Postcolonizing the Commonwealth: Studies in Literature and Culture

By Rowland Smith | Go to book overview

11

Can Rohinton Mistry's Realism
Rescue the Novel?

Laura Moss

On the back cover of the American paperback edition of Rohinton Mistry's recent novel A Fine Balance, there is an excerpt from the New York Times: "Those who continue to harp on the decline of the novel ought to ... consider Rohinton Mistry. He needs no infusion of magic realism to vivify the real. The real, through his eyes, is magical.” 1 The celebration of Mistry's choice of "a compassionate” realism (and the implicit denigration of magic realism) is but one critic's perception of Mistry's prose, yet it is also a comment on contemporary attitudes to the form of realism. The back cover, written to appeal to an "average” American consumer, depoliticizes Mistry's novel as it is placed in the company of "masters from Balzac to Dickens.” In this light it can appear as if Mistry's use of the form rescues the (European) novel from the uncomfortable possibility of being overtaken—threatened, even—by magic realism, a form that has been most often associated with Latin American writing and therefore recognized as fundamentally non-European. Furthermore, the use of realism by a writer of what has recently been called the "far rim” (whether that be India or Canada) is taken to resuscitate the humanist traditions of the realist novel. 2 Mistry's novel is accepted as having a sweeping appeal by the back-cover critic precisely because it does not resemble what has come to be viewed as a postcolonial novel of

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Notes to chapter 11 are on p. 164.

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