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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 14: Representation of the Diaspora: Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss


← 184 | 185 →CHAPTER 14

Representation of the Diaspora: Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss

Mother–Daughter Fiction

Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss (2006) and Anita Desai’s Fire on the Mountain (1977) share a similar setting, thus seeming, perhaps, to give new meaning to the term mother–daughter fiction, making the literary literal in one way. Nanda, a protagonist in Desai mère’s story, lives in a secluded house on a ridge in the Himalayas alone with her servant, until Raka, her granddaughter, comes to live with her. Nanda’s seclusion, the result of her painful, secret humiliation, her unbearable memories as a neglected wife, her servitude to her unfaithful husband, thus comes to be exposed. In Desai fille’s The Inheritance of Loss, Jemubhai, a retired judge, similarly lives alone with his cook in an isolated house in Kalimpong, at the foot of a Himalayas, “with the solace of being a foreigner in his own country” (29), until his orphaned granddaughter comes to live with him. Her arrival upsets him, bringing back memories of his journey to England in 1939, memories of humiliation which caused his Anglophilia and self-hatred.

The atmosphere of the houses in both texts is thus one of intense solitude suddenly disrupted, however, their similarity ends here. The Inheritance of Loss is full of stylistic playfulness, touches of comedy, subtlety of logic, and central characters who search for affection and closeness, while Fire on the Mountain portrays female characters whose...

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