Edna Fernandes - writer and Journalist on India


Edna Fernandes’ first book Holy Warriors was short-listed for the UK’s Index on Censorship TR Fyvel prize and nominated for India’s Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Best Book Award. An extract from Holy Warriors is included in Penguin India’s The Non-Fiction Collection , an anthology of its best writing from the last twenty years. Her new book is The Last Jews of Kerala. For links to reviews of both books, see below:

Reviews of The Last Jews Of Kerala

The Last Jews of Kerala was included in the Sunday Times’ list of the Best Travel Books of 2008. See the link for details.

Sunday Times Best Travel Books 2008: The Last Jews of Kerala

The Last Jews of Kerala details the fascinating history of the 2,000 year old little-known Jewish community in India’s Kerala region, from its inception to its apex to its impending extinction. Author Edna Fernandes gives the work a human side by describing not only the history but her interactions with the present generation of these Jews, who now number fewer than fifty. The reader joins Fernandes in what feels like her personal journey of discovery. The subject is fascinating and poignant, the journey both languid and intense. Fernandes’ strongest suit is her ability to introduce a theme, seamlessly interweave it within the story, and conclude by unfolding a cohesive tapestry. Readers interested in Jewish history will not be disappointed.

US Jewish Book Council review

A touching investigative account…Fernandes movingly captures the sombre, embattled mood of this population in ‘countdown mode’, all too painfully aware that they have already become a ‘souvenir people'” Read Review at Times Online

Sunday Times

“A dazzling history, well recounted by Edna Fernandes in this pacy, fascinating account of a Jewish settlement little known in the West,”

Literary Review

“Fernandes has carefully pieced together a remarkable and ultimately tragic story of the consequences of religion-induced intolerance, human pride and stubbornness and a fitting follow-up to her first book, Holy Warriors,” Read Review at Gap Year

Alison Withers Editor of Gap Year

“The extinction of the few remaining Jews of Cochin is imminent…this short, tragic testament will memorialise them,” Read review at The Times

The Times

“Fascinating. The story is compelling, the author’s reporting of it assiduous. Indeed, she has unearthed gems,”


“The gripping story of a dying community in Southern Indian…How racial snobbery and prejudice led to apartheid between the White and Black Jews. Real food for thought”

Jewish Book Week

“Fernandes has produced a moving account of the declining Jewish community of Cochin in southern India. Her patiently conducted interviews draw out an affecting story of human foibles,”

Jewish Chronicle

“A history that goes back to the time of King Solomon and charts the clash that occurred between the white and black Jews. The Last Jews of Kerala is almost a lament. With a touching, lively voice, she charts the community’s glorious rise and descent,”

GG2 Life

“Edna Fernandes’s book is based on the last remaining members of these two Jewish communities in Kerala, their histories and fatal caste divisions. A sad story told in a sympathetic way,”
Read Review at the Morning Star

Morning Star

Reviews of Holy Warriors

Adrienne Loftus Parkins, former head of Asia House’s Literary Festival, organiser of the National Portrait Gallery’s Contemporary Literary Festival and head of Asia Word gives her best books on Asia from the last decade, including my first book, Holy Warriors. Some of my favourites on the list include Silk Road by Colin Thubron, Descent into Chaos by Ahmed Rashid, Maximum City by Suketu Mehta and The Glass Palace by Amithav Ghosh. See link

Holy Warriors included in list of best books on Asia of last decade

‘What a cast of characters make their way through this sharp-witted and straight-talking book: the fatuous and the venal, the self-important and the deluded, the exploitative and the corrupt. Edna Fernandes has undertaken to track down figures who epitomise the most depressing facet of Indian life – its holy warriors – as well as some of their victims. Her odyssey takes her far and wide – from Nagaland and Kashmir in the north down via Punjab and on to Goa… The reportage is even-handed and responsible and even delightfully witty. Fernandes’ asides are precise and wicked. Above all, she offers a valuable reminder of the dark side of the economic miracle that is modern India.’ Read the review at the Guardian

Naseem Khan, Guardian

‘Fernandes reports on India’s differences with compelling insight. Holy Warriors makes for vital reading, showing India’s urgent need to rearticulate an inclusive identity, to master change and exceed past glories,’ Read the review at The Independent.

The Independent

‘Witty and incisive, Holy Warriors offers a compelling insight into the imperiled state of India’s secular ideal,’ (Read review at the Telegraph)

Pick of the Paperbacks, Daily Telegraph

‘An insightful analysis of religious fundamentalism, combining solid research with bold investigative reporting. Fernandes’ survey is brave, enlightening and sobering, a must-read for anyone interested in modern India,”

Jean Hannah Edelstein, Observer

This is a remarkable, brave, moving, disturbing, funny and at times beautiful book. It tackles head-on the great Indian paradox, which most observers tend to ignore or obfuscate: that India is a centre of religion and spirituality, and hence of tolerance, celebrating the many paths available to those seeking the Godhead; yet it has also been home to some of the most terrible atrocities committed anywhere in the name of religion,’See Simon’s Review on Amazon.

Simon Long, Asia Editor, Economist

“The cancer of religious bigotry and intolerance has afflicted all communities — Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. This is vividly brought out in Edna Fernandes’ powerful book. Holy Warriors is as fair and objective an assessment of the perils that lie ahead for India as any that I have ever read. It is a must read,”

Khushwant Singh, Hindustan Times

‘This impressively researched and lucidly written book travels quickly beyond many banalities about India today. Anyone interested in exploring the complex appeal of religious extremism in half-modern societies should read it.’

Pankaj Mishra

‘A journey of discovery into some of the tensions that regularly stretch India,’

Literary Review

‘This is an amazing book. Anyone interested in religions and how they get on – or don’t – should get hold of it.’

Nihal Arthanayake, BBC Radio One DJ

‘An even-handed portrayal of a sensitive subject.’

Metro London

‘Deploying her skills as a reporter, Fernandes offers a very readable, at times funny but always very informative account of her travels and meetings with the “fundies” of all creeds.’

New Humanist

‘Witty, informative – and disturbing.’

Tim Parks,Telegraph

‘Excellent…Holy Warriors shows up in all its ugliness the cancer of religious bigotry and intolerance that afflicts all communities – Sikhs, Christians, Hindus and Muslims. It is a vivid and shocking mosaic,’

Business World

“A highly potent book,”

Humra Quraishi, Tribune

‘Edna Fernandes exposes some of the post 9/11 clichés that equate islam with terrorism. A reporter with a gift for details and genuine flashes of wit, Fernandes weaves together voices of key actors as well as the innocents caught in the cleft of history to explain the seductions of fundamentalism and its many pernicious variants,’

Review: Indo-Asian News Service

“A gripping book on the political issues facing India today.”

Review by Mahesh Bhatt