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English Heart, Hindi Heartland

The Political Life of Literature in India

Rashmi Sadana

Publication Year: 2012

English Heart, Hindi Heartland examines Delhi’s postcolonial literary world—its institutions, prizes, publishers, writers, and translators, and the cultural geographies of key neighborhoods—in light of colonial histories and the globalization of English. Rashmi Sadana places internationally recognized authors such as Salman Rushdie, Anita Desai, Vikram Seth, and Aravind Adiga in the context of debates within India about the politics of language and alongside other writers, including K. Satchidanandan, Shashi Deshpande, and Geetanjali Shree. Sadana undertakes an ethnographic study of literary culture that probes the connections between place, language, and text in order to show what language comes to stand for in people’s lives. In so doing, she unmasks a social discourse rife with questions of authenticity and cultural politics of inclusion and exclusion. English Heart, Hindi Heartland illustrates how the notion of what is considered to be culturally and linguistically authentic not only obscures larger questions relating to caste, religious, and gender identities, but that the authenticity discourse itself is continually in flux. In order to mediate and extract cultural capital from India’s complex linguistic hierarchies, literary practitioners strategically deploy a fluid set of cultural and political distinctions that Sadana calls "literary nationality." Sadana argues that English, and the way it is positioned among the other Indian languages, does not represent a fixed pole, but rather serves to change political and literary alliances among classes and castes, often in surprising ways.

Published by: University of California Press

Cover Page

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pp. 1-1

TItle Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

...This book is about the politics of language in India’s literary field. Several key figures in that field—the publisher Ravi Dayal, the writer Nirmal Verma, the literary scholar Meenakshi Mukherjee—passed away before it was published. I am grateful to them and to all those represented in these pages who shared their experiences and insights with me. The support for the original research for this book came from Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships, a Society of Women Geographers’ Fellowship...

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Prologue: The Slush Pile

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pp. xiii-xvi

...In the mid-1990s, working as a part-time editorial assistant at Granta in London, I was, for a very short time, in charge of the slush pile. The pile consisted mostly of short stories that had been sent in to the magazine; they came unsolicited and without representation by a literary agent. The submissions largely came from the United States and Britain but also from places like Bangladesh...

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Chapter 1: Reading Delhi and Beyond

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pp. 1-28

...the first novel by the Delhi-based writer Manju Kapur. To me this novel is serious literary fiction, and I am happy to hear that it is also selling well. A paperback copy of the book is lying face up on the ground with other novels, magazines, travel guides, and histories about India. Whether for tourists or locals, in Delhi the roadside compulsion to define India is strong...

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Chapter 2: Two Tales of a City

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pp. 29-47

...On family visits to Delhi in the 1970s, South Extension was a sleepy place. It was always summer, and we spent the afternoons under the fan. My cousins and I would quiz each other over world geography, they with their British-inflected accents and spellings, me with my wide American syllables. By early evening one of my uncles would show up with a bag of warm samosas and a few bottles...

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Chapter 3: In Sujan Singh Park

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pp. 48-70

...In 1967 Nirad Chaudhuri issued a characteristically dire pronouncement on the place of Indian writers in the world. “It is essential,” he wrote, “from every point of view to secure the imprint of a London or New York publisher, and the higher the status of even these publishers the better for the writer.”1 For Indian writers of English, Chaudhuri seems to be saying, the only path to literary...

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Chapter 4: The Two Brothers of Ansari Road

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pp. 71-93

...I first went to Ansari Road for the same reason many writers and scholars do, to buy discounted books from the rows of distributors and publishers located there. I was living next to the Golcha Cinema then and felt, for the first time, a faster pulse of the city. Daryaganj and the net of gullies leading through Old Delhi—Chawri Bazaar, the Jama Masjid, and Chandni Chowk—are famous for showcasing just what it is people get up to during the day: buying and selling...

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Chapter 5: At the Sahitya Akademi

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pp. 94-115

...The majority status of Hindi and its reflection in a unified, national literary culture becomes more complicated as one leaves Ansari Road and heads to central Delhi, where government bureaucracy and Nehruvian idealism meet at “the house of Rabindranath Tagore.” It is a place and part of Delhi where the task of creating a sense of nationality, national purpose, really, across different...

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Chapter 6: Across the Yamuna

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pp. 116-135

...For the last ten years of her life, I used to visit my grandmother in Pune. She didn’t like living there, even though it was a nice apartment complex, and she lived with her eldest son and daughter-in-law, my uncle and aunt. It had been a compromise; the family had decided that for her to live alone in Delhi was unwise. So she went from son to son to daughter to son in Toronto and Los Angeles and...

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Chapter 7: “A Suitable Text for a Vegetarian Audience”

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pp. 136-152

...twenty-one other literary works (one for each officially recognized Indian language) were given the Sahitya Akademi Award that year. In his address Nagarkar focused his remarks on why the Marathi literary establishment saw his switch from writing in Marathi to writing in English as a kind of betrayal. When his first English novel...

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Chapter 8: Indian Literature Abroad

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pp. 153-174

...In chapter 5, “At the Sahitya Akademi,” the idea of literary nationality meant bringing in but also equating numerous region-based languages into a central framework. In that schema the English language was a mediator between other Indian languages, making it integral to forging a contemporary literary field as well as helping to define literary modernity itself. As we move beyond Delhi to the centers of Indian English literary production “abroad” one might ask...

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Chapter 9: Conclusion

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pp. 175-180

...In early 2011 I attended a party at Navayana, a small, independent publishing house devoted to Dalit writing and caste politics. It was Navayana’s first event since setting up shop in Shahpur Jat, a gentrifying “village” in the heart of south Delhi, not far from the pavement booksellers with whom I began this book. That evening the...


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pp. 181-204


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pp. 205-214


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pp. 215-224

E-ISBN-13: 9780520952294
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520269576

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 776108966
MUSE Marc Record: Download for English Heart, Hindi Heartland

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Subject Headings

  • Indic literature (English) -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Publishers and publishing -- India -- History -- 20th century.
  • Book industries and trade -- India -- History -- 20th century.
  • Politics and literature -- India -- History -- 20th century.
  • Postcolonialism in literature.
  • Postcolonialism -- xIndia.
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