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Geetanjali Shree Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Mai (1993)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Empty Space (2006)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Roof Beneath their Feet (2013)Description / Buy at Amazon
Tomb of Sand (2018)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

All Walls Collapse: Stories of Separation(2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Geetanjali Shree is an Indian short story writer and novelist best known for “Ret Samadhi” her Hindi Language novel.

She would gain notoriety when Daisy Rockwell translated the novel into English and titled it “Tomb of Sand.” It would prove a masterstroke as the novel would become one of the best books of 2022 and it would win the International Booker Prize.

Shree was born Geentali Pandey in June 1957 in Mainpuri India, even though she went on to spend her childhood in different towns in Uttar Pradesh. The family moved often given that her father was often transferred since he worked as a civil servant.
At home, she spoke Hindi but in most of the schools that she went to, the mode of instruction was English. She was a voracious reader growing up and grew up reading Hindi literature such as Nandan, Panchatantra, Parag, and Chandamama.
While she was growing up in Allahabad, she was exposed to Hindi and Urdu literary fiction authors such as Mahadevi Verma, Firaq Gorakhupuri, and Sumitrandanan, who further developed her interest in Hindi literature.
Additionally, she used to be friends with the granddaughter of Munshi Premchand, the celebrated Indian author.

Nonetheless, while she had always had an interest in Hindi literature when she went to college, she opted to study history as there were no formal courses in Hindi.
She would later get her post-graduate degree in 1984, penning a study on Premchand works set in colonial India.

Geetanjali would then convert her research into the literary works by Premchand into a novel and this marked her foray into the world of authorship.

After Geetanjali Shree was done with her formal education, she moved to New Delhi, where she began teaching history at the Zakir Husain College and Jamia Millia Islamia.
Thereafter, she began delivering history lectures in English, even as she penned novels in Hindi during her free time.

But oscillating between Hindi and English often left her frustrated and it was not long before she quit her job as a teacher to become a full-time author.
Shree started writing short stories in Hindi and completed her first story while on a train traveling with her husband.

Rajkama a leading Hindi publishing house that was then headed by Sheela Sandhu gave her her first break in the 1980s. By 1987, Bel Patra her first short story was featured in Hans, which was a prestigious Hindi Language magazine.
In 1991, she published “Anugoonj” her first collection of short stories, which was very well received. She made another huge splash in 2001 when Mai her debut long-form fiction novel made the shortlist for the Crossword Book Award.
But it was with the publishing of her novel “Tomb of Sand” that she would become a critically acclaimed author all over the globe.

Apart from her writing, Geetanjali has also been involved with theater and has been part of the Vivadi cultural theater group. She also adapted Gora by Rabindranath into a theatrical production that was staged at New Delhi’s Kamani Auditorium.
Shree has also adapted Chinese, Indonesian, and Japanese plays into theatrical productions that have been staged in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Toronto, and Tokyo.

“Mai” by Geetanjali Shree tells the story of Suboth and Suna who are two siblings who were brought up in a traditional, patriarchal upper-class Indian family and enjoyed a very sheltered childhood.
Their grandparents are large landowners still clinging to the old caste mentality.

The parents’ generation comes across as more relaxed, even if the women still have very few options and have little external social impact just like it has always been. They do not have a say or rights and are only expected to serve.
Subodh and Suna need to find a way to navigate the beginnings of modernity, even as they come from authoritarian traditions.

Looking to the past, Suna talks about their past life and their mother at a time when everything seemed so imperfect but was still intact.

She is overcome with homesickness and melancholy when she tells of how the entire household was all about preparing Indian food. She feels guilty thinking about how much they had, which is something she never appreciated as a kid.
Suna feels bad for not recognizing her mother’s inner humanity as she only judged her on outward appearances.

The author gives insights into how the mother complex is not European but rather a universal thing that women all over the world have to deal with.

“The Roof Beneath Their Feet,” tells an enthralling story of Bitwa, a young boy, and two women Lalna and Chachno.

These three live in a “mohalla,” a large complex of houses linked by a massive roof, where much of the life activity including the rumors, secret meetings, and gossip of the inhabitants takes place.
When Lalna is thrown out by her family, Chachcho the discontented and rich wife with a neglectful husband takes her in, much to the surprise of everyone.

Lalna almost invites scandal and has to deal with all manner of rumors while Chachcho is the innocent wife taken advantage of by an interlocutor. One day Lalna decides to leave and when she comes back she learns that Chachho is dead.
She has been left to take care of Bitwa who is Chacho’s nephew who turns out to be who is judgmental and resentful as he is suspicious of Lalna and loves Chacho dearly.

Like most of Shree’s novels, the work comes with a certain playfulness, even as grief is a big part of it as Lalna and Bitwa both grieve for Chachcho.

What I found fascinating was how Lalna and Bitwa dance around each other and look back on their past life, where they used to ruthlessly vie for the attention of Chachcho.

Geetanjali Shree’s novel “The Empty Space” is an enigmatic and poignant tale that delves into the aftereffects of a tragic event.

The work is all about an eighteen-year-old boy who has to make an important decision. Ultimately, he opts to attend his father’s hometown university, where he finds himself exploring self-identity and grief.

We are then treated to a horrific tragedy when he is in a cafe that is bombed leaving him and eighteen others dead. Amid the chaos, an unidentified 3-year-old survivor is found and the mother of the eighteen-year-old takes him home.
The child becomes something of an emblem of confusion and hope in the wake of the disaster as he symbolizes identity struggles, as he becomes a substitute for the dead eighteen-year-old.

It is a story all about themes of identity and loss and through psychological scrutiny and complex character development, the author explores the profound human emotions that result from trauma.
In it, she encourages contemplation on how individuals find meaning and navigate its aftermath.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Geetanjali Shree

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