December 8, 2023


Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Bookmarked Musings: Skeletons in the Closet – Exploring Literary ‘Secrets’ in Select Indian Literature by Jyoti Kiran Pisipati

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In this essay, Jyoti Kiran Pisipati explores some works of fiction by Indian writers in each of which the element of secrecy has been applied in distinctive ways.

Every human story has an undisclosed, mysterious layer stashed away in its folds; its presence is central to the existence of humanity. Sometimes secrets are buried so deep that to fish them out needs a shrewd inner eye. Myriad reasons and complexities are associated with the act of secrecy – a writer’s nom de plume, a fake identity of a soldier or a witness in a high-profile case, a spouse in an extra-marital affair, family secrets, and religious/caste biases; there is no dearth for the diverse needs of maintaining confidentiality. Secrecy is as complex as the human mind. It is devoid of any spatial limitations. There are public and community-shared secrets; as private and family-kept secrets.

While secrecy-as-privacy is generally appreciated and approved, secrecy-as-conspiracy is condemned and even feared. 

A secret is defined as ‘a piece of information that is known by only a small number of people and is deliberately not told to others’. If the word ‘deliberate’ is used in the definition, does that mean it is conspiratorial? 

Intra-textual and inter-textual devices like parodies, allusions, metaphors, personification, symbols and motifs, and idiomatic expressions are all covert forms employed by writers in their texts. A good reader enjoys unravelling these literary ‘secrets’, delving into the labyrinths and passages of the narrative, intentionally or unintentionally conceived by the writer and the joy of reading is in excavating these mines and interpreting the subtext.

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