The Greatest Russian, Indian "Fiction" Books Since 1980

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

    The novel tells the story of Saleem Sinai, who was born at the exact moment when India gained its independence. As a result, he shares a mystical connection with other children born at the same time, all of whom possess unique, magical abilities. As Saleem grows up, his life mirrors the political and cultural changes happening in his country, from the partition of India and Pakistan, to the Bangladesh War of Independence. The story is a blend of historical fiction and magical realism, exploring themes of identity, fate, and the power of storytelling.

  2. 2. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

    This novel is a poignant tale of fraternal twins, a boy and a girl, who navigate through their childhood in Kerala, India, amidst a backdrop of political unrest and societal norms. The story, set in 1969, explores the complexities of their family's history and the tragic events that shape their lives. Their mother's transgression of caste and societal norms by having an affair with an untouchable leads to disastrous consequences, revealing the oppressive nature of the caste system and the destructive power of forbidden love. The novel also delves into themes of postcolonial identity, gender roles, and the lingering effects of trauma.

  3. 3. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

    Set in 1950s India, this epic novel follows the story of four families over a period of 18 months, focusing primarily on the young woman Lata and her mother's quest to find her a suitable husband. The narrative explores the political, social, and personal upheavals in a newly independent India, struggling with its own identity amidst the backdrop of a society grappling with religious tensions, land reforms, and the shaping of a modern democratic state. Lata's journey is an exploration of love, ambition, and the weight of familial duty.

  4. 4. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

    "A Fine Balance" is a poignant narrative set in India during the 1970s, a time of political turmoil and upheaval. The plot revolves around four diverse characters - a widow, a young student, and two tailors - who are brought together by fate. Through their interconnected lives, the book explores themes of caste, poverty, political corruption, and the human spirit's resilience. It offers a profound exploration of the delicate balance that sustains life amidst adversity.

  5. 5. Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman

    "Life and Fate" is a sweeping epic that explores the human condition during the Siege of Stalingrad in World War II. The novel delves into the lives of a wide range of characters, from soldiers and scientists to children and victims of the Holocaust, providing a stark and unflinching portrayal of the horrors of war, the brutality of totalitarianism, and the resilience of the human spirit. At the same time, it also examines themes of love, loss, and the struggle for freedom and dignity in the face of overwhelming adversity.

  6. 6. Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai

    "Clear Light of Day" is a novel set in Old Delhi, which explores the dynamics of the Das family. The story shifts back and forth in time, reflecting on the lives of siblings Bim, Raja, Baba, and Tara, and their relationships with each other and their aunts. The narrative delves into themes of memory, time, and decay, as well as the political upheaval of the Partition of India. The novel is a poignant study of family relationships, personal change, and loss.

  7. 7. The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor

    This book is a satirical take on Indian politics and history, cleverly intertwined with characters and events from the epic Mahabharata. The narrative presents a parallel between the two, with the characters in the novel mirroring significant figures from India's political scene during the Independence and post-Independence era. The book is a humorous yet thought-provoking critique of Indian society and politics, offering a unique blend of myth, history, and satire.

  8. 8. The River Sutra by Gita Mehta

    "The River Sutra" by Gita Mehta is a captivating novel that explores the intertwining lives of various characters along the sacred river Narmada in India. Through vivid storytelling and rich descriptions, the book delves into themes of spirituality, love, and the search for meaning in life. As the characters embark on journeys of self-discovery, the river serves as a powerful metaphor for the flow of life and the interconnectedness of all beings. With its lyrical prose and thought-provoking narrative, "The River Sutra" offers a profound exploration of the human experience and the timeless wisdom of ancient traditions.

  9. 9. Summer in Baden-Baden by Leonid Tsypkin

    "Summer in Baden-Baden" is a unique blend of fact and fiction that intertwines the author's own travels to Leningrad with a reimagining of Fyodor Dostoevsky's summer in Baden-Baden, Germany. The narrative shifts between the two journeys, exploring themes of obsession, identity, and the power of literature. The author's fascination with Dostoevsky serves as a lens through which he examines his own life and experiences as a Jew in Soviet Russia, while also providing a fresh perspective on the famous Russian author's life and works.

  10. 10. The Clay Machine-gun by Victor Pelevin

    "The Clay Machine-gun" is a surreal and complex novel that explores the nature of reality and illusion. The story is set in post-Soviet Russia and follows a protagonist who has multiple identities, including a poet in 19th-century Russia, a 20th-century psychiatric patient, and a 21st-century advertising executive. The narrative moves between these identities and realities, blurring the lines between them and creating a layered and philosophical exploration of Russian society, identity, and the human psyche.

  11. 11. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

    "The White Tiger" is a darkly humorous novel set in modern-day India that explores the country's class struggle through the eyes of an ambitious and cunning protagonist. Born in a poor village, he moves to Delhi to work as a chauffeur for a rich family. He eventually breaks free from his life of servitude by committing an act of shocking violence, and uses his newfound freedom to become a successful entrepreneur in Bangalore. The story, told through a series of letters written to the Chinese Premier, is a scathing critique of India's social and economic disparities, and the corruption that permeates all levels of society.

  12. 12. The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh

    "The Shadow Lines" is a novel that explores themes of memory, family, and national identity through the eyes of a young boy and his experiences growing up in Calcutta, India. The narrative is framed by two major historical events: the 1964 Dhaka Riots and the 1942 World War II. The protagonist's relationships with his family and his personal experiences are juxtaposed with these events, highlighting the complexities of identity, memory, and the lasting impacts of historical events on individual lives. The novel also delves into the arbitrary nature of national borders and the shadow lines they draw between people and their histories.

  13. 13. Happy Moscow by Andrey Platonov

    "Happy Moscow" is a satirical novel set in the Soviet Union during the height of Stalinist rule, following the life of a young woman, Moscow Chestnova, who is named after the capital city. Despite the harsh realities of life under an authoritarian regime, she maintains a positive and optimistic outlook, symbolizing the Soviet Union's propaganda that promoted an image of a happy and prosperous society. The novel, through its characters and their experiences, explores the paradoxes and contradictions of the Soviet society, challenging the official narrative of happiness and prosperity.

  14. 14. Family Life by Akhil Sharma

    Family Life is a poignant, semi-autobiographical novel that follows the experiences of an Indian family that immigrates to America in the late 1970s. Their dream of a better life is shattered when the older son suffers a terrible accident that leaves him brain-damaged. The story is narrated by the younger son, who struggles with the pressures of his parents' expectations, the trauma of his brother's condition, and the cultural dislocation of being an immigrant in America. The novel explores themes of family, love, loss, and the immigrant experience.

  15. 15. Soul and Other Stories by Andrey Platonov

    "Soul and Other Stories" is a collection of short stories that delve into the human condition and the struggle for identity in a world filled with political and social upheaval. The stories are set in a variety of contexts, from the harsh landscapes of Central Asia to the chaos of the Russian Revolution. The characters are often faced with existential crises, grappling with questions of purpose, meaning, and morality. The narrative is marked by a unique blend of philosophical inquiry, poetic prose, and a deep sense of empathy for the human plight.

  16. 16. Memories of Rain by Sunetra Gupta

    The novel explores the crumbling marriage of a Bengali woman and her Greek husband. The narrative alternates between Kolkata, India, and London, England, and spans over a decade, capturing the protagonist's emotional turmoil, her struggle to reconcile her Indian heritage with her Western lifestyle, and her eventual decision to leave her unfaithful husband. The novel is rich in poetic language and imagery, and it delves deep into themes of identity, cultural displacement, and the complexities of love and betrayal.

  17. 17. The Life of Insects by Victor Pelevin

    "The Life of Insects" is a surreal novel that explores the complexities of post-Soviet Russia through the lens of a bizarre seaside community of humans who transform into various types of insects. The narrative unfolds through a series of interconnected stories that delve into the characters' struggles, dreams, and fears, serving as a metaphor for the human condition. The book provides a satirical commentary on society's ills, touching on themes of capitalism, corruption, and the search for identity in a rapidly changing world.

  18. 18. Holder of the World: A Novel by Bharati Mukherjee

    The novel explores the life of Hannah Easton, a woman born in 17th century Salem, who gets married to a British adventurer and travels to India. In India, she becomes the concubine of a local ruler and takes on the name "The Holder of the World". The story is narrated by a 20th-century woman who discovers Hannah's story through a virtual reality device. The narrative weaves together the historical and the contemporary, the East and the West, and the real and the virtual, to create a rich tapestry of a woman's life and the cultural clashes she experiences.

  19. 19. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

    This novel explores themes of love, loss, and the human struggle for identity amidst political unrest. Set in India during the Nepalese movement for an independent state, the narrative follows the lives of a retired judge living in the Himalayas, his granddaughter, and his cook. As the political situation worsens, each character must grapple with their own personal issues, including the judge's regret over his failed marriage and his granddaughter's struggle to find her place in the world. The cook, meanwhile, dreams of a better life for his son in the United States. The narrative weaves together these individual stories to create a poignant tapestry of human resilience in the face of adversity.

  20. 20. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

    In a 1950s Soviet Union gripped by fear and paranoia, Leo Demidov, a dedicated officer of the state security agency, is faced with a chilling reality: a series of brutal child murders that the government refuses to acknowledge. As Leo defies his superiors and embarks on a dangerous investigation, he becomes entangled in a web of political intrigue and personal danger, risking everything to uncover the truth and protect those he loves. "Child 44" is a gripping thriller that explores the dark underbelly of a repressive regime and the resilience of one man determined to bring justice to a society plagued by secrets.

  21. 21. The Zone by Sergei Dovlatov

    "The Zone" is a semi-autobiographical novel that follows the life of a writer who is confined to a Soviet labor camp. Through a series of vignettes, the protagonist reflects on his experiences in the camp, the absurdities of the Soviet system, and the struggles of maintaining his identity and integrity in the face of oppression. With dark humor and sharp observations, the book offers a poignant and satirical portrayal of life in the Soviet Union.

  22. 22. The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth

    Set in the 1980s, the novel follows the life of a group of friends living in San Francisco. The protagonist, a successful yet lonely executive, is persuaded by his former girlfriend to place a personal ad, leading to a relationship with a musician. The narrative delves into their relationship, their friends' lives, and the various complications they face, including issues of love, friendship, sexuality, and death. The unique aspect of this book is that it is written entirely in verse, specifically in sonnet form.

  23. 23. Rich Like Us by Nayantara Sahgal

    Set against the backdrop of the Emergency in 1970s India, the novel weaves together the lives of two women from different social strata: an affluent London-born woman who marries an Indian businessman and a senior bureaucrat's daughter who becomes a political activist. As the political climate in India grows increasingly oppressive, their stories intersect, exploring themes of power, corruption, and the struggle for democracy. Through their personal and political journeys, the narrative delves into the complexities of wealth, class, and the impact of colonialism, while critiquing the authoritarian regime that threatens the moral fabric of Indian society.

  24. 24. Pushkin Hills by Sergei Dovlatov

    The book is a tragicomic novel that follows the story of an unsuccessful writer and divorced father who takes a summer job as a tour guide at the rural estate of a famous Russian poet. As he immerses himself in the petty concerns and daily life of the museum staff and local villagers, the protagonist grapples with his own literary ambitions, the complexities of his personal life, and the cultural legacy of the poet whose memory he is charged with preserving. The narrative is infused with sharp wit and a deep sense of irony as it explores themes of artistic integrity, cultural heritage, and the absurdities of Soviet life.

  25. 25. On The Golden Porch by Tatyana Tolstaya

    "On The Golden Porch" is a collection of short stories that delve into the lives of various characters in Soviet Russia, exploring themes of memory, history, and the complexities of human experience. The narrative weaves through the mundane and the extraordinary, painting vivid portraits of individuals as they navigate the peculiarities of their existence. With a blend of magical realism and sharp social observation, the stories capture the essence of Russian culture and psyche during a time of great change, revealing the resilience and richness of the human spirit in the face of the absurdities of life.

Reading Statistics

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If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

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