Attia Hosain

Attia Hosain. South Asian Diaspora Literature and Arts Archive
Date of birth: 
20 Oct 1913
City of birth: 
Lucknow
Country of birth: 
India
Date of death: 
23 Jan 1998
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1947
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Y
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1947 until death

About: 

Attia Hosain was born into a wealthy landowning family in northern India. Her father was educated at Cambridge University, and her mother was the founder of an institute for women's education and welfare. Hosain attended the Isabella Thoburn College at the University of Lucknow, becoming the first woman from a landowning family to graduate in 1933. She also undertook private tuition in Urdu and Persian at home, where she was brought up according to the Muslim tradition. Influenced by the left-wing, nationalist politics of her Cambridge-educated brother and his friends, Hosain became involved with the All-India Progressive Writers’ Association, a group of socialist writers which included Ahmed Ali, Mulk Raj Anand and Sajjad Zaheer. Encouraged by the poet and political activist Sarojini Naidu, she attended the 1933 All-India Women’s Conference in Calcutta, reporting on it for Lucknow and Calcutta newspapers. In this period, she also began to write short stories.

In 1947, determined to avoid going to the newly created Pakistan, Hosain left India for Britain with her husband, Ali Bahadur Habibullah, who undertook war repatriation work. The couple had two children, and Hosain chose to remain in Britain. She continued to write and began work as a broadcaster, presenting a woman's programme for the Indian Section of the Eastern Service of the BBC from 1949. During her time at the BBC, she broadcast on a wide range of topics, from art to music to religion to cinema. As well as reading scripts, she participated in discussion programmes and acted as a roving reporter for the Weekend Review. In 1953 she published her first work of fiction, a collection of short stories titled Phoenix Fled. This was followed in 1961 by her only novel, Sunlight on a Broken Column.

Connections: 
Involved in events: 

All-India Women’s Conference, Calcutta, 1933

Participant in the First All-India Progressive Writers’ Conference, Lucknow, 1936

Acted in Peter Mayne’s West End play The Bird of Time, London, 1961

Published works: 

'Of Meals and Memories', in Loaves and Wishes: Writers Writing on Food, ed. by Antonia Till (London: Virago, 1992), pp. 141-6

Phoenix Fled (London: Chatto & Windus, 1953)

Sunlight on a Broken Column (London: Chatto & Windus, 1961)

Contributions to periodicals: 

The Pioneer (Calcutta)

The Statesman (Calcutta)

Reviews: 

E. L. Sturch, Times Literary Supplement, 4 December 1953 (Phoenix Fled)

Secondary works: 

‘Attia Hosain’, SALIDAA: South Asia Diaspora Literature and Arts Archive, www.salidaa.org.uk

Bharucha, Nilufer E., ‘I am a Universalist-Humanist’, Biblio 3.7-8 (July - August 1998)

Bondi, Laura, ‘An Image of India by an Indian Woman: Attia Hosain’s Life and Fiction’, unpublished MA thesis (University Degli Studio Venezia, 1993)

Burton, Antoinette, Dwelling in the Archive: Women Writing House, Home, and History in Late Colonial India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)

Desai, Anita, ‘Hosain, Attia Shahid’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [http://www.oxforddnb/com/view/article/69617]

Holmstrom, Lakshmi, ‘Attia Hosain: Her Life and Work’, Indian Review of Books 8-9 (1991)

Archive source: 

Six radio scripts broadcast by Hosain, BBC Written Archives Centre, Caversham Park, Reading