INDIA IN THE MIRROR OF WORLD FICTION
What is Indian literature? The question is sharply posed in this fine and, in many respects, polemical collection, whose explicit aim is to rebut prevailing Western expectations of what postcolonial Indian fiction ought to be.  Amit Chaudhuri, ed., The Picador Book of Modern Indian Literature, London 2001, 638pp, 0 330 34363 7; henceforth, PBMIL. I would like to thank Susan Daruvala for her perceptive comments and criticism on an earlier draft of this essay. Its editor Amit Chaudhuri argues that the critical and commercial reception accorded Midnight’s Children has erected Rushdie’s work as ‘a gigantic edifice that all but obstructs the view of what lies behind’. This in turn has created a highly prescriptive set of assumptions. First: the new Indian novel must be written in English, the only language deemed capable of capturing modern subcontinental realities: Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Urdu and the rest need not apply. Secondly, while eschewing realism, its tone and structure must be relentlessly mimetic: since India was a ‘huge baggy monster’ its fiction, too, must be vast and all-inclusive. Its voice must be ‘robustly extroverted’, clamorously polyphonic, rejecting any nuance or delicacy. Its subject-matter must be fantastical, its narrative non-linear: ‘Indian life is plural, garrulous, rambling, lacking a fixed centre, and the Indian novel must be the same’.
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- Franco Moretti: Conjectures on World Literature Nearly two hundred years ago, Goethe announced the imminence of a world literature. Here Franco Moretti offers a set of hypotheses for tracking the birth and fate of the novel in the peripheries of Europe, in Latin America, Arab lands, Turkey, China, Japan, West Africa. For the first time, the prospect of a morphology of global letters?