Amitava Kumar

Visiting Hurst Professor: Amitava Kumar - Talk

Washington University Department of English is proud to welcome Professor Amitava Kumar as part of its Hurst Visiting Professors Series.

A Talk: In Search of the Universal

How is the postcolonial novel different from the immigrant novel? And the immigrant novel from the global novel? Finally, is the global the same as the universal? As a novelist and a teacher of contemporary fiction, Amitava Kumar struggles with these questions. If he puts foreign graduate students in his story, has he written a global novel? If an immigrant tale about Indians in America makes no mention of caste is it really a postcolonial novel? Also, if an immigrant story is full of nostalgia and heartbreak but doesn't mention anything about class or caste or issues of gender or sexual differences, does it at least get to be a cosmopolitan text? This talk will take up briefly the examples of Jamaica Kincaid, J.M. Coetzee, Perumal Murugan, Arundhati Roy, Mohsin Hamid, Zadie Smith, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Vivek Shanbhag.


About Amitava Kumar:

Amitava Kumar is a writer and journalist. He was born in Ara, and grew up in the nearby town of Patna, famous for its corruption, crushing poverty and delicious mangoes. Kumar is the author of several books of non-fiction and four novels. For 2023-24, he is a Cullman Center Fellow at the New York Public Library. In 2016, Kumar was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship (General Nonfiction) as well as a Ford Fellowship in Literature from United States Artists. He has also been awarded writing residences by Yaddo, MacDowell Colony, the Rockefeller Foundation at Bellagio, the Norman Mailer Writing Center, Writers Omi at Ledig House, and the Lannan Foundation.

Kumar lives in Poughkeepsie, in upstate New York, where he is the Helen D. Lockwood Professor of English at Vassar College. He serves on the board of the Corporation of Yaddo.

Kumar’s new novel, My Beloved Life, will be published in February, 2024 by Knopf. His last novel, A Time Outside This Time, was published in October, 2021 by Knopf. It was published by Hamish Hamilton in Canada, Aleph in India, and  by Picador in the UK. The New Yorker described it as “a shimmering assault on the Zeitgeist.” His earlier novel Immigrant, Montana: A Novel, published by Faber in the UK, Knopf in the US, and in translation by other publishers worldwide, was named a notable book of the year by The New York Times, a book of the year by The New Yorker, and listed by President Barack Obama as one of his favorite books of 2018. The book came out in India under the title The Lovers: A Novel.

For more information, as well as a full bio, visit his website, here.