Suniti Namjoshi
(India, 1941)   
Suniti Namjoshi

Born in Mumbai in 1941, Suniti Namjoshi is an important writer in contemporary Indian literature in English. She has several books of verse and fable to her credit. She worked in the Indian Administrative Service and in academic posts in India before moving to Montreal. She earned a PhD from McGill University (with a thesis on Ezra Pound), worked at the University of Toronto and later at the Centre for Women’s Studies at Exeter University, UK. She now lives in the UK where she works as a full-time writer. Her poetry, fables, articles and reviews have been featured in various anthologies and journals in India, Canada, the US, Australia and Britain. A deep engagement with issues of gender, sexual orientation, cultural identity and human rights infuses her work.       

Namjoshi says she got politicized during her sabbatical from the University of Toronto which she spent in England in 1978 – 79. “A major influence,” she writes in an email exchange, “was my friend, Hilary Clare (alias Christine Donald). She had more brains than me, she could out-argue me and she had a literary mind. What’s more I could see that she was fighting my battles for me, while I stood aside and did nothing; and that shamed me. She was active in both Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation. Up till then I thought that politics was something unpleasant that vaguely unpleasant people indulged in. I hadn’t realized that it had something to do with ethics. I had also assumed that literature had nothing to do with power. It was books like Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics and the work of writers like Virginia Woolf and Adrienne Rich that made me understand the extent to which sheer brutal power in the form of wealth and social ascendancy intersected with the literary enterprise and determined not just who could write what, but who could write at all and what constituted the literary canon. It wasn’t just particular friends and important writers that mattered though. There was the sense that a strong feminist movement existed, and for a writer this meant that there was an audience — a readership — to whom I might make sense. That was enormously exhilarating and it allowed me to think and to explore and to write.”

The poems that accompany this edition are from various books and reveal the textured and multivalent satire that characterises Namjoshi’s political poetry. In a recent article on her new book, Sycorax, I wrote of how Namjoshi’s work demolishes several stereotypes in one swift stroke: “She is a fabulist who is never preachy. A feminist who is never humourless. A poet who is never arcane. An intellectual who is never pedantic . . . Her work points to a deeply internalized radicalism, one that has as much depth as it has edge. Quirky, funny, intellectually agile, capable of making connections between the mundane and the metaphysical, adept at sniffing out the archetypal in the culturally particular, they point to a mind that is as engaged as it is engaging.”

© Arundhathi Subramaniam



Poems, Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 1967.
Poems of Govindagraj (translated from the Marathi with Sarojini Namjoshi), Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 1968.
More Poems, Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 1971.
Cyclone in Pakistan, Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 1971.
The Jackass and the Lady, Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 1967.
The Authentic Lie, Fiddlehead, Frederiction, 1982. ISBN 0864920105
From the Bedside Book of Nightmares, Fiddlehead, Fredericton, 1984. ISBN 0864920318
Flesh and Paper, (with Gillian Hanscombe), Jezebel Tapes and Books, Devon, 1986 & Ragweed, 1986.
 ISBN 1870240006 (Jezebel) ISBN 0-920304-64-8 (Ragweed)

Prose and Poetry

The Conversations of Cow, The Women's Press, London, 1985. ISBN 0704328704
The Blue Donkey Fables
, The Women’s Press, London, 1988, ISBN 0704341158
The Mothers of Maya Dip, Women's Press, London. 1989.
Because of India, Onlywomen Press, London, 1989. ISBN 0906500338
Feminist Fables, Spinifex, Melbourne. 1993. ISBN 9781875559190
Saint Suniti and the dragon, Spinifex, Melbourne, 1993 & Virago Press, London, 1994. ISBN 1 875559 18 3 (Spinifex), ISBN 1853816590 (Virago)
Building Babel, Spinifex, Melbourne, 1996, ISBN 1875559566.  (The book is about the process of building culture under the aegis of Crone Kronos, i.e., Time; and the publishers have put the last chapter on the Internet to serve as a building site to which others can contribute.
It can be found at Spinefex Press - Babel Building Site)
Sycorax: New Fables and Poems, Penguin India, New Delhi, 2006. ISBN-13:978-0-14309-948-0 ISBN-10: 0-14309-948-1


South Asian Diaspora Literature and Arts Archive: Material and photographs relating to Suniti Namjoshi
The CyberShapers’ Site: Maintained by Suniti Namjoshi and Gillian Hanscombe, a site for readers and writers with a creative writing workshop.
Spinefex Press: An extract from Feminist Fables


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