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South Asian Partition Fiction in English

South Asian Partition Fiction in English: From Khushwant Singh to Amitav Ghosh

Rituparna Roy
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 180
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    South Asian Partition Fiction in English
    Book Description:

    South Asian Partition Fiction in English: From Khushwant Singh to Amitav Ghosh explores a significant cross-section of South Asian fiction in English written on the theme of Partition from the mid-1950s to the late 1980s, and shows how the Partition novel in English traverses a very interesting trajectory during this period - from just 'reporting' the cataclysmic event to theorizing about it. The six novels selected for study (Train to Pakistan, A Bend in the Ganges, Ice-Candy-Man, Clear Light of Day, Midnight's Children, and The Shadow Lines) show that, essentially, three factors shape the contours and determine the thrust of the narratives - the time in which the novelists are writing; the value they attach to women as subjects of this traumatic history; and the way they perceive the concept of the nation. "By a fresh reading of six novels that are representative of the various perspectives on the Partition of the subcontinent, and placing them in a larger historical and literary context, dr. Roy's book fills an important lacuna in current criticism, and does it convincingly." - Peter Liebregts, Professor of Modern Literatures in English, Leiden University "In this thoughtful and thoroughly readable book, Rituparna Roy looks at fictional representations of the cataclysmic birth-pangs of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and indicates how literary envisionings mesh in with reportage, historiography, nationhood, femininity and personal identity." - Subir Dhar, Professor of English Literature, Rabindra Bharati University (RBU), Kolkata This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1283-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-8)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 9-12)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 13-32)

    Undivided India, which freed itself from the colonial yoke, and the event of the Partition of the subcontinent are inextricably bound together. Thus, no post-colonial denizen of the subcontinent possessing a sense of history and living in the post-independence era can ignore the pervasive influence and impact of the Partition on contemporary life. Undoubtedly the most important determining factor in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh’s destiny, the Partition is much more than a historical fact, however, for it has served and continues to serve as a compelling literary theme that has engendered a substantial body of fiction on the subcontinent, fiction...

  5. 1 Partition: The Holocaust
    (pp. 33-62)

    ‘Khuswant Singh’s searing novelMano Majra(Train to Pakistan, New York, 1956), first made me aware of the human impact of Partition’s tragedy on Punjab’ (2006: ix). This is Stanley Wolpert’s first statement of ‘Acknowledgements’ inShameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India.¹ Wolpert, one of the most reputed historians of the Partition of the Indian subcontinent, acknowledges this intellectual debt in 2006, exactly fifty years afterTrain to Pakistanwas first published; and his comment, in a way, sums up the stature of Singh’s novel as a Partition text.

    Train to Pakistan² was the first...

  6. 2 Women during the Partition: Victim and agent
    (pp. 63-88)

    Four of the six novels studied here were written in the 1980s. But there is a marked difference between them in that the novels written by women (Anita Desai’sClear Light of Dayand Bapsi Sidhwa’sIce-Candy-Man) stand apart from the others. They are as equally distinct from the two novels written in the 1960s by Khushwant Singh (Train to Pakistan) and Manohar Malgonkar (A Bend in the Ganges) as they are from the two other novels written in the 1980s by Salman Rushdie (Midnight’s Children) and Amitav Ghosh (The Shadow Lines). Even a cursory reading reveals that the novels...

  7. 3 The making of a nation: Religion or language?
    (pp. 89-110)

    It is generally agreed that though English has been creatively used in India since the nineteenth century and literary production in it has strengthened since at least the 1930s, when it flowered in the hands of writers like Mulk Raj Anand, Raja Rao and R.K. Narayan, Indian Writing in English, especially the Indian novel in English, properly came into its own only in the 1980s. This was not because of any previous dearth of talent, as every decade since Independence invariably produced a fresh crop of successful writers with their own special concerns. It was rather because of (among several...

  8. 4 Imagined communities: Questioning the border
    (pp. 111-130)

    The title of Amitav Ghosh’s novelThe Shadow Lines¹ is reminiscent of the title of Joseph Conrad’sThe Shadow-Line², but it is clear enough that Ghosh did not draw upon Conrad’s book while writing his defining and most popular piece of fiction to date. His sources lay elsewhere, and they could not have been more divergent. As acknowledged by the author himself, there were two principal inspirations behindThe Shadow Lines, one political and the other literary, of which the first shaped its content, and the other determined its form. These were the 1984 Delhi riots following the assassination of...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 131-138)

    Independent India is now more than sixty years old, and so is the original Partition of the subcontinent into a secular India and an Islamic Pakistan. In the history of Indian Writing in English which is roughly 200 years old¹, this span of time coincides with the rise of the novel form from its being the chosen vehicle of the famous trio of Indian-English fiction – Raja Rao, Mulk Raj Anand and R.K. Narayan – who started their careers as novelists in the 1930s and 1940s, to its establishment as arguably the most pre-eminent and successful form of creative writing...

  10. Glossary
    (pp. 139-140)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 141-162)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 163-170)
  13. Index
    (pp. 171-176)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 177-178)