David Rubin says, “To Premchand belongs the distinction of creating the genre of the serious short-story and the serious novel as well-in both Hindi and Urdu.” (The World of Premchand. Oxford, 2001.)
Premchand, who is originally known as Dhanpat Rai Srivastava was born on 31st July 1880 in Benaras (at present, Varanasi). Earlier he used to write under the pen name Nawab Rai and later switched to Munshi Premchand. He was an avid reader and had learnt both hindi and persian language in his childhood. His mother died when he was 8 years old and he couldn’t accept his step mother, but she became the recurring theme of Premchand’s later works. He was interested in reading books but not in academic studies and hence, couldn’t make into admission in Central Hindu college. He has done teaching in different forms like, as a coach, tutor, school teacher, and headmaster to earn money and run his living. His first marriage was not so successful as his wife left him because of his ignorance and ill behavior. Later, Premchand was widely questioned and opposed for his decision as he married a child widow, Shivarani Devi. She wrote a book on his huband’s life titled as “Premchand Ghar Mein”
Premchand was criticized and critiqued on various grounds especially for his writings. His first short novel, ‘Asrar e Ma’abid’ published in the Benaras based Urdu weekly Awaz-e-Khalk, explores the corruption of priests and their sexual exploitation of poor women. Literary critic Siegfried Schulz states that “his inexperience is quite evident in his first novel“, which is not well-organized, lacks a good plot and features stereotyped characters. Prakash Chandra Gupta calls it an “immature work“, which shows a tendency to “see life only white or black“. His first major novel was ‘Seva Sadan’ which was published in 1919. Later, he wrote for an Urdu Magazine ‘Zamana’ and other newspapers and magazines. Being a part of India, struggling for Independence his writing were influenced by the events of colonialism, nationalism, corruption, feudal system, poverty and other societal issues like; child widowhood, dowry and prostitution. Premchand has translated several non-Hindi works into Hindi for example, Charles Dickens (The Story of Richard Doubledick), Oscar Wilde (Canterville), John Galsworthy (Strife), etc. His writings have been depicted in the form of short movies and documentaries like, ‘Idgah’; ‘Sadgati’ and ‘Shatranj ke Khiladi’ by Saryajit Ray and many more.