Sunday, April 22, 2012

A mixed bag...

...Writings on India

Books about India are a mixed bag of success for any type of writer (Indian or phoren, home-grown or imported) because we are, as French points out, still grappling with narratives that have been been done to death. We continue to be in a transition phase where books on spices and magic sit cheek by jowl with the likes of "Five Point Someone". French credits "God of Small Things" with originality and a brash new idiom. I am not so sure. Essentially, GOST too was targeted at a foreign audience and therefore, not too out of league of that other breed of writers -- French satirises them -- whose hearts bleed for vernaculars but who jump at the chance to be published in London or New York. What we need is an Indian story where Indians are human and human alone, not burdened by the hundreds of, if I may say so, Orientalist stereotypes.


  1. One Indian-origined literature that I find mostly free of Orientalist stereotypes, or subverting them, is literature written by Indian-born emigrants. Some of the best literature, period, that I've read in the last 20 years has been by Bharati Mukherjee, for example: English-language indian-immigrant fiction.

    I agree about the desire to pursue stories that are "human and human alone" but at the same time local color and detail are what makes a story come alive, whether it's set in Bombay or southern Alabama, in New South Wales or Alaska. A lot of memorable fiction has a strong sense of place in it. I'd hate to lose that in the search for something more purely, universally human. At some point you can make things TOO abstract, I think.

  2. I see your point Art, but the larger point I was making is the need for an Indian writer to write a book such as Mrs Dalloway where the protagonist can be herself without being burdened by themes of exile, caste, community etc. Of course, many of the works written by Indian0origin authors make for great literature, but that is still a blinkered, unidimensional view of the world.