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Decentering Rushdie

Cosmopolitanism and the Indian Novel in English

Pranav Jani

Publication Year: 2010

Interrogating current theories of cosmopolitanism, nationalism, and aesthetics in Postcolonial Studies, Decentering Rushdie offers a new perspective on the Indian novel in English. Since Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children won the Booker Prize in 1981, its postmodern style and postnational politics have dominated discussions of postcolonial literature. As a result, the rich variety of narrative forms and perspectives on the nation that constitute the field have been obscured, if not erased altogether. Reading a range of novels published between the 1950s and 1990s, including works by Nayantara Sahgal, Kamala Markandaya, Anita Desai, and Arundhati Roy, Decentering Rushdie suggests an alternative understanding of the genre in postcolonial India. Pranav Jani documents the broad shift from nation-oriented to postnationalist perspectives following the watershed crisis of the Emergency of the 1970s. Recovering the “namak-halaal cosmopolitanism” of early novels—a cosmopolitanism that is “true to its salt”—Decentering Rushdie also explains the rise and critical celebration of postnational cosmopolitanism. Decentering Rushdie thus resituates contemporary literature within a nuanced history of Indian debates about cosmopolitanism and the national question. In the process, Jani articulates definitions of cosmopolitanism and nationalism that speak to the complex negotiation of language, culture, and representation in postcolonial South Asia.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Neil Lazarus, Bill Keach, and Phil Rosen guided this manuscript through its first avatar as a dissertation at Brown University. Neil’s scholarship in Postcolonial Studies has influenced every page. Bill’s constant presence as an advisor and comrade has been tremendous. ...

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Introduction: Looking Back

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pp. 1-13

Postcolonial Indian literary and cinematic texts, like many others around the world, have often concerned themselves with the question of “looking back.” The processes of postcolonial capitalist modernity—urbanization, industrialization, globalization—have pushed and pulled Indians from villages to cities, from the nation to the wider world (and back), ...

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1. The Multiple Cosmopolitanisms of the Indian Novel in English

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pp. 14-53

In 1981 the India-born, England-residing Salman Rushdie exploded onto the global literary stage when Midnight’s Children, a magical-realist novel about postcolonial India, was awarded the prestigious Booker Prize for Fiction. In terms of literary innovation, as Makarand Paranjape writes, Midnight’s Children’s “energy, its self-indulgence, irresponsibility, ...

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2. Dawn of Freedom: Namak-Halaal Cosmopolitanisms in A Time to Be Happy and The Coffer Dams

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pp. 54-97

On August 14, 1947, at the midnight hour marking India’s independence from Britain, Jawaharlal Nehru, the incoming prime minister, delivered a memorable speech describing the significance of the moment to the nation and the world at large. Its opening lines, rich in figurative language, reveal the populist and internationalist orientations ...

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3. Twilight Years: Women, Nation, and Interiority in The Day in Shadow and Clear Light of Day

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pp. 98-140

On June 25, 1975, at a different midnight hour in postcolonial India, the populist leader Jayaprakash Narayan was awakened by the proverbial knock on the door. Perhaps JP, as he is often known, was not surprised to be summoned so rudely by the government despite being a septuagenarian veteran of the struggle against the British. ...

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4. After Midnight: Class and Nation in Midnight’s Children and Rich Like Us

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pp. 141-190

Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (1980) and Nayantara Sahgal’s Rich Like Us (1985), published soon after Indira Gandhi’s Emergency (1975–77), offer memorable and critical representations of that watershed event. Both novels portray the suppression of parliamentary democracy and civil rights under the Emergency as an acute crisis in Indian history. ...

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5. “Naaley. Tomorrow” Suffering and Redemption in The God of Small Things

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pp. 191-232

Given Arundhati Roy’s stature within today’s international movements against corporate globalization and naked imperialism, it is shocking to remember that her Booker Prize–winning novel, The God of Small Things (1997), was initially met with a wave of criticism and even hostility from prominent sections of the Indian Left, ...

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Conclusion: Looking Ahead

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pp. 233-244

I had the honor, in December 2004, of speaking at a conference in Tunisia commemorating the work of Edward Said, the celebrated Palestinian- American scholar who had passed away in the previous year. As is well known, Said was a prolific and insightful writer, and Orientalism (1978) laid the groundwork for the development of Anglo-American Postcolonial Studies as a field. ...


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pp. 245-255

Works Cited

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pp. 256-267


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pp. 268-275

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270011
E-ISBN-10: 0814270018
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814211335
Print-ISBN-10: 081421133X

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2010