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Subjected Subcontinent

Sectarian and Sexual Lines in Indian Writing in English


Eiko Ohira

This book offers a new, complex understanding of Indian writing in English by focusing its analysis on both Indo-Pakistani Partition fiction and novels written by women. The author gives a comprehensive outline of Partition novels in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh written in English as well as an overview of the challenges of studying Partition literature, particularly English translations of Partition novels in regional languages. Featured works include Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Bapsi Sidhwa’s Ice-Candy-Man, Amitav Ghosh’s Shadow Lines, Meena Arora Nayak’s About Daddy, and Sujata Sabnis’s A Twist in Destiny. The book then moves on to a study of novels by women writers such as Githa Hariharan, Kiran Desai, Anita Desai, and Arundhati Roy, exploring their perspectives on sexuality, the body, and the diaspora.
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Chapter 1: What is Indian Writing in English?


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What is Indian Writing in English?

The Current Situation

Indian writing in English, that is, the body of English writing by Indians and by diaspora writers of Indian origin, emerged in the early nineteenth century, the colonial period, and now has a history of more than 150 years. It has been called “a Janus-faced literature” (Iyengar 1957: 35), reflecting both English and Indian cultures, and it has long been neglected or underestimated as a half-caste literature or an unpromising minority literature. It has been described as “Matthew Arnold in a saree” and compared to a “dog walking on hind legs” (Pathak 1999: 10). Meenakshi Mukherjee, one of the leading scholars of Indian writing in English, states, “when I was doing my doctoral research [in the 1960s], I had no idea that it would have any readership at all [as] I had to constantly defend my choice of topic to many well-wishers who expressed grave doubts” (The Twice Born Fiction 2001: 1).1 Mukherjee thus sought to make Indian writing in English “an acceptable field of research within the frame of English Studies” (2001 [1971]: 2).

Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, which was published in 1981 and won the Booker Prize, dramatically changed this trend and caused a boom in Indian writing in English. And it turned out not to be a passing fad, because many promising Indian writers such as Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Seth, Shashi Taroor, Rohinton Mistry, Arundhati...

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