Although it is mainly diasporic writers who have made Indian English writing global, and have translated works into many other languages, there are many others ignored by the media, the government and other establishments.

by Aju Mukhopadhyay

tagoreWhat is Indian English Literature?

Indian English Literature is the work of Indian-origin poets and writers writing in English, and living anywhere around the globe. They usually have similar mindsets, especially when writing about, or referring to India. Meenakshi Mukherjee has said that it is born out of Indian and English parentage–thus twice- born1. Another writer, Maria Tymoczko, thinks that it is born out of one culture and expressed in another2. Their opinions carry the idea of translation, but it may be said that there is exactly no question of translation as such, because when the creation is one’s own and not an independent version or expression of another’s creative production, albeit in a language not one’s own, the creative product is a trans-lingual/cultural endeavor. When an Indian writes his Indian experience in a foreign language it can be said to be a trans-cultural creative process. The history of this expanding literature has covered more than 200 years.

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kanthapuraIf you were to ask the average Indian reader today whom they consider the pioneer of Indian writing in English, most answers would point to an author with the initials ‘CB’. If you were to ask a student of Indian English Literature, chances are that Raja Rao’s name would never come up as an answer. In fact, even for those who have heard of him, their engagement with his work is usually limited to hearing a passing mention in a ‘History of Indian English Literature’ class. It was the case with me.

Adil Jussawalla’s essays and entertainments sparkle with a poet’s insight and an editor’s sweep of knowledge: The Hindu

adil.jussawalaThe journalistic obsession with international reputations and publishers’ advances has produced a top-heavy history of India’s literature in English. Such well-remunerated figures as Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth and Arundhati Roy are in fact exceptions. Once we get away from the bestsellers and prize-winners, Indian English literature turns out to be an embattled, minority literature. It relies for its survival on a small number of publishers and its most original writers are constantly in danger of being forgotten.