The Indian Novel in England
Wong, Nicholas, Contemporary Review
The 'deep association' that Rabindranath Tagore welcomed between India and the West as far back as 1916 has by today gone far beyond anything the imperial encounter could have anticipated.
In a world routinely described in terms of the prefix 'post' (as in post-modern, post-colonial etc.) cultures are seen in the images of pyramids and cities as melting pots full of sociological chop suey. Given those new circumstances the very title of Salman Rushdie's East, West (published last year) catches the mongrel spirit of our times definitively; with the matter-of-factness of the Rudyard Kipling line, 'East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet', which, in another era, indicated the exact opposite.
What puts such a psychological distance between 'East is East etc.' and East, West is, of course, historical time. The presence of the British Raj in India as described in Kipling's Kim, Plain Tales from the Hills, Wee Willie Winkie etc. and even E. M. Forster's A Passage to India brought into being a literary terrain called Anglo-India. The point of view from that place was implicitly that of the colonial expatriate. In that world it was not pukka to mix overtly with the locals.
Since Indian independence in 1947 and the migrations from the subcontinent into Britain which followed, new possibilities - socially, culturally, artistically - had to emerge. For reasons such as these English literature was becoming a literature in English. When Rushdie's Midnight's Children won the Booker Prize in Britain in 1982 this seemed confirmed, at least in the eyes of a certain reading public. As a former advertising copywriter and ever keen to (re-)coin a phrase, Rushdie heralded the discovery of a new fictional land: Indo-Anglia.
In an influential article in The Times that year he continued to clear …
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Publication information: Article title: The Indian Novel in England. Contributors: Wong, Nicholas - Author. Magazine title: Contemporary Review. Volume: 268. Issue: 1563 Publication date: April 1996. Page number: 198+. © 1999 Contemporary Review Company Ltd. COPYRIGHT 1996 Gale Group.
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