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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 8: Midnight’s Children: A Narrative of Narcissist Failure


← 96 | 97 →CHAPTER 8

Midnight’s Children: A Narrative of Narcissist Failure

The Impossible Desire for Self-Reference and the Homeland

Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children delineates the narrator Saleem’s self-alienation and fragmentation. The process of his psychological subject formation is chained to the formation and fragmentation of Indiaas a newly born nation state. This intertwining means, as M. K. Naik comments, that Midnight’s Children is a “many-faceted novel … an autobiographical bildungsroman, a picaresque narrative, a political allegory … a surrealist fantasy …” (1987: 46). Most critics have tended to centre on the modernity of its complex structure and its experimental style, and recent criticism tends to focus on the relationship between individual and political identity, which is structured in the frames of a Bildungsroman and a political allegory. In The Imaginary Homeland Rushdie insists that writers and politicians “try to make the world in their own images”, and that writers can resist the power of the State, which tries to “alter the past to fit present needs” (1992: 14). Yet this novel is largely a narrative of failure. We need to consider why and how Saleem narrates a story of his life which ends with him as one of the “specks of voiceless dust” (Rushdie 1981: 463) in a crowd, his autobiography a record of his defeat and dismemberment, and, by extension, of the defeat and dismemberment of India.

It is important to note here that Saleem is “made and unmade” by women, one of whom...

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