Fire on the Mountain

Fire on the Mountain Study Guide

Fire on the Mountain is a 1977 novel by Anita Desai that deals with the subjects of solitude, existentialism, and oppression of females in patriarchal Indian society. The book tells the story of Nanda Kaul, a widowed, reclusive woman who has to unwillingly take in her great-grandchild, Raka, a sickly girl from a broken marriage. As in the author's other books, there is a strong symbology of nature, which is used to describe the psyche of characters.

The novel was published, Ashley N. Batts writes, “at the very end of the Indian Emergency Period, initiated by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as a means to settle the political and economic unrest in India. Indira Gandhi and her political party were defeated in the elections of 1977, and the Janata party took over to try to quell the unrest and instability of the period. Indian literature of this period was becoming more open to various topics and complex literary styles, although many female Indian authors in the Indo-Anglican genre, including Ruth Prawar Jhabvala and Rama Mehta, were still focused on the social realist novel.”

Desai's text won the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize in 1978. Desai considers this her most satisfying work, saying, “the work in which I have come closest, to what I set to do, and I don’t think I very often do, is Fire on the Mountain.