Across the Black Waters was written in 1939 and is the only novel written from the perspective of the Indian soldiers who arrived in Marseilles in September 1914 to fight in the trenches of Flanders in the first winter of World War One.
The author, Mulk Raj Anand (1905-2004) is the father figure of modern Indian literature in English.
This World War One Centenary edition of Across the Black Waters, published by Shalimar Books in October 2014 has a preface by Dominic Rai, Artistic Director, Salt of the Sarkar Project, and introduction by Alastair Niven, a friend of Mulk Raj Anand and author of The Yoke of Pity, a biography of the author.
“It has taken nearly one hundred years for the contribution of Indian sepoys in the First World War to be properly recognised Even today, it is less well known than it should be. Yet back in 1939 one of India’s greatest novelists, writing in English but forged by a Panjabi sensibility, described their bravery, suffering and bewilderment as they became cannon fodder in the trenches. Mulk Raj Anand, the son of a soldier, is the author of ‘Across the Black Waters’, one of the most powerful and perceptive war novels ever written. Though part of a trilogy, focusing on a villager called Lalu, it stands on its own as a painful chronicle of uprooted lives in the midst of confusing conflict. Salt of the Sarkar brings this masterpiece to the attention of a new generation, a reminder of the lasting debt we all owe to people from humble rural backgrounds who were caught up in the international struggle of the Great War. ‘Across the Black Waters’ also demonstrates the brilliance of Indian fiction more than seventy years ago, laying the foundations for later novelists such as Anita Desai, Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy.”
– Alastair Niven, Man Booker Prize Judge 1994 and 2014
“This re-print of Mulk Raj Anand’s classic novel, ‘Across the Black Waters’ is a significant moment in the centenary of the Great War.” – Jatinder Verma, Tara Arts, August 2014