English Heart, Hindi Heartland

English Heart, Hindi Heartland: The Political Life of Literature in India

Rashmi Sadana
Series: FlashPoints
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pnmwb
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  • Book Info
    English Heart, Hindi Heartland
    Book Description:

    English Heart, Hindi Heartlandexamines Delhi's postcolonial literary world-its institutions, prizes, publishers, writers, and translators, and the cultural geographies of key neighborhoods-in light of colonial histories and the globalization of English. Rashmi Sadana places internationally recognized authors such as Salman Rushdie, Anita Desai, Vikram Seth, and Aravind Adiga in the context of debates within India about the politics of language and alongside other writers, including K. Satchidanandan, Shashi Deshpande, and Geetanjali Shree. Sadana undertakes an ethnographic study of literary culture that probes the connections between place, language, and text in order to show what language comes to stand for in people's lives. In so doing, she unmasks a social discourse rife with questions of authenticity and cultural politics of inclusion and exclusion.English Heart, Hindi Heartlandillustrates how the notion of what is considered to be culturally and linguistically authentic not only obscures larger questions relating to caste, religious, and gender identities, but that the authenticity discourse itself is continually in flux. In order to mediate and extract cultural capital from India's complex linguistic hierarchies, literary practitioners strategically deploy a fluid set of cultural and political distinctions that Sadana calls "literary nationality." Sadana argues that English, and the way it is positioned among the other Indian languages, does not represent a fixed pole, but rather serves to change political and literary alliances among classes and castes, often in surprising ways.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95229-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Prologue: The Slush Pile
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    In the mid-1990s, working as a part-time editorial assistant at Granta in London, I was, for a very short time, in charge of the slush pile. The pile consisted mostly of short stories that had been sent in to the magazine; they came unsolicited and without representation by a literary agent. The submissions largely came from the United States and Britain but also from places like Bangladesh, Canada, India, Kenya, Nigeria, and Singapore—together sometimes referred to as the British Commonwealth or, lately, the Anglophone world. I found myself reading stamps and return addresses as carefully as the stories and...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Reading Delhi and Beyond
    (pp. 1-28)

    I ask a pavement bookseller what he has for sale, and he replies, “Only best-sellers.” I have little interest in best-sellers, but that is about to change. “What makes a book a best-seller?” I ask matter-of-factly. He points toDifficult Daughters,the first novel by the Delhi-based writer Manju Kapur. To me this novel is serious literary fiction, and I am happy to hear that it is also selling well. A paperback copy of the book is lying face up on the ground with other novels, magazines, travel guides, and histories about India. Whether for tourists or locals, in Delhi...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Two Tales of a City
    (pp. 29-47)

    On family visits to Delhi in the 1970s, South Extension was a sleepy place. It was always summer, and we spent the afternoons under the fan. My cousins and I would quiz each other over world geography, they with their British-inflected accents and spellings, me with my wide American syllables. By early evening one of my uncles would show up with a bag of warm samosas and a few bottles of sweet, sizzling Thums Up. Later, another uncle would whiz me around on his scooter to the market. He would get apaan,and I would stand next to him...

  7. CHAPTER 3 In Sujan Singh Park
    (pp. 48-70)

    In 1967 Nirad Chaudhuri issued a characteristically dire pronouncement on the place of Indian writers in the world. “It is essential,” he wrote, “from every point of view to secure the imprint of a London or New York publisher, and the higher the status of even these publishers the better for the writer.”¹ For Indian writers of English, Chaudhuri seems to be saying, the only path to literary recognition is through the publishing apparatus of the Western world. Further along he continues in a slightly more ominous vein: “But one warning I must give. To be acceptable to Western publishers,...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Two Brothers of Ansari Road
    (pp. 71-93)

    I first went to Ansari Road for the same reason many writers and scholars do, to buy discounted books from the rows of distributors and publishers located there. I was living next to the Golcha Cinema then and felt, for the first time, a faster pulse of the city. Daryaganj and the net of gullies leading through Old Delhi—Chawri Bazaar, the Jama Masjid, and Chandni Chowk—are famous for showcasing just what it is people get up to during the day: buying and selling paper, cloth, wedding cards, plastic toys, and sweets; flying kites, washing dishes, sweeping garbage; praying,...

  9. CHAPTER 5 At the Sahitya Akademi
    (pp. 94-115)

    The majority status of Hindi and its reflection in a unified, national literary culture becomes more complicated as one leaves Ansari Road and heads to central Delhi, where government bureaucracy and Nehruvian idealism meet at “the house of Rabindranath Tagore.” It is a place and part of Delhi where the task of creating a sense of nationality, national purpose, really, across different forms of cultural production is paramount. I identify this quest at the Sahitya Akademi as one for “literary nationality.” In terms of literary production, to be literate is to know the literatures of each regional language and accord...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Across the Yamuna
    (pp. 116-135)

    For the last ten years of her life, I used to visit my grandmother in Pune. She didn’t like living there, even though it was a nice apartment complex, and she lived with her eldest son and daughter-in-law, my uncle and aunt. It had been a compromise; the family had decided that for her to live alone in Delhi was unwise. So she went from son to son to daughter to son in Toronto and Los Angeles and Bombay (as she knew it) and finally, at the age of seventy-six, said no more, she was not leaving India again, and...

  11. CHAPTER 7 “A Suitable Text for a Vegetarian Audience”
    (pp. 136-152)

    In 2000 Kiran Nagarkar’s novelCuckoldwon India’s top literary prize for best original work in English, yet the accolade seemed to alienate him further from his most prized readership in his home state of Maharashtra. The novels and plays that had initially established Nagarkar as an acclaimed author were written originally in the Marathi language. He went on to write more Marathi plays but then made the “mistake” of writing two novels in English,Ravan and Eddie(1995) andCuckold(1997).¹

    In February 2001 I listened as the winners of the 2000 awards each addressed a packed lecture hall...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Indian Literature Abroad
    (pp. 153-174)

    In chapter 5, “At the Sahitya Akademi,” the idea of literary nationality meant bringing in but also equating numerous region-based languages into a central framework. In that schema the English language was a mediator between other Indian languages, making it integral to forging a contemporary literary field as well as helping to define literary modernity itself. As we move beyond Delhi to the centers of Indian English literary production “abroad” one might ask, What happens to the pursuit of literary nationality outside of India? In this chapter, an alternate aspect of this concept emerges as authors and critics define “India”...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Conclusion
    (pp. 175-180)

    In early 2011 I attended a party at Navayana, a small, independent publishing house devoted to Dalit writing and caste politics. It was Navayana’s first event since setting up shop in Shahpur Jat, a gentrifying “village” in the heart of south Delhi, not far from the pavement booksellers with whom I began this book. That evening the city’s literary intelligentsia was eating rolled-up kebabs and drinking rum or beer, each carrying a red paper bag of books bought. If there were any doubts about there being a literary scene in Delhi, that evening at Navayana might diminish them. Arundhati Roy...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 181-204)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 205-214)
  16. Index
    (pp. 215-224)