Nirad C. CHAUDHURI (1897–1999)
20 Lathbury Road, Oxford
A Hindu born in Kishorganj, East Bengal, in 1897, Nirad C. Chaudhuri graduated from Calcutta University and made his name writing on cultural and political themes. As secretary to Sarat Chandra Bose, brother of the nationalist leader, he developed an aversion to the form Indian nationalism was taking. From 1941 he was a political commentator for All India Radio in the years leading up to independence. He was an original thinker, forthright in his opinions and an internationalist, in the sense of one who embraces the best of all cultures but never loses his own.
In 1951 he published his most famous book, Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, a penetrating and challenging analysis of Indian history, culture and British rule. The controversial dedication to the memory of the British Empire caused a furore at the time but the book is now considered a classic work of Indian literature. He was awarded the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize for The Continent of Circe (1965), was made CBE in 1992 and received the Hon.D.Litt from the University of Oxford; the University of Viswa Bharati also awarded him Deshikottama, its highest honorary degree.
A passionate admirer of western culture, he first visited England in 1955, a visit which inspired his book Passage to England. He decided to make his home in Oxford in 1970 when he was over seventy. He was a familiar and arresting sight out and about in Oxford, a diminutive figure, always impeccably dressed in a three-piece suit, although he wore Indian attire at home. He wrote his last book Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse only a year before his death at the age of nearly 102.
- Sources: his own publications; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article by Niladri Ranjan Chatterjee
- Picture: Chaudhuri’s former house
- Oxford Mail, 2 October 2008: ‘Blue plaque honour for writer’
The plaque was unveiled at 20 Lathbury Road, Oxford, where Nirad C. Chaudhuri lived 1982–1999, on 4 October 2008 by the writer Amit Chaudhuri, assisted by Nirad Chaudhuri’s grandchildren Gina and Vik Chaudhuri.
Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board
NIRAD C. / CHAUDHURI
Friends and admirers