English Heart, Hindi Heartland: The Political Life of Literature in India

English Heart, Hindi Heartland: The Political Life of Literature in India

English Heart, Hindi Heartland: The Political Life of Literature in India

English Heart, Hindi Heartland: The Political Life of Literature in India

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

In the mid-1990s, working as a part-time editorial assistant at Granta in London, I was, for a very short time, in charge of the slush pile. The pile consisted mostly of short stories that had been sent in to the magazine; they came unsolicited and without representation by a literary agent. The submissions largely came from the United States and Britain but also from places like Bangladesh, Canada, India, Kenya, Nigeria, and Singapore—together sometimes referred to as the British Commonwealth or, lately, the Anglophone world. I found myself reading stamps and return addresses as carefully as the stories and concluded that they made a story of their own.

I read solicited manuscripts, too, most of which came from firsttime American and British writers, all of whom had agents. But it is the slush pile I was most impressed by, the collective bulk of it, lying in stacks that lined one side of the office. On several Saturdays I was asked to come in to read through it, that immovable feast. I was given few formal instructions about what to do, but I knew I was supposed to make the pile smaller, if for no other reason than to create room for the new submissions that were continually streaming in. Someone gave me a stack of little mimeographed rejection slips. It was assumed that if I came across a gem I would pass it on to the editor. Unfortunately, on the few Saturdays I worked on the slush pile, that never happened, but the experience gave me a different way to think about the nature of what is often called “postcolonial literature.”

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.