In Another Country: Colonialism, Culture, and the English Novel in India

In Another Country: Colonialism, Culture, and the English Novel in India

In Another Country: Colonialism, Culture, and the English Novel in India

In Another Country: Colonialism, Culture, and the English Novel in India

Synopsis

In a work of stunning archival recovery and interpretive virtuosity, Priya Joshi illuminates the cultural work performed by two kinds of English novels in India during the colonial and postcolonial periods. Spanning the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, readers and writers, empire and nation, consumption and production, In Another Country vividly explores a process by which first readers and then writers of the English novel indigenized the once imperial form and put it to their own uses. Asking what nineteenth-century Indian readers chose to read and why, Joshi shows how these readers transformed the literary and cultural influences of empire. By subsequently analyzing the eventual rise of the English novel in India, she further demonstrates how Indian novelists, from Krupa Satthianadhan to Salman Rushdie, took an alien form in an alien language and used it to address local needs. Taken together in this manner, reading and writing reveal the complex ways in which culture is continually translated and transformed in a colonial and postcolonial context.

Excerpt

When an early reader of mine encountered this project, she remarked how viscerally it resonated with her own brief experience of India in the late 1990s. Rather than noting the dirt, the poverty, or the crowds, this reader—an anthropologist who has ways of seeing that continue to dazzle me—was forcibly struck by how much the stuff of reading and writing was evident to her everywhere in India. She noted the ubiquitous bookstalls, news-vendors, mobile book-carts, and traffic-light magazine sellers during her brief visit, to the extent that she began to wonder whether the United States in contrast was, among other things, altogether postliterate.

My reader's time was largely spent in a big city, but she is entirely right in her observation, which applies to most parts of India including those she could not have been to: print is just about everywhere in the country, but not always in the form one would expect. Print in India has many lives: it forms the material of reading and writing and in this context is purveyed, purchased, purloined, borrowed, loaned, exchanged, copied, and “zeroksed” much like it is anywhere else in the world. In both urban and less urban India, the printed word is projected from billboards and building walls, bus shelters and shanties, vehicle mudguards, and public urinals, often with hilarious and poignant injunctions such as the much-reproduced laconic ad for contraception: “Hum do, Hamare do” (Us Two, Our Two), or the seductive come-on printed alongside truck exhausts, “Harn pliss. Phir milaingey” (Blow hard. Let's meet again).

More extensively, printed paper performs the role of exchange value in ways one seldom encounters elsewhere anymore: in many parts of India, households sell old newspapers and print of all types by weight . . .

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