Penguin to Publish Biography of Agyeya Written by Multiple Award-Winning Author Akshaya Mukul

New Delhi, June 2022: Penguin Random House India announces the acquisition and publication of multiple award-winning author, Akshaya Mukul’s Writer, Rebel, Soldier, Lover: The Many Lives of Agyeya. The story of one of the most brilliant personalities of Indian literature is coming out in the English language in July 2022 under the Vintage imprint and is currently available on all major e-commerce websites on preorder. Its Hindi language translation, slated for 2023, will be published under the Hind Pocket Books imprint.

Akshaya Mukul’s book about Sachchidanand Hirananda Vatsyayan, or ‘Agyeya’ as he was more popularly known, is comprehensive and bold. Based on never-before-seen archival researchincluding a mammoth trove of private papers, documents of the CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom, and colonial records of his years in jail—readers can prepare to be captivated by the biography. Through this life story, we also get a rare peek into the history of the Hindi literary world of the twentieth century and the factionalism, squabbling, pettiness and ambition found in it.

Commenting on the book, author Akshaya Mukul said, ‘’In Writer, Rebel, Soldier, Lover: The Many Lives of Agyeya, I have attempted to take an unflinching view of Agyeya’s public, private and secret lives. Excavated from a massive archive of previously unseen private papers and other fresh material sourced from Delhi, New York, Chicago, and Stanford University, his story features genius writers, mad poets, literary fixers, and secret lovers. It is the literary history of Hindi from colonial times to Nehruvian India and beyond. Agyeya’s civilisational enterprise and the Hindi world’s factional fights are as thrilling as the times he lived in. It is a satisfying symmetry that Penguin Random House India, publishers of Shekhar: Ek Jiwani in translation and Prison Days and Other Poems, will be the home of this biography.I am happy to be working with Elizabeth Kuruvilla, Vineet Gill, and the entire team, which embraced the book with so much love.’ 

Writer, Rebel, Soldier, Lover is the story of Agyeya’s journey from being a revolutionary youth to becoming a (highly controversial) patron-saint of Hindi literature. This story spans landscapes stretching from British jails, an intellectually robust Allahabad and modern-day Delhi to monasteries in Europe, the homes of Agyeya’s friends in the Himalayas, and universities in the US.

Elizabeth Kuruvilla, Executive Editor, Ebury Publishing & Vintage, Penguin Random House India, said, ‘When Akshaya Mukul has a book, you know you have to read it. Impeccably researched, written with an elegance that never carries the weight of the research, and always a page-turner. Writer, Rebel, Soldier, Lover is about Agyeya, of course—and a more fascinating subject for a biographer may be hard to find—but it is also an incredibly intimate view of the people around him, and in particular of the Hindi literary establishment. We are proud to be publishing this book.’

Milee Ashwarya, Publisher, Ebury Publishing & Vintage, Penguin Random House India, said, ‘I have been an admirer of Akshay Mukul’s writings and have been eagerly waiting for his next work. Now that Writer, Rebel, Soldier, Lover will be soon published I am delighted that readers too will be able to enjoy and engage with this special book that unravels the life and times of Agyeya. It is a must read.’

About the author

Akshaya Mukul is the author of Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India (2015), which won every major non-fiction award in India on its release, including the Crossword Book Award, Ramnath Goenka Award, Tata Literature Live Award, Atta-Galatta-Bangalore Literature Festival Prize and the Shakti Bhatt Award. Mukul is the recipient of the Homi Bhabha, Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund and the New India Foundation fellowships. He has contributed essays to Keywords for India: A Conceptual Lexicon for the 21st Century, edited by Rukmini Bhaya Nair and Peter Ronald deSouza, and A Functioning Anarchy?: Essays for Ramachandra Guha, edited by Srinath Raghavan and Nandini Sundar.

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