In this literary essay, Ramlal Agarwal explores the classic novel A passage to India highlighting how readers were drawn to the novel because it was about India, a subject close to the heart of the British and the Indians.
In the 1940s and the 1950s there was one novel the students and scholars of English literature in India were taken up with and that was E.M.Forster’s A Passage to India. It was essentially prescribed in all courses in English literature, it was discussed in all highbrow magazines and there could be no seminar without it. It was one book no teacher or student of English literature could afford to neglect. But with the passage of time, like all classics, it receded from the center-stage to the back-stage.
Arctic Summer is a fictionalised biography of Forster and it will, hopefully, help rekindle an interest in his writings: Outlook India
The idea of A Passage to India was inspired by an aristocratic young Indian student at Oxford, Syed Ross Masood, whom Forster tutored in Latin. It was the charming and exotic Ross who, through his conversations, had fired his imagination, and planted in his mind the thought of writing a novel on the dichotomies of the Raj, the collision between the angularities of the English and the emotionalities of India. But having begun the novel, Forster soon found that it had dried up inside him. Central to this block, Galgut suggests, was an unrequited love: Forster, who was gay, had fallen deeply in love with Ross, who responded with friendship and caring, but was unable to offer him erotic love. Read more