experimental writing

Indian Writing


The Indian Writing magazine ran irregularly from 1940 to 1945. Ostensibly a literary magazine, Indian Writing was a platform for the radical, anti-colonial, broadly Marxist South Asian activists based in London to articulate their critique of Indo-British relations, alongside their own views on politics and culture, which would have been seen as extremist at the time.

The first issue of Indian Writing was written in 1940 with war ‘an immediate reality’ and the possibility of anti-colonial ‘revolutions’ imminent. Contributions to Indian Writing charted the Cripps mission to India, alongside a critique of the BBC’s Allied War Propaganda. Editors Iqbal Singh and Ahmed Ali forcefully voiced their objection to the use of Indian soldiers as ‘cannon fodder’ and to ‘the spectacle of innocent nations and peoples being dragged into the homicidal delirium of rival imperialist powers’ in the Second World War (Indian Writing 1.2 (1940), p. 68). In this way the magazine revealed the tensions between nationalism, anti-fascism and anti-imperialism of this period. The Book Review section of the Indian Writing magazine, served as a key space for South Asian writers like Ahmed Ali and Mulk Raj Anand to comment on each other’s novels as well as on other books on South Asia. This coverage was particularly important in the context of a broader, insular reviewing culture notably the resistance these South Asian fictional texts met from the more conservative, parochial elements of the British literary establishment, regarding their politics and use of Indian English.

Secondary works: 

Ranasinha, Ruvani, South Asian Writers in Twentieth-Century Britain: Culture in Translation (Oxford: Clarendon, 2007)


Indian Writing 1.1 (1940), p. 3

Date began: 
01 Apr 1940

As Gorky observed: 'Culture is more necessary in storm than in peace.' it is more necessary because it is precisely in the stormy periods of transition that it becomes imperative to maintain some sense of the continuity of human thought and endeavour, and even more, to understand the processes which lead to new cultural integrations.

In launching Indian Writing we take Gorky’s view. And for good reason. It does not seem altogether fantastic to suggest that we are witnessing today a significant shift of the bases of culture, that initiative in cultural matters is passing to those vast masses of humanity who have so far served only as pawns for the profit of Western Imperialism. In this respect, the awakening of India is one of the most important facts of contemporary history. No single magazine could possibly claim to represent this great movement in all its complex aspects. We only hope to interpret its specifically cultural implications. […] We are interested primarily in publishing imaginative literature which is alive with the realities of to-day.

Precise date began unknown: 
Key Individuals' Details: 

Editors: Ahmed Ali, Krishnarao Shelvankar, Iqbal Singh, Alagu Subramaniam.

Roland Hardless (business manager)


The magazine reflects the Indian Writing editors’ perceived need to literally create their own space in the form of a literary magazine, to articulate their own views on politics and culture. The magazine demonstrates London’s role as a global centre and facilitator for anti-imperialism and diasporic nationalism.


Contributors: K. Ahmed Abbas, Mulk Raj Anand, Peter Blackman, Jack Chen, Ismat Chughtai, Cedric Dover, Attia Habibullah, Sher Jung, Pieter Keuneman, Enver Kureishi, Krishna Menon, Saadat Hussain Manto, R. K. Narayan, Jawaharlal Nehru, Clemens Palme Dutt, Raja Rao, S. Raja Ratnam, Bharati Sarabhai, Rabindranath Tagore, Suresh Vaidya.

Date ended: 
01 Jul 1942
Precise date ended unknown: 
Books Reviewed Include: 

Ali, Ahmed, Twilight in Delhi. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Anand, Mulk Raj, Across the Black Waters. Reviewed by Iqbal Singh.

Barns, Margarita, The Indian Press. Reviewed by Krishnarao Shelvankar.

Bromfield, Louise, Night in Bombay. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Chintamani, C. Y., Indian Politics since the Mutiny. Reviewed by Krishnarao Shelvankar.

Coatman, John, India: The Road to Self-Government. Reviewed by Krishna Menon.

Hemingway, Ernest, For Whom the Bell Tolls. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Indian Progressive Writers Association, Naya Adab: Anthology of Progressive Literature. Reviewed by Ahmed Ali.

Koestler, Arthur, Scum of the Earth. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Montagu, Ivor, The Traitor Class. Reviewed by Krishnarao Shelvankar.

Nehru, Jawaharlal, the Unity of India. Reviewed by Clemens Palme Dutt.

Palme Dutt, Rajani, India to-day. Reviewed by Iqbal Singh.

Rao, P. Kodanda, East versus West: A denial of contrasts, reviewed by Krishnarao Shelvankar.

Rilke, R. M., Selected Poems, reviewed by Iqbal Singh.

Shelvankar, Krishnarao, The Problem of India. Reviewed by Iqbal Singh.

Singh, Anup, Nehru: The Rising Star of India. Reviewed by Krishnarao Shelvankar.

Smith, Nicol, Burma Road, reviewed by Pieter Keuneman.

Spender, Stephen, The Backward Son. Reviewed by MulkRaj Anand.

Thompson, Edward, Enlist India for Freedom. Reviewed by Cedric Dover.

Zaheer, Sajjad, One Night in London. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Zoshchenko, Michael, The Woman who could not Read. Reviewed by Iqbal Singh.


16 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN
United Kingdom

The London Mercury


The London Mercury was a monthly magazine published by Field Press Ltd.  It was published first in 1919, one year after the end of the First World War. It sought to fill a gap in the market of literary magazines. According to its founding editor it was unique among other literary journals as it combined the publication of creative writing, reviews of the contemporary literary output, publishing poetry, prose writing and full-length literary essays, and critical surveys of books. Its mission was to foster the teaching of English and the appreciation of the arts.

Especially after Rolfe Arnold Scott-James took over as editor in 1934, the magazine increasingly featured short stories and poetry by Indian writers. It also included survey articles and reviews by Indian writers on topics such as Indian art and Indian literature. Reviews of books on India were also increasingly published by the journal. The journal absorbed The Bookman in 1934. In the  late 1930s, the magazine ran into financial difficulties. The last issue was published in April 1939, after which the journal was absorbed into Life and Letters Today.



 'Editorial Notes', The London Mercury 39.234 (April 1939), p. 274

Other names: 

The London Mercury with which is incorporated The Bookman

The London Mercury and Bookman


In his final editorial for the journal, the editor Scott-James restates the mission of the magazine. Subsumed into Life and Letters Today, the journal would carry on this tradition. The journal was characterized by a broad range of materials  and sought to expose its readership to fiction and non-fiction written by South-Asian artists, writers and cultural commentators, exemplified here in this final statement of the journal's brief.

Date began: 
01 Nov 1919

From the first Squire designed this magazine  as an organ of independent and disinterested opinion and that it has always been. My own conception of the magazine has been that it existed to serve the cause of creative ideas from whatever source they were drawn, more especially in reference to our own time, and to do what it could to promote an interest in such ideas, whether they were manifested in the stories and poems we published or the books we reviewed, or whether, more broadly, they were shown to be applicable to current practical problems. Whatever seemed to be informed and enlightened by the creative imagination – that I conceived to be within our province; and side by side with it, of course, one looked for the critical judgment, which in itself is allied to the creative.

Key Individuals' Details: 

Editors: John Collings Squire (1919-34), Rolfe Arnold Scott-James (1934-9).


Contributors: Mulk Raj Anand, J. C. Ghosh, Bharati Sarabhai, Rabindranath Tagore, J. Vijaya-Tunga, Suresh Vaidya, William Butler Yeats.

Date ended: 
01 Apr 1939
Archive source: 

British Library, St Pancras

Books Reviewed Include: 

Bose, Subhas C., The Indian Struggle. Reviewed by E. Farley Oaten.

Rawlinson, H. G., India: A Short Cultural History. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.


Life and Letters Today


Life & Letters Today was a monthly literary review magazine which published short fiction, essays on cultural issues, and book reviews. Several well known British literary figures, including D. H. Lawrence, Dylan Thomas and Julian Symons, contributed to the magazine. Mulk Raj Anand was a regular contributor of both fiction and reviews, and the work of several other South Asian writers based in Britain was also occasionally featured. There were three issues dedicated to Indian writing and featuring a range of short fiction and essays by writers such as Narayana Menon, S. Menon Marath, Iqbal Singh and the Ceylonese J. Vijaya-Tunga, as well as reviews of their work.


Life and Letters Today 21.20 (April 1939), pp. 3-4

Other names: 

Life and Letters (1928-35, 1946-50)

Life and Letters and the London Mercury and Bookman (1945-6)


This issue includes work by South Asian writers including Iqbal Singh, Alagu Subramaniam and J. Vijaya-Tunga.

Date began: 
01 Jun 1928

INDIAN WRITERS IN ENGLAND: Addressing members of the Indian Progressive Writers' Association at the Indian Students' Union on 19th March, Randall Swingler remarked that Indian writers faced a peculiar difficulty in this country – if they wrote well they were rejected by publishers on the ground that they wrote too well. Their success was taken as a slight to British superiority…Indian writers, like most foreign writers in England, found themselves unappreciated by publishers and literary folk in England.

Precise date began unknown: 
Key Individuals' Details: 

Editors: Desmond McCarthy (1928-34), Hamish Miles (1934), R. Ellis Roberts (1934-55), Robert Herring (1935-50).


This Indian edition of Life and Letters Today, as well as the two subsequent Indian issues, highlights a degree of success on the part of South Asians in infiltrating an established 'mainstream' British cultural product. The comments above from the editorial of the magazine suggest its awareness and sympathy with the marginalization of Indian writers in Britain. That said, contributions to the magazine by South Asians comprise, for the most part (and with some notable exceptions), short fiction located almost uniquely in India/Ceylon rather than in Britain, and short prose on Indian history/culture, often positioning their authors as cultural informers primarily.


Contributors: K. Ahmad Abbas, Mulk Raj Anand, George Barker, Nancy Cunard, Cedric Dover, Julian Huxley, D. H. Lawrence, Jack Lindsay, Sarkis Megherian, Narayana Menon, S. Menon Marath, Ajit Mookerjee, Sean O’Casey, B. Rajan, S. Rajandram, S. Raja Ratnam, Keidrych Rhys, Dorothy M. Richardson, Iqbal Singh, Osbert Sitwell, Stevie Smith, Stephen Spender, Alagu Subramaniam, Julian Symons, Dylan Thomas, Fred Urquhart, J. Vijaya-Tunga, Vernon Watkins, Francis Watson.

Date ended: 
01 Jun 1950
Archive source: 

Life & Letters Today, P.P.5939.bgf, British Library, St Pancras

Precise date ended unknown: 
Books Reviewed Include: 

Abbas, K. Ahmad, Rice. Reviewed by Oswell Blakeston.

Anand, Mulk Raj, Coolie. Reviewed by Ronald Dewsbury.

Anand, Mulk Raj, Two Leaves and a Bud. Reviewed by Stephen Spender.

Anand, Mulk Raj, Indian Fairy Tales. Reviewed by Lorna Lewis.

Bhushan, V. N. (ed.), The Peacock Lute: Anthology of Poems in English by Indian Writers. Reviewed by S. Menon Marath.

Blom, Eric, Some Great Composers. Reviewed by Narayana Menon.

Ch’ien, Hsiao, The Spinners of Silk. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Desani, G. V., All About Mr Hatterr. Reviewed by Fred Urquhart.

Dover, Cedric, Half-Caste. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Flaubert, Gustave, Letters (selected by Richard Rumbold). Reviewed by S. Menon Marath.

Green, Henry, Loving. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Lawrence, T. E., Oriental Assembly. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Menon, Narayana, The Development of William Butler Yeats. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Motwani, Kewal, India: A Synthesis of Cultures. Reviewed by S. Menon Marath.

Nehru, Jawaharlal, Autobiography. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Palme Dutt, R., India Today.

Poems from Iqbal, trans. by V. G. Kiernan. Reviewed by Jack Lindsay.

Rajan, B. (ed.), The Novelist as Thinker. reviewed by Hugo Manning.

Rajan B. (ed.), T. S. Eliot: A Study of his Writing. Reviewed by George Barker.

Sampson, William, Fireman Flower. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Saroyan, William, Razzle-Dazzle. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Shelvankar, K. S., The Problem of India. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Silone, Ignazio, The Seed Beneath the Snow. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Tagore, Rabindranath, Caramel Doll.

Wernher, Hilda and Singh, Huthi, The Land and the Well.

Woolf, Virginia, The Death of a Moth. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

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