What is the politics of literature? A critical study of two Indian writers attempts to answer


If a writer is involved in a political movement, do these two roles, that of a writer and an activist, inhabit her as “two indispensable alterities” of her indivisible and “individual self”? Or do they “co-exist” “separately” “within the same individual, and thus in no apparent relation with each other”? In The Deed of Words, a critical study of the works of the Bangladeshi writer, Akhtaruzzaman Elias, and the Hindi writer, Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh, Pothik Ghosh explores a fundamental question — what is the politics and use, if any, of literature?

Both Elias and Muktibodh were avowedly Leftist, as Ghosh examines their works through the prism of Alain Badiou’s concept of subtraction. The French philosopher is among the most prominent figures in the last few decades to have argued for the revival of communism.

Ghosh charts his course by making a series of assertions about art. At first, he states that a writer’s love for literature and her engagement with radical political movements lead to “separated” and “non-relational coexistence” of these two selves. He then argues that the terms of reference should not be the “use of art for politics”, but the “use of politics in art”. Such a method, he proposes, introduces novelty in art, what Badiou elsewhere termed “subtraction” and explained by citing the works of Paolo Pasolini. Read more