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A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

A Passage to India (1924)

by E. M. Forster

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9,737111470 (3.76)515
  1. 50
    Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M. Forster (li33ieg)
    li33ieg: Same author, different setting, same core themes
  2. 50
    The Raj Quartet, Volume 1: The Jewel in the Crown; The Day of the Scorpion by Paul Scott (FemmeNoiresque)
    FemmeNoiresque: Scott's The Raj Quartet, and particularly the relationship between Daphne Manners and Hari Kumar in the first novel, The Jewel In The Crown, is a revisioning of the charge of rape made by Adela Quested to Dr Aziz. Race, class and empire are explored in the aftermath of this event, in WWII India.… (more)
  3. 40
    Maurice: A Novel by E. M. Forster (li33ieg)
    li33ieg: The man is brilliant! One should read all of his books!
  4. 30
    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (lucyknows)
    lucyknows: You could use the theme of colonialism to pair The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver with Passage to India by E. M. Forster.
  5. 21
    The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: These two novels bear close relationship in setting and circumstance.
  6. 10
    Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (kiwiflowa)
  7. 10
    Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (Booksloth)
  8. 00
    Hindoo Holiday: An Indian Journal by J. R. Ackerley (SomeGuyInVirginia)
  9. 00
    The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (WildMaggie)
  10. 00
    Staying On by Paul Scott (KayCliff)
  11. 00
    Slowly Down the Ganges by Eric Newby (John_Vaughan)
  12. 33
    The Jewel in the Crown [1984 TV mini series] by Christopher Morahan (li33ieg)
    li33ieg: Similar period and themes
1920s (3)
Asia (7)
My TBR (22)

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» See also 515 mentions

English (103)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  French (1)  All languages (111)
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Excerpts from my original GR review (Apr 2010):
- 1924 novel, ..Modern Library has it #25 on its list of best 20th century English language novels. Couple of interesting asides: this was Forster's last novel, even though he lived until 1970. He was a popular BBC Radio broadcaster in the decades after the book's release. He began work on this novel in 1913.
- I give the author credit: he takes on the difficulties of colonial rule fairly straight on, admirable for the 1920s. The major themes are racial, class, and religious divides between East and West, and between Christians, Hindus and Moslems. The plot is fair, but was splintered by the author's hammering away on these themes. We are given every nuanced shift in intellectual attitudes between characters. So, I became irked, and once irked, it's hard to get me back on track entirely.
- In its day, this must have been an invigorating read in merry old England. I know this isn't contemporary lit, but even so, the adage of "show, don't tell" wasn't put in practice enough here. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Nov 23, 2018 |
Have you ever been all alone in a quiet place and suddenly been sure you were being watched? Even though no one was around? It's just that, the power of the imagination to create an experience in the mind that may or may not have actually happened, that drives the central conflict in E.M. Forster's A Passage to India. Plain young schoolmistress Adela Quested ventures to India with her friend, Mrs. Moore, to possibly arrange an engagement to Mrs. Moore's son Ronny, a small-town official in the British administration. While there, Mrs. Moore comes across a young widowed Indian Muslim, Dr. Aziz, in a mosque and they strike up a quick and easy friendship. When she and Adela express a desire to the "the real India", Aziz arranges a trip for them to see some caves outside of town. The trip is supposed to be joined by a British school principal, Cyril Fielding (one of the few unprejudiced members of the white community and a friend of Aziz's), but he misses the train and Aziz takes the women out with just a few servants and a guide to accompany them. In the first cave, Mrs. Moore is shaken by the experience of the echo inside and opts out of further exploration. Aziz and Quested proceed, but become separated, each in a different cave. Aziz frantically searches for her, but emerges only to find that she's running away and getting in a car, going back to the city. When he arrives back in the city himself, he's arrested for assaulting her in the cave.

Since we see the story from his point of view during that section of the novel, we know he didn't touch her. He couldn't even find her! But what did happen in that cave that scared her so badly? And will he be convicted even though he's innocent? The Anglo-Indians, as the British administration expats refer to themselves, are deeply racist, and there's a great deal of consternation that there needs to be a trial at all. The incident stirs up a lot of enmity on the parts of both the British and the Indians, who come together despite their own religious divisions to support Aziz. The only Briton that supports Aziz is Fielding.

Racial divides and the inherent injustices of colonialism are the main themes, and there's nothing really new or interesting in how Forster presents them. In 1924, when the book was published, it was possibly pretty progressive (for context, the British didn't leave India until 1949), but in 2017, it's not going anywhere unexpected. What I found to be the most interesting angle on it from today's perspective is the relationship between Aziz and Fielding. It raises the question of what it means to be a good ally to an underprivileged group, and if there can ever be real friendship between people society holds as unequal. The book posits that as much as they like each other, the answer is ultimately no. Fielding stands by Aziz during the trial, but then seeks to keep him from suing for recompense from Quested...recompense he deserves, but will ruin her. Even though he's presented to us as a fair-minded and fundamentally decent person, Fielding can't help but let his own perspective as a member of the privileged group drive his thinking, and that undermines his ability to really understand where Aziz is coming from.

Honestly, though, I didn't find much to like here. Coming at it from the world of now, the themes are tired and have been done before and better. Forster doesn't have especially lovely prose, nor does he create particularly well-drawn or resonant characters. In its time, it was a major work, but I didn't find anything all that compelling about it. I read it really quickly not because I liked it, but because I wanted to get through it and go on to something more interesting. ( )
  500books | May 22, 2018 |
A Passage to India, published in 1924 is one of the best known works of E. M. Forster. It was published at a time when the Indian independence movement was at its height.

The story of A Passage to India is set in the fictional Indian town of Chandrapore. Two women, Mrs. Moore, the mother of Ronny Heaslop, the British city magistrate of Chandrapore and Adela Quested come to visit India. Adela is supposed to marry Ronny but has some rather ambiguous feelings about him, settling in India and marriage in general. Adela at the same time has some vague intentions of learning about the real India and its people. In the course of her quest to find the real India Adela meets Mr. Fielding, the British headmaster of the small government-run college and Dr. Aziz, a young Muslim Indian Physician. An untoward incident during a trip to the Marabar Caves sours their newly found friendship, an incident which brings out the worst in both the British rulers and their local subjects.

After I started to read this book I realized I had to be very careful. I had to read each and every sentence with great care lest I should miss some of the deeper meanings embedded in them.

Most would say that this is a story of the racial tension that exists between the ruler and the subjects. It is about British colonization of India and the blatant and latent hatred and mistrust they had of their Indian subjects and vice versa.

But I believe there is more to it than that. Sure, the setting of the story is India during the Colonial times but the story is more about isolation and the lack of understanding. Isolation that results from people refusing to understand that someone else may view the world in a different way. When people, afraid of learning new things, take refuge within feelings of distrust and hatred. This is the story of utter disconnection, not only between the British and the Indians, but between men and women and the older and the younger generation.

One of the most interesting points of the story is the characters of Mrs. Moore and Adela. They are fascinatingly complex. Mrs. Moore is idolized by Dr. Aziz. But she never really does any real good to him. Adela never intends to hurt anyone. And yet she sets in motion events that will eventually change everyone’s lives forever.

The friendship between Mr. Fielding and Dr. Aziz and its gradual disintegration is another important point of the story. They try and ultimately fail to cross the chasm between them that have been created by race and the ruler-subject relations.

E. M. Forster’s writing is very good but definitely complex. He seems captivated by the Indian culture and landscape. He certainly describes it in great detail.

E. M. Forster ultimately does not give us an answer to the question of what really happened in those caves. Did something really happen to Adela? Or was she just overwhelmed by the caves and hallucinated the whole thing? Why did the caves have such a curious effect on both Mrs. Moore and Adela? Was it merely culture shock and the unbearable heat or was it something more tangible? I’m still pondering. ( )
1 vote Porua | Apr 25, 2018 |
Read this for my classic lit book club. I did not enjoy it. Too many chatacters. Hard to keep track of who is who, who is British, who is Indian, which Indians are Muslims and which are Hindus, etc. ( )
  Aseleener | Mar 24, 2018 |
Block of text is completely detached
  SalemAthenaeum | Nov 18, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (62 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Forster, E. M.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burra, PeterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dastor, SamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davidson, FrederickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Diaz, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magadini, ChristopherIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mishra, PankajIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Motti, AdrianaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pigott-Smith, TimReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sanders, Scott RussellAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stallybrass, OliverEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilby, JamesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Syed Ross Masood and to the seventeen years of our friendship
First words
Except for the Marabar caves--and they are twenty miles off--the city of Chrandrapore presents nothing extraordinary.
Towards the end of 1906 Theodore Morison, who until recently had been Principal of the Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh and now lived ay Weybridge, Surrey, was looking for a tutor in Latin for his Indian ward Syed Ross Masood, a young Moslem of good, indeed distinguished, family who was destined for Oxford. (Editor's Introduction)
The India described in A Passage to India no longer exists either politically or socially. (Prefatory Note)
Perhaps it is chance, more than any peculiar devotion, that determines a man in his choice of medium, when he finds himself possessed by an obscure impulse towards creation. (Introduction)
"We must exclude someone from our gathering, or we shall be left with nothing."
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
A mysterious incident at the Marabar caves, involving Adela Quested, newly arrived from England, and the presumed guilt of charming and mercurial Dr. Aziz, are at the centre of Forster's magnificent novel of India during the Raj. Topical now, as in 1924, in its evocation of the dangers and ambivalences inherent in colonialism, as Forster said, it is 'about something wider than politics, about the search of the human race for a more lasting home, about the universe as embodied in the Indian earth and the Indian sky, about the horror lurking in the Marabar caves...'
Haiku summary
Grottes de Marabar/Mrs Moore à la mosquée/et l'Inde des Anglais/(tiercelin)

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In this hard-hitting novel, first published in 1924, the murky personal relationship between an Englishwoman and an Indian doctor mirrors the troubled politics of colonialism. Adela Quested and her fellow British travelers, eager to experience the "real" India, develop a friendship with the urbane Dr. Aziz. While on a group outing, Adela and Dr. Aziz visit the Marabar caves together. As they emerge, Adela accuses the doctor of assaulting her. While Adela never actually claims she was raped, the decisions she makes ostracize her from both her countrymen and the natives, setting off a complex chain of events that forever changes the lives of all involved. This intense and moving story asks the listener serious questions about preconceptions regarding race, sex, religion, and truth. A political and philosophical masterpiece.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014144116X, 0143566385

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