nectar in a Sieve was named a notable nook of 1955 by the American Library Association; National Association of Independent Schools Award, 1967.


Nectar in a Sieve, Putnam (London, England), 1954, John Day (New York, NY), 1955, reprinted, Paradigm Publishing (St. Paul, MN), 2003.

Some Inner Fury, Putnam (London, England), 1955, John Day (New York, NY), 1956.

A Silence of Desire, Putnam (London, England), 1960, John Day (New York, NY), 1961.

Possession, John Day (New York, NY), 1963.

A Handful of Rice, John Day (New York, NY), 1966.

The Coffer Dams, John Day (New York, NY), 1969.

The Nowhere Man, John Day (New York, NY), 1972.

Two Virgins, John Day (New York, NY), 1973.

The Golden Honeycomb, Crowell (New York, NY), 1977.

Shalimar, Harper (New York, NY), 1982, published as Pleasure City, Chatto and Windus (London, England), 1982.

Contributor of fiction and articles to Indian and British publications.

SIDELIGHTS: British author Kamala Markandaya, who was born Kamala Purnaiya in India, wrote two novels before her third, Nectar in a Sieve, was accepted for publication. The work, released in the mid-1950s in both England and the United States, was highly praised for its accurate picture of Indian village life. Donald Barr commented in the New York Times that "The basis of eloquence is knowledge, and Nectar in a Sieve has a wonderful, quiet authority over our sympathies because Markandaya is manifestly an authority on village life in India. Because of what she knows, she has been able to write a story without reticence or excess." Praising the novel as "a powerful book," critic J.F. Muehl noted of Nectar in a Sieve in the Saturday Review that "the power is in the content…. You read it because it answers so many real questions: What is the day-to-day life of the villager like? How does a village woman really think of herself? What goes through the minds of people who are starving?"

Reviewing Markandaya's Two Virgins, a New Yorker critic observed that the author "writes in a forthright, almost breakneck style that could have been paced a little less relentlessly but could not be more precise or lucid. From the minutiae of the girls' lives we learn a great deal about the fabric of life in India today. They are constantly choosing between Eastern and Western ways of looking at the world—in their school, at home, in their language, and in their attitudes toward their own ripening sexuality, of which they are both keenly aware…. Both their stories are fascinating and demonstrate that [Markandaya] writes as well about such universal feelings as lust, friendship, envy, and pride as she does about matters idiosyncratic to her country." Markandaya's final novel, 1982's Shalimar—published as Pleasure City in England—focuses on a "collision between rural innocence and technological sophistication, between old tradition and modern innovation," according to Atlantic contributor Phoebe-Lou Adams. Following the efforts of a corporation to displace a group of fisherman in order to build a seaside vacation resort called Shalimar that promises to employ numbers of residence in an impoverished Indian community. In her two main characters, the native fisherman Rikki and Tully, a local resident descended from British colonizers, Markandaya presents an alliance between "the best of India's colonial past and the hope of India's future," Adams explained. While focusing on India's future, the critic added, "she offers no polemics, no great confrontations," but instead presents "a wonderfully varied" selection of characters.



Afzal-Khan, Fawzia, Cultural Imperialism and the Indo-English Novel, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 1993.

Bhatnagar, Anil Kumar, Kamala Markandaya: A Thematic Study, Sarup and Sons (New Delhi, India), 1995.

Chanda, Ramesh, Cross-Cultural Interaction in Indian English Fiction, National Book Organisation (New Delhi, India), 1988.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 8, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1978.

Jha, Rekha, The Novels of Kamala Markandaya and Ruth Jhabvala, Prestige Books, 1990.

Joseph, Margaret P., Kamala Markandaya, Arnold-Heinemann (New Delhi, India), 1980.

Pathania, Usha, Human Bonds and Bondages: The Fiction of Anita Desai and Kamala Markandaya, Kanishka (Delhi, India), 1992.

Prasad, Madhusudan, Perspectives on Kamala Markandaya, Vimal Prakashan (Ghaziabad, India), 1984.

Varma, R. M., Some Aspects of Indo-English Fiction, Jainsons Publications (New Delhi, India), 1985.

Wali, S. K., Kamala Markandaya: Nectar in a Sieve, Printwell (Jaipur, India), 1987.


Atlantic, September, 1983, Phoebe-Lou Adams, review of Shalimar, p. 124.

Best Sellers, June 1, 1969; October 15, 1973.

Christian Science Monitor, May 26, 1955; October 10, 1973.

Commonweal, August 19, 1955.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1955.

New Yorker, May 23, 1955; October 22, 1973.

Saturday Review, May 14, 1955; June 14, 1969.

Time, May 16, 1955.

Times Literary Supplement, Saturday 10, 1954; June 12, 1969.