This article analyzes the depiction of India, Bihar, and Patna in several books by novelist, poet, critic, and filmmaker Amitava Kumar. While Kumar often criticizes and ridicules other writers’ representations of India, he frequently struggles to overcome the same kinds of clichés in his own work. Nevertheless, I argue that Kumar’s texts, such as his literary memoir Bombay—London—New York, his novel Home Products, and his history A Matter of Rats, offer an alternative approach to writing about India that deserves more critical attention. Whereas other diasporic South Asian writers tend to favor the omnibus novel, which is often about big families in big cities and popular with awards committees and book clubs, Kumar’s short, quickly written books may be a superior medium for depicting the messiness and complexity of contemporary Indian reality, a counter-model that I call the “autorickshaw book.” While his works are full of contradictions, I argue that this quality makes them a compelling vehicle for readers who seek an alternative to novels focused on megacities such as Bombay and Delhi and wish to experience the literary equivalent of the unglamorous hinterland.


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pp. 71-102
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