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Subjected Subcontinent

Sectarian and Sexual Lines in Indian Writing in English

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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 2: The Characteristics and the Issues

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← 10 | 11 →CHAPTER 2

The Characteristics and the Issues

English as a Language of Others

At first, writers of Indian writing in English struggled to master English as a privileged language. Even the so-called Big Three who began their careers in the 1930s used ponderous or overblown styles. The paradox of their passion for nationalism and their desire for assimilation continued to dominate until the 1970s. After Midnight’s Children, however, publishers of Indian writing in English, including Penguin in India (founded in 1985), became more dynamic, and the number of middle-class readers increased. However, this did not go uncriticized. Professor Harish Trivedi at the University of Delhi, for example, called this a retreat to bourgeois cosmopolitanism, with writers not committing themselves in political crises (1991: 185). Many scholars also state that Indian writing in English has lacked a regional footing, remaining out of touch with the reality of people such as the Dalits.1 Rushdie summarizes these views in The Vintage Book of Indian Writing 1947–1997, mentioning that writers have been seen as “too upper-middle”, “lacking diversity in their choice of themes and techniques”, “less popular in India than outside India”, and “living, in many cases, outside India” (1997: 13). Yet he largely dismisses such notions, lamenting “the ability of Western critics and publishers to impose their cultural standards on the East” (Intro. 13). Others have been harsher, saying “it is desirable to leave out writers who have no stakes in Indian society” (Devy...

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