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“He has the most distorted ideas about wit and humour; he draws over his books and examination papers in the most distressing way and writes foolish rhymes in other people’s books. Notwithstanding he has a genuine interest in literature and can often talk with enthusiasm and good sense about it.”

                                                                                   Dulwich College report on Wodehouse, 1899

Few writers have been able to make such a mark on hearts and minds of readers as P.G. Wodehouse. Born on 15 October 1881 in Guildford, Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was an English-born comic novelist, short-story writer, lyricist, and playwright, famous for his humorous works in 20th century.

The setting for his stories is usually quintessentially upper class England; well for most them anyway. And yet, in spite of this ( or because of it), P.G. Wodehouse has only grown in popularity and continues to find love in every new generation that discovers him in every corner of the world. But why is this? Why do former colonies of the Empire, for instance India, still read and love novels that are mostly set in the British aristocratic classes ? As Mr. Shashi Tharoor puts in words so precisely, “……..Wodehouse has maintained a general rather than a cult audience among this Anglophone minority: unlike others who have enjoyed fleeting success, he has never gone out of fashion. This bewilders those who think that nothing could be further removed from Indian life, with its poverty and political intensity, than the cheerfully silly escapades of Wodehouse’s decadent Edwardian Young Men in Spats.”
Some critics of the author suggest that Wodehouse is enjoyed primarily by those who lament the bygone Colonial days but that’s sort of a ridiculous suggestion. Surely, even if there are any colonial lamenters left to remember fondly the days of British occupation and slavery; surely they cannot hope to find solace in the readings of man whose entire works revolves around laughing at the stupidity of the upper class and where political commentary is largely absent (except in a few cases).

The readership of P.G.Wodehouse far outstrips that of Agatha Christie or John Grisham. It is mayhaps the idyllic world that Wodehouse creates that so fascinates the people of a country that is immersed in discontentment and the illusion of greener grass on the other side of the world. The complete inability of any character to even have a shade of normalcy – the quirks of the rich if you would like is exactly what makes Wodehouse so endearing to Indians.

Again, to borrow words from Shashi Tharoor, “Unlike almost any other writer, Wodehouse does not require his readers to identify with any of his characters: they are stock figures, almost theatrical archetypes whose carefully plotted exits and entrances one follows because they are amusing, not because one is actually meant to care about them. Whereas other English novelists burdened their readers with the specificities of their characters’ lives and circumstances, Wodehouse’s existed in a never-never land that was almost as unreal to his English readers as to his Indian ones.”

Again, to borrow words from Shashi Tharoor, “Unlike almost any other writer, Wodehouse does not require his readers to identify with any of his characters: they are stock figures, almost theatrical archetypes whose carefully plotted exits and entrances one follows because they are amusing, not because one is actually meant to care about them. Whereas other English novelists burdened their readers with the specificities of their characters’ lives and circumstances, Wodehouse’s existed in a never-never land that was almost as unreal to his English readers as to his Indian ones.”

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