This is a book about literature and radical politics in the Indian subcontinent during the decades immediately preceding and following the attainment of formal independence in 1947. The fabled midnight of 15August 1947, which was preceded by the bloody partition of the region into the independent nation states of Pakistan and India, has been mythologised by writers as different as]awaharlal Nehru and Salman Rushdie in terms of its transformative potential. In an epochal sense, this transitional period was, in fact, a remarkable one and widely perceived as teeming with political, social and cultural possibilities. The consequences for literary and cultural production were decisive. The years from about 1936 to 1954 were the heyday of a hugely influential radical cultural movement that spanned several regions and languages across India (as well as the region that became Pakistan). Represented by, though not restricted to, the formation of the All-India Progressive Writers' Association (PWA) in 1936 (and its partner organisation, the Indian People's Theatre Association or IPTA, which was established in 1942), this movement was closely linked to debates over decolonisation and the nature of the postcolonial nation state that was to come into being. Founded by a diverse group
of writers, both established and upcoming, who shared the conviction that art, literature and film could help shape and transform the nascent nation state in progressive directions, the PWA reinvigorated cultural production and debates in various media, including dance and film. Certainly, as even the predictably satirical epigrams from Rushdie seem to suggest, almost no contemporaneous Indian writer in any language, including English, would remain unaffected by its reach.