Breaking New Grounds: Perspectives on Recent Indian English Fiction
(Collection of Essays)
Deadline for abstract submission: 31/01/2018
Indian English writing, from its infancy, has been preoccupied with representing the nation. This national dimension of Indian English writing is undoubtedly its most distinctive feature. Indian English novels as a postcolonial genre emerged out of the colonial encounter, and it is only natural that “its concern has been with that equally postcolonial entity, the nation-state” (Priyamvada Gopal, 2009). India as a postcolonial nation is a classic case of the history-nation confluence. Writers have been much beholden to this confluence as both history and nation come together to shape what political scientist, Sunil Khilnani terms, after Nehru, “the idea of India” (Khilnani, 1983). This national dimension of Indian English writing is undoubtedly its most distinctive feature. The 1980s witnessed a boom in these nation-centric narratives or “nationsroman” (Joshi, 2004). Largely revisionist in nature, the novels of the Rushdie-generation regarded the task of representing India and Indian history as a huge project.
But in more recent novels that have emerged after the fading of pan-Indian nation-centric trope in the texts of the Rushdie generation, the engagement with the nation and pan-national history has become much more diffused. This diffusion in the engagement with the pan-Indian dimension in the more recent works of Indian English fiction has taken diverse lines of development. On the one hand, a large number of novels have emerged that have sought to focus on the micro stories of regions and people which did not find a place in the earlier epic narratives of the nation. Unlike mainstream Indian English writings, these novels are written with settings in small towns of India, and they deal with the issues and problems most urgent and real to these regions and people. They show a keen sense of place or rootedness. The nation remains an integral concern of the writers. The younger and recent writers, though not rejecting the national altogether, seem to be moving away from pan-Indian nation-centric engagement to a more localized engagement with history, politics and Indian society. This concern with local allegiance and people seems to be increasingly the dominant tendency of recent Indian English novels.
Another significant development to this diffused approach towards history and nation is the growing urge of Indian English writers to tackle the issues of globalization and ramifications of economic liberalization. Indian English writing is now strongly embedded in the global frame, and it is now engaged in asking questions like “what shape does ‘India’ take fifty or more years after the independent nation-state officially came into existence on the world stage? How are older narratives of nation being rewritten or replaced by new ones that seek to break, remould or interrogate the former in the face of migration and globalization? Who owns ‘the past’ and what is the writer’s responsibility in relation to it?” (Gopal 2009). Apart from these broad trends, we can discern other new tendencies and thematic and ideological concerns in the new generation of writers. This new body of Indian English fiction in the new millennium have started dealing with such diverse issues as small-town life (The Bus Stopped and The Thing about Thugs by Tabish Khair, The Romantics by Pankaj Misra), gender transgressions ( Ratika Kapur’s The Private Life of Mrs Sharma), patriarchy and female desire (Anuja Chauhan’s Battle for Bittora), small histories (Alka Saraogi’s Kalikatha: Via Bypass, Aminuddin Khan’s A Shift in the Wind) fantasy (Meluha series by Amish Tripathi), Dalit life (Manu Joseph’s Serious Man), global terrorism, 9/11 and Indian Diaspora (Transmission by Hari Kunzru, Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos, The Disappearance of Seth by Kazim Ali), friction between old and new cultures (Saraswati Park by Anjali Joseph), drugs and underbelly of big cities (Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil and Eunuch Park by Palash Krishna Mehrotra), ethnicity, ethnic relations, insurgency and issues of identity, belonging and history of migration (e.g. fiction from the northeastern part of India by writers such as Siddhartha Deb, Daisy Hassan, Anjum Hassan, Janice Pariat, Dhruba Hazarika etc.), insurgency and political conflicts (Munnu: A Boy from Kashmir, graphic novel by Malik Sajad), child abuse and violence (Hush by Prateek Thomas, another graphic novel) among others.
The editors of this proposed book are seeking contributions that shed fresh light on these new developments in Indian English fiction in the new millennium. The book envisages critical engagements with writers and texts that veer away from the usual focus on the writings of the Rushdie generation. Some of the writers and works mentioned above have received little critical attention. The proposed book, therefore, seeks to collect critically rigorous essays adopting different theoretical and thematic angles which will not only boost interests in these writers but also instil a new vigour and dimension to the study of Indian English fiction. Apart from the mentioned writers and texts, proposals are welcome from other writers who have started writing in the new millennium.
Abstracts (maximum 400 words) and short biographical notes should be sent to the co-editors Dr. Arindam Sarma (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Himakshi Kalita (email@example.com) by January 31, 2018. If selected, the final papers will have to be submitted by March 30, 2018. The papers should follow the latest MLA style of parenthetical sources and works cited format.
Joshi, Priya. In Another Country. New Delhi: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004.
Gopal, Priyamvada. The Indian English Novel: Nation, History, and Narration. Oxford: OUP, 2009.
Khilnani, Sunil. The Idea of India. New Delhi: Penguin, 1983.
Dr. Arindam Sarma
Department of English, Chaiduar College, P.O. Gohpur, Assam, India.
Assistant Professor (Dept. of English)
Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva Viswavidyalaya, Nagaon, Assam, India.