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Counterrealism and Indo-Anglian Fiction

Chelva Kanaganayakam

Publication Year: 2009

What do R.K. Narayan, G.V. Desani, Anita Desai, Zulfikar Ghose, Suniti Namjoshi, and Salman Rushdie have in common?

They represent Indian writing in English over five decades. Vilified by many cultural nationalists for not writing in native languages, they nonetheless present a critique of the historical and cultural conditions that promoted and sustained writing in English. They also have in common a counterrealist aesthetic that asks its own social, political, and textual questions.

This book is about the need to look at the tradition of Indian writing in English from the perspective of counterrealism. The departure from the conventions of mimetic writing not only challenges the limits of realism but also enables Indo-Anglian authors to access formative areas of colonial experience.

Kanaganayakam analyzes the fiction of writers who work in this vibrant Indo-Anglian tradition and demonstrates patterns of continuity and change during the last five decades. Each chapter draws attention to what is distinctive about the artifice in each author while pointing to the features that connect them. The book concludes with a study of contemporary writing and its commitment to non-mimetic forms.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix

A former version of the first chapter appeared in the University of Toronto Quarterly (2000), and a short essay on “Midnight’s Grandchildren” was published in Sharing a Commonwealth (2001). The staff at Wilfrid Laurier Press have been very helpful, supportive, and...

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1. Counterrealism as Alternative Literary History

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pp. 1-27

This book is at least partially a belated response to a significant, polemical, and neglected monograph entitled Indian Writing in English: Is There Any Worth in It? written by Subha Rao and published in 1976. The monograph is a re-working and elaboration of a paper presented, appropriately, at the...

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2. The Fabulator of Malgudi: R.K. Narayan

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pp. 29-50

To invoke the work of R.K. Narayan as an originary moment in the history of counterrealism in Indo-Anglian writing is, admittedly, unusual, for his reputation as an author rests squarely on his penchant for truthful representation rather than experiment. Ever since Graham...

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3. H. Hatterr and Sauce Anglaise: G.V. Desani

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pp. 51-73

All About H. Hatterr begins with a prefatory “warning” that includes an anecdotal account of a disgruntled peasant who tries to derail a goods train because his house had been burgled, and a short dialogue about the status of this novel as gesture. This is the first indication that...

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4. Slipper Dragging and the Silent Piano: Anita Desai

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pp. 75-98

Anita Desai’s novel Baumgartner’s Bombay concludes with the death of the ill-fated, exiled, and powerless Hugo at the hands of Kurt, the drug-crazed German. By turns poetic, ironic, and tragic, the episode reinforces the complexity of the moment, the confluence of various motifs, which...

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5. The Art of Enchantment: Zulfikar Ghose

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pp. 99-120

Zulfikar Ghose’s recent collection of short stories, Veronica and the Gongora Passion, includes a story called “Lila of the Butterflies and Her Chronicler” which was originally written for inclusion in a special volume honouring Gabriel García Márquez, published by the Latin American Literary Review in...

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6. Fashioning New Fables: Suniti Namjoshi

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pp. 121-142

Suniti Namjoshi’s Feminist Fables, first published in 1981, begins with a fable entitled “From the Panchatantra,” which, among other things, serves as an introduction to the discontinuous mode of the book and as an acknowledgment of the Indian sources from which the author fashions at...

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7. Fabulating the Real: Salman Rushdie

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pp. 143-165

Paying a grand compliment to himself, Salman Rushdie, writing in a 1997 special issue of The New Yorker, refers to a short-lived but widespread virus called Rushdie-itis–a condition he claims affected many but from which Indian authors soon recovered to find their own voices. Despite...

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8. Midnight’s Grandchildren

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pp. 167-187

Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children ends with the scattering of the gifted and ill-fated children. The final vision, partially redeemed by the token presence of the pickle jars and the birth of Ganapati, is less apocalyptic than that of his subsequent novel, less solemn than, say...


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pp. 189-197


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pp. 199-208


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pp. 209

E-ISBN-13: 9780889207493
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889203983

Page Count: 222
Publication Year: 2009