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The Political Life of Literature in India
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.
Exemplary Figures (sometimes translated as Model Sayings) is an unabridged, annotated translation of Fayan, one of three major works by the Chinese court poet-philosopher Yang Xiong (53 BCE-18 CE). Yang sought to "renew the old" by patterning these works on earlier classics, drawing inspiration from the Confucian Analects for Exemplary Figures. In this philosophical masterwork, constructed as a dialogue, Yang poses and then answers questions on philosophical, political, ethical, and literary matters. Michael Nylan's rendering of this text, which is laden with word play and is extraordinarily difficult to translate, is a joy to read-at turns wise, cautionary, and playful.
This provocative collection of essays is a comprehensive study of the "father-daughter dynamic" in Japanese female literary experience. Its contributors examine the ways in which women have been placed politically, ideologically, and symbolically as "daughters" in a culture that venerates "the father." They weigh the impact that this daughterly position has had on both the performance and production of women's writing from the classical period to the present. Conjoining the classical and the modern with a unified theme reveals an important continuum in female authorship-a historical approach often ignored by scholars. The essays devoted to the literature of the classical period discuss canonical texts in a new light, offering important feminist readings that challenge existing scholarship, while those dedicated to modern writers introduce readers to little-known texts with translations and readings that are engaging and original.
Embodying Human Rights in World Literature
Over the past fifty years, debates about human rights have assumed an increasingly prominent place in postcolonial literature and theory. Writers from Salman Rushdie to Nawal El Saadawi have used the novel to explore both the possibilities and challenges of enacting and protecting human rights, particularly in the Global South. In Fictions of Dignity, Elizabeth S. Anker shows how the dual enabling fictions of human dignity and bodily integrity contribute to an anxiety about the body that helps to explain many of the contemporary and historical failures of human rights, revealing why and how lives are excluded from human rights protections along the lines of race, gender, class, disability, and species membership. In the process, Anker examines the vital work performed by a particular kind of narrative imagination in fostering respect for human rights. Drawing on phenomenology, Anker suggests how an embodied politics of reading might restore a vital fleshiness to the overly abstract, decorporealized subject of liberal rights.
Each of the novels Anker examines approaches human rights in terms of limits and paradoxes. Rushdie's Midnight's Children addresses the obstacles to incorporating rights into a formerly colonized nation's legal culture. El Saadawi's Woman at Point Zero takes up controversies over women's freedoms in Islamic society. In Disgrace, J. M. Coetzee considers the disappointments of post-apartheid reconciliation in South Africa. And in The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy confronts an array of human rights abuses widespread in contemporary India. Each of these literary case studies further demonstrates the relevance of embodiment to both comprehending and redressing the failures of human rights, even while those narratives refuse simplistic ideals or solutions.
Palimpsests of Nation and Diaspora
Crimson and Other Works
This exquisite collection of short fiction by Sata Ineko (1904–1998) offers readers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of women rarely dignified in fiction: glamorous café waitresses, feisty communist activists, a tortured novelist, a soldier’s wife, and single women in Japan’s Korean colony. Her delicately penned portraits challenge the tired, erotic tropes of the geisha and schoolgirl, while delving into the dilemmas women themselves faced in their personal and professional relationships.
The stories and novella translated here span a period of two decades and the most important events and themes in twentieth-century history. “Café Kyoto” (1929) takes up the glamorous, if tragic, lives of café waitresses in the wake of the late 1920s Depression. “Tears of a Factory Girl in the Union Leadership” (1931) offers a unique portrait of a woman who works with the underground Communist Party. “The Scent of Incense” (1942), written as a work of “home front” literature, was meant to help mobilize women as productive workers and supportive housewives during World War II. “White and Purple” (1950), one of Sata’s rare postcolonial works penned just after the outbreak of the Korean War, reflects on the psychological damage inflicted on women during Japan’s occupation of Korea. Sata’s first novella, Crimson (1936–1938), joins a long tradition of women’s writing in Japan that sought to assert women’s “liberation” from what was seen as the oppressively patriarchal institution of marriage.
Translator Samuel Perry’s critical introduction weaves the story of Sata’s life into an examination of the historical and cultural milieu that helped to generate her stories about working women, their lives in the workplace and in the home. As the celebrated author herself once wrote, “The kinds of womanhood available today exist precisely because literary masters of different ages and cultures have drawn us to them: the woman we pity, the woman with a heart of gold, the cruel woman, the clever woman, the hen-pecker, the cheapskate, and the ‘good wife wise mother.’ As terms we use to describe the kinds of women who exist in the world today, they have simply outgrown their usefulness.”
Chinese and English Bilingual Version
Flash Cards is a primer of modern Chinese life—constructing a complex philosophical vision from swatches of daily events and observations. As Yu Jian has written about his own work: "It is possible to see eternity—to see everything—in a teacup or a candy wrapper. Everything in the world is poetry." The JINTIAN [今天] series of contemporary literature features new and innovative writing from mainland China and abroad. Titles in the series are edited by Bei Dao, Lydia H. Liu, and Christopher Mattison. A collaborative venture between Zephyr Press, the Jintian Literary Foundation, and The Chinese University Press, each bilingual title highlights the ever-changing literary culture of China while simultaneously expanding the English language with a wave of new voices in translation.
Postcolonialism, Translation, and the Vernacular
In Flesh and Fish Blood Subramanian Shankar breaks new ground in postcolonial studies by exploring the rich potential of vernacular literary expressions. Shankar pushes beyond the postcolonial Anglophone canon and works with Indian literature and film in English, Tamil, and Hindi to present one of the first extended explorations of representations of caste, including a critical consideration of Tamil Dalit (so-called untouchable) literature. Shankar shows how these vernacular materials are often unexpectedly politically progressive and feminist, and provides insight on these oft-overlooked—but nonetheless sophisticated—South Asian cultural spaces. With its calls for renewed attention to translation issues and comparative methods in uncovering disregarded aspects of postcolonial societies, and provocative remarks on humanism and cosmopolitanism, Flesh and Fish Blood opens up new horizons of theoretical possibility for postcolonial studies and cultural analysis.