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Writing India Anew

Writing India Anew: Indian English Fiction 2000-2010

Krishna Sen
Rituparna Roy
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  • Book Info
    Writing India Anew
    Book Description:

    This groundbreaking study assesses the genre of Indian-English fiction in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Some of the most prominent scholars in the field, including Rimi B. Chatterjee, Bill Ashcroft and Shirley Chew, explore a range of themes that extend from the re-mapping of mythology and history to reassessing the globalised India of today. Together, they contend that the current body of work of Indian-English literature is so varied and vibrant that it can no longer be dismissed as derivative or dispossessed. Instead, they regard this new corpus of writing to be a major aspect of contemporary Anglophone literature. Ultimately, the contributors contend that the current body of work in Indian-English fiction is so varied and vibrant that it can no longer be dismissed as derivative or dispossessed, or even as mere postcolonial 'writing back' or compensatory national allegory.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1885-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Editors’ Preface
    (pp. 7-8)
    Krishna Sen and Rituparna Roy
  2. Introduction
    (pp. 9-26)
    Krishna Sen and Rituparna Roy

    The first decade of the present millennium has been an exciting time for Indian English fiction. While the established authors went from strength to strength, fresh voices opened up a host of new possibilities in the articulation of the Indian consciousness, both home-based and diasporic. The range of themes extended from re-mapping mythology and history to reassessing the globalised India of today, and technical experiments transited from re-inventing the epics to forays into science fiction and the graphic novel. In its grounding in socio-cultural concerns specific to India and in its confident negotiation of language, form and content, twenty-first century...


    • 1 Re-writing India
      (pp. 29-46)
      Bill Ashcroft

      For most critics, and possibly for most readers, contemporary Indian literature entered a decisive, cosmopolitan and globally popular phase with the publication ofMidnight’s Childrenin 1981. The following decades have witnessed the growth of a literature that has been outward-looking, confident and increasingly widely read. It is arguable that in that time the Indian literary diaspora has had a greater impact on English Literature than writing from any other nation. The revolution inaugurated by Rushdie hinged on the subversion of the nationalist euphoria of midnight, August 15, 1947. One version of this story is that the euphoria continued until...

    • 2 Roots and Routes On Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies
      (pp. 47-58)
      Shirley Chew

      In an early essay, ‘The Diaspora in Indian Culture’, Amitav Ghosh writes:

      The modern Indian diaspora – the huge migration from the subcontinent that began in the mid-nineteenth century – is not merely one of the most important demographic dislocations of modern times: it now represents an important force in world culture. The culture of the diaspora is also increasingly a factor within the culture of the Indian subcontinent. This is self-evidently true of its material culture, which now sets the standard for all that is desirable in the metropolitan cities. But the diaspora also counts among its members some of the...

    • 3 Revisiting Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide The Islam/English Dynamic
      (pp. 59-74)
      Nandini Bhattacharya

      I revisit Amitav Ghosh’sThe Hungry Tide, not because his latest bookRiver of Smoke(the second in theIbistrilogy) is out on the market and therefore Ghosh is newsworthy all over again, nor because he is a preeminent Indian writing consistently in English (and these would have been good enough reasons for me to reread one of his earlier novels), but because it allows me a suitably interventionist space to engage with the overarching theme of this volume.

      I begin with a fairly banal point that my choice of text is commensurate, asThe Hungry Tideis written...

    • 4 Nation, ‘No-Nation’ and ‘Desh’ Post-Orientalism and the National Allegory in Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown and Vassanji’s The Assassin’s Song
      (pp. 75-92)
      Krishna Sen

      When noted Bengali poet and littérateur Dwijendralal Roy (1863-1913) wrote his famous patriotic songDhana dhanya pushpa bhara amader ei basundhara(‘Replete with wealth, grain and flowers is this earth of ours’, first published in 1892 inAryagatha Part I) extolling India as ‘the queen of all the nations in the world’ (‘shokol desher rani shey je’), it was not the enslaved and exploited colony that he eulogised but a metacartographic and supranational entity more potent than reality – the land of his birth, hisjanmabhoomi, his ‘desh’. The referential range of ‘desh’ extends from region to province to country, as...


    • 5 Tributes or Travesties? Recent Reworkings of Classics Great and Small
      (pp. 95-110)
      Paul Sharrad

      The classic is memorably defined by Matthew Arnold when he refuses to define it (Arnold: 1446). For him it is the timeless universal against which all else may be measured. But as T.S. Eliot goes on to point out in ‘What is a Classic?’, a classic assumes its value as it rises in some combination of historical and cultural moments that leave it perched ark-like on a summit of achievement from which the waters of that literary tradition have receded: Virgil at the close of the Roman Empire.

      However, if such a work is not to moulder away, admired but...

    • 6 Of Art and the Artist Kunal Basu’s The Miniaturist as a Mughal/Modern Novel
      (pp. 111-126)
      Rituparna Roy

      This articulation of the exalted vocation of artists are the parting words of advice given by an eminent miniaturist to his ace pupil – Bihzad of the quote – in Kunal Basu’s novelThe Miniaturist.

      Set in the 16th century,The Miniaturist(2003) tells the story of the painter Kamal-al-Din Bihzad, son of Abdus Samad Shirazi, chief artist in the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar. The historical Bihzad showed exceptional artistic talent as a boy and was expected to succeed his father, but he rebelled and then dropped out of sight – lost to history. In this novel, Basu thus weaves a...


    • 7 Babu Fiction in Disguise Reading Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger
      (pp. 129-144)
      Himansu S. Mohapatra

      In a significant collusion between culture and economy, the new India that the Indian English writing of recent years has set out to portray and celebrate is the radiant and sanguine face of a post-liberalisation nation and polity. One novel is usually singled out as the instigator of this changed writing scenario in the subcontinent. This is, of course,Midnight’s Children, published in the United Kingdom in 1981 by the Indian-born writer Salman Rushdie. Although the book preceded the onset of economic reforms in the country, it could inspire a revolution in Indian writing in English precisely because, inspired by...

    • 8 Indian English Women’s Fiction and the Fascination of the Everyday
      (pp. 145-160)
      Nandana Dutta

      My initial reaction to Indian English fiction by women when I first encountered this corpus of work had been guarded – even the muchlauded Shashi Deshpande and Anita Desai had left me somewhat disenchanted. It was only later that I realised that what was happening innocuously in this body of writing had gone unnoticed by me because I had been looking for grand narrative designs and resonant themes and styles that this fiction had never set out to achieve. That is when I discovered ‘the fascination of the everyday’.

      The Indian English woman’s novel in the first decade of the twenty-first...

    • 9 Inspiring India The Fiction of Chetan Bhagat and the Discourse of Motivation
      (pp. 161-170)
      Subir Dhar

      As an Indian writer of fiction in English without any publicly proclaimed claims to genius or even to high literary merit, the redoubtable success of Chetan Bhagat in attracting extremely large numbers of Indian readers is something of an enigma. The voluminous sales figures of his novels and the loyalty of his readers who not only buy but also read his books repeatedly indicate that he is no ordinary writer but one whose accomplishment needs to be regarded as a cultural phenomenon, some aspects of which may lay legitimate claims to being investigated. Certainly his status as a bestselling author...

    • 10 Story-telling in the Age of Cybernetics Rana Dasgupta’s Tokyo Cancelled
      (pp. 171-188)
      Sreemati Mukherjee

      Rana Dasgupta’sTokyo Cancelledis perhaps the latest attempt at creating the logic of storytelling as a way of sustaining and preserving a community. In Trinh T. Minh-Ha’sWoman Native Other, Minh-Ha talks about how in more than one tradition, people sat around fires listening to stories. Since Minh-Ha is promoting the idea of the woman storyteller in this book, she calls it ‘Grandma’s story’.¹ In her article ‘Rootedness: The Ancestor as Foundation’, Toni Morrison mentions oral storytelling traditions as one way through which the black community preserved some sense of self-definition or integration:

      We don’t live in places where...

    • 11 Childhood’s End Science Fiction in India
      (pp. 189-204)
      Abhijit Gupta

      There are usually two stages in the evolution of science fiction in any language. First, there is the stage in which stray examples of the form first manifest themselves, like a new planetoid swimming into the ken of an older firmament. Second, we have the reiterations and standardisations of the form which result in the proposition of a self-sufficient genre in itself. While the first stage is usually sustained by books alone, the second phase requires widespread mobilisation of popular media such as periodicals, fanzines, webzines, films, games and the like. The second phase also requires a sufficiently broad base...

    • 12 Frame/Works How India Tells Stories in Comics and Graphic Novels
      (pp. 205-228)
      Rimi B. Chatterjee

      Comics came to India rather late and can still not be called a fully established artform. However, there was an appreciable ‘sunrise’ period in the history of the form, and recently the diversity and ambition of new comics works has been on the rise. Comics, a form that tells stories through pictures and words combined in complex symbolic relationships, is one of the most complete artforms ever invented. It can truly be called one of the twentieth century’s biggest literary innovations, right up there with stream-of-consciousness, science fiction and cyberpunk. At its best, it can involve the written word, the...


    • 13 A Diasporic Straitjacket or an Overcoat of Many Colours? A Reading of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake
      (pp. 231-246)
      Peter Liebregts

      One of the most well-known and popular representatives of contemporary Indian English fiction is Jhumpa Lahiri (1967-), who was born in London as the daughter of Bengali Indian immigrants and moved to the US when she was three. As an academic who received several degrees in literature, including a PhD in Renaissance Studies, she is also a successful author who won the American Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000 for her debut short story collectionInterpreter of Maladies(1999). Her first (and until now only) novelThe Namesake(2003) was adapted for the screen, and another short story collection,Unaccustomed...

    • 14 The Mythos of Return and Recent Indian English Diasporic Fiction
      (pp. 247-258)
      Fakrul Alam

      In the first phase of Indian English fiction, its writers were nearly all rooted in the Indian subcontinent and wrote almost entirely about the region and its people based on their vision of the quotidian experience of Indians. Writers like R.K. Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao focused mostly on life on the sub-continent in their fiction; although Anand and Rao spent considerable periods of their lives abroad, they concentrate in their fiction on depicting India and Indians at home. In the second phase of Indian English writing, however, quite a few writers began to make the life of...

  7. About the Editors and Contributors
    (pp. 259-264)