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Record: 1 Title: Language: Source: Article Author: Document Type: Authors Discussed in This Article: Publication Information: Abstract: Literary Genres/Subgenres: ISBN: Accession Number: Database: South Asian Short Fiction English Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition; January 2001, p1-5 Reisman, Rosemary M. Canfield; Includes bibliography Topical Overview Tharoor, Shashi; Lahiri, Jhumpa; Sethi, Robbie Clipper; Jhabvala, Ruth Prawer Salem Press A survey of South Asian short fiction. Short fiction 0-89356-006-5 103331CSS F15090120000610 Literary Reference Center
South Asian Short Fiction
Introd uction Since what was once known simply as "India" now consists of a number of political entities, such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan, the larger area is generally referred to either as "South Asia" or as "the Indian subcontinent." The writers who are classified as South Asian, however, may not have been born on the subcontinent or may have moved elsewhere. In a few cases, their connection to the continent is not by blood but through marriage to a South Asian. Some very important South Asian writers spent their lives in the same area where they were born, Shashi Deshpande, Mrnala Pande, and R. K. Narayan, for example. However, when Partition and the violence that followed sent millions fleeing to safety, there were a number of writers among the refugees. For instance, Qurratulain Hyder left her longtime home in Lucknow, India, for Muslim Pakistan, where she lived for some years, eventually returning to India in order to escape Pakistan's increasing repression of women. Hyder became one of Bombay's most influential journalists, an authority on Urdu literature, and a prize-winning author, who in 1967 was awarded the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award for her short-story collection in Urdu, Patjhar ki Awaz. Expatriate South Asians Other writers left the subcontinent, some for political reasons or for professional advancement, others because, as Salman Rushdie notes in his introduction to Mirrorwork: Fifty Years of Indian Writing, 1947-1997 (1997), many of them are wanderers by nature. Among those who took up
-web.ebscohost.corn.cataloq, houstonlibrary .orglehostldellvery?s Id=9942bf6e-585d-4bcc-9173-a433. _
and themes of their short fiction.corn. Robbie Clipper Sethi is an American. Ernest Hemingway and Henry James might not be considered American. who feel the loss of their ties to cultural tradition as well as their future as a family. but both are considered South Asian writers. is South Asian neither by birth nor by blood. India has so strong a claim on her that periodically she must leave if she is not to be swallowed up by it.Illl:. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Robbie Clipper Sethi and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Robbie Clipper Sethi and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala are not South Asian by blood. Although his work for the United Nations has taken him all over the world. Like Sethi. Nevertheless. reared in New Jersey.. Shashi Tharoor and Jhumpa Lahiri Given the broad definition above. but she is included in every list of major Indian fiction writers. and California. As Rushdie points out.C. Born in Germany to Jewish-Polish parents. The writers discussed in this essay are classified as South Asians because they all draw upon their experience of the Indian subcontinent for the characters. Although her parents always referred to India as "home. while Attia Hosain and Salman Rushdie settled in England. and after 1975 Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and her husband were commuting between New York and New Delhi. In The Bride Wore Red: Tales of a Cross-Cultural Family (1996). though he grew up in Bombay and Calcutta. if one applied a residence test to writers. Vikram Chandra lived both in Washington. In "Introduction: Myself in India. one of the strengths of Sethi's book is her empathy with all her characters. Jhumpa Lahiri was also born in London. D. Anita Desai divided her time between England and the United States. who by choosing their own wives defy their culture. For example. Indiana. but also their parents. Bharati Mukherjee. Graham Greene. a writer does not necessarily have to be a native of the subcontinent to be classified as a South Asian writer. and her preoccupation with alienation all justify her inclusion in this essay. Shashi Tharoor was born in London. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Lahiri's awareness of her cultural history. Jhabvala insists that every year she is becoming less Indian. Tharoor's fiction reflects the experiences of his formative years. Irish. and Padma Perera. and his native Bombay. settings. Some had more than one home. houstonlibrary ." which prefaces her volume Out of India (1986). then reared and educated in England. However. Jhabvala -web. not only the men. _ 21 . or James Joyce. who met and married a Punjabi Sikh and at the time she published her first book was teaching in New Jersey.orglehostldellvery?s Id=9942bf6e-585d-4bcc-9173-a433. but she grew up in Rhode Island.tl~CUhost residence in the United States were Anjana Appachana. seeing India only when her parents took her on visits to see her extended family." she has said that she felt like an outsider there fully as much as she did in the American small town where she lived. Rohinton Mistry moved to Canada.cataloq. all between American women and South Asian men.ebscohost. Jhabvala moved to India only after her marriage to an Indian architect in 1951.! I:. her perspective on the immigrant experience. too. Sethi described three marriages. English.
They are also convinced that. editors of The Penguin New Writing in India (1994). which is read and spoken throughout the entire subcontinent. Rushdie insists. However. As A K. Ramanujan points out in his introduction to Folktales from India: A Selection of Oral Tales from Twenty-two Languages (1991). Jhabvala distances herself from her subject more than either of them do and probably more than any other Indian writer. on the other. on one hand. They point out that. houstonlibrary . like Urdu. she understands alienation. which came to India with earlier conquerors. the English used in the subcontinent should now be considered just another South Asian language.cataloq. the language of ancient written texts. each of which is used by several million Indians. even if English-language authors produce some their works are not necessarily better than those written in native languages.tl~CUhost understands cross-cultural conflicts. only through vernacular literature can each of them be appreciated. disagree with Rushdie's assessment.ebscohost. The Argument for the Vernacular Aditya Behl and David Nicholls. Mrinal Pande. was for many years a college English teacher. works written in the vernacular must be translated into English. and perhaps even preserved. Pande changed to English for her short-story -web. In addition to Sanskrit. often suffering in the process. Rushdie contends that since independence the best works the subcontinent has produced have been written in English. international bestsellers. many nationalists felt that English was too tainted by colonialism to be appropriate for discourse. but she also served as editor of Hindi periodicals. She began writing in Hindi in order to reach more people and specifically more women. or the hope of an international blockbuster. _ 31 . One of India's most respected playwrights and fiction writers. Authors who write in English. and English. let alone for literary purposes. it did little to alter one of the basic characteristics of the subcontinent: its cultural and linguistic diversity. in an area where there are so many different cultures.orglehostldellvery?s Id=9942bf6e-585d-4bcc-9173-a433. One Subcontinent. Furthermore. the people of India alone speak one hundred different languages and sixteen hundred distinct dialects. like Lahiri. understood. However.corn. are no less "Indian" in voice and perspective than those who utilize one of the native languages. A writer's decision about language is much more than a choice between nationalism. The Argument for Writing in English When India became independent from Great Britain. Salman Rushdie argues that. However. which is familiar throughout the subcontinent.! I:. Behl and Nicholls offer the selections in their anthology as proof of the high quality of vernacular works and as evidence that any distrust of South Asian translators is unfounded. Her voice is one of the most distinctive in South Asian fiction.Illl:. Many Languages Though Partition drove vast numbers of people to areas dominated by those of their faith. if they are to reach a broad audience. India has fifteen "ruajcr'' vernacular languages. One of the most difficult decisions each South Asian writer must make is whether to write in one of the local languages or in English. while she is capable of empathy.
if a writer's long fiction captures the public's interest. Salman Rushdie. Most short stories are still published in periodicals.tl~CUhost sequence. A Matter of Time (1999). reviewers found much to admire in The Five-Dollar Smile: Fourteen Early Stories and a Farce in Two Acts (1990. most publishers are hesitant to take a chance on a book-length collection of short fiction until an author has become established as a novelist.Illl:. at least one reviewer pointed out the virtues of another volume by Hosain. but in the United States. were admired in India for their collections of beautifully crafted short fiction.orglehostldellvery?s Id=9942bf6e-585d-4bcc-9173-a433.corn. Sometimes. it almost immediately became the subject of scholarly studies. had published five collections of short stories in India. it was not until after the success of two novels. as well as several novels. for example. a few make it into anthologies. Bharati Mukherjee. This bias in favor of the novel meant that anyone who wrote long fiction as well as short was almost certain to be introduced to American readers as a novelist.ebscohost. However. for example. _ 41 .cataloq. and a good case can be made for its being superior to Sunlight on a Broken Column. houstonlibrary . Phoenix Fled (1953) was a collection of stories which originally appeared in Indian newspapers. Krishna Baldev Vaid and the noted filmmaker Satyajit Ray. which was reissued at the same time. before any of her fiction became available in the United States. for a long time book-length collections by many of South Asia's finest short-story writers were unavailable in most American bookstores or even in many libraries. Thus Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. however. When Attia Hosain's novel Sunlight on a Broken Column (1961) was reissued in 1988. Daughter's Daughter (1993). that Shashi Tharoor's early short fiction was accepted for publication. Significantly. Similarly.! I:. South Asian writers are only too aware of the facts. and Vikram Chandra all published one or more successful novels before bringing out collections of short stories. As the -web. Nevertheless. the scholarly community continued to focus almost exclusively on Hosain's novel. the work that was selected for her American debut was a novel. South Asian Writers and Genre Though the short-fiction writers of the Indian subcontinent may be faced with more complex language issues than those in other parts of the world. The award-winning author Shashi Deshpande. collections of short fiction by that writer. Fiction Genres and the American Market Because the American publishing industry found long fiction to be more marketable than short fiction. they have the same problems when it comes to getting their works published. one would have to look for their short stories either in anthologies or in an occasional issue of the Chicago Review. neglecting her fine short fiction. critics will seek out earlier Indian magazines. Although Tharoor warns readers that these stories were written when he was a relatively inexperienced writer and were designed for mass-circulation reissued in 1993 as The Five-Dollar Smile and Other Stories). so that she could distance herself from her autobiographical subject matter and even access lost memories from her past. The Great Indian Novel (1989) and Show Business (1991).
K.cataloq. Jhabvala's Out of India and her East into Upper East: Plain Tales from New York and New Delhi (1998). one would have no difficulty buying paperback editions of Mukherjee's The Middleman and Other Stories. Paperback Originals and a Pulitzer Prize During the 1990's. By the spring of 2000. After winning the O. They could only hypothesize about the cause. West: Stories (1994). New Hope for Short Fiction Late in the twentieth century. such as poems and short stories. Henry Award in 1989 for a short story entitled "Her Mother. their short-story collections were also popular. Incantations and Other Stories (1991). thereafter Desai published no more volumes of short fiction but turned her attention exclusively to the novel. Salman Rushdie's East. Even though critics found much to admire in her collection Games at Twilight and Other Stories (1978). many writers are comfortable only in one genre. including The Grandmother's Tale and Selected Stories (1994)." Appachana won high praise from the critics for her first book.ahiri's Interpreter of Maladies. in 2000. explore all their complexities. She explained her reasons in an interview in Literary India (1995): Shorter forms. For example. and there was a marked proliferation of books by lesser-known writers. reasoning that their customers would be more willing to take a chance on less expensive books. American readers still had to depend on anthologies for examples of her short fiction. The volume appeared in 1999 as a Mariner Original. Now it was not just the novels of a few famous South Asian writers that were featured in bookstores. there seemed to be increased interest in short fiction. perhaps they were submitting them in book form because there were fewer magazines in which their works could be placed. -web.orglehostldellvery?s Id=9942bf6e-585d-4bcc-9173-a433. too. One of the collections selected by Houghton Mifflin for this experiment was Jhumpa l. Critics were looking more closely at the genre. Anjana Appachana. They would issue short-story collections by new or relatively unknown writers as paperback originals. _ 51 made her feel pressured.Illl:. it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. was gaining an international reputation on the basis of her short fiction. For example.! I:. some members of the publishing industry noticed that sales of short-story collections were increasing. but it was her collection The Middlem an and Other Stories (1988) that brought her the 1988 National Book Critics Circle Award for best fiction. Narayan's volumes.ebscohost. Vikram Chandra's Love and Longing in Bombay (1997). she said. houstonlibrary . while the novel gave her ample time to develop her ideas and enough scope to . Bharati Mukherjee had long been admired both for her novels and for her nonfiction publications. Anita Desai chose the novel form not because it was easier to market but because she did not really like writing short stories. In any case. Unlike Deshpande. however. the publisher Houghton Mifflin decided to try an experiment. Perhaps the new young writers in the academic workshops were writing more short stories or more polished stories.tl~CUhost twenty-first century began.corn. and a number of R.
strong women. the newlyweds disappear. among those of every faith and every caste or class. Nariman Hansotia. Some feature strong men. the civil servant and teller of tales in Vikram Chandra's Love and Longing in Bombay. violence and degradation. the small fictional community where his works are set. published in the United States as Swimming Lessons and Other Stories from Firozsha Baag. In Gods. strong men and weak men. others. and even a ghost. but.cataloq. Narayan shows human beings at their best and at their worst and dramatizes the cosmic conflict between good and evil. Since Interpreter of Maladies was Lahiri's first book. fulfills a similar function. _ 51 . Lahiri recalled the comment of an agent who had rejected it. satire and humor. By habitually describing himself as a storyteller. Undoubtedly the subcontinent's receptivity to short fiction owes much to this ancient tradition. those who enjoy reading and writing short fiction hoped that it might also signal the arrival of a long-overdue renascence for short fiction. folktales still permeate South Asian culture. Naturally. K. The old folktales in which human beings show themselves as animals or vice versa are obvious metaphors for issues of identity. The community where Rohinton Mistry set his Tales from Firozsha Baag (1987. it has a resident storyteller. suggesting that she come back when she had a novel. Traditions and Themes A. and Others (1964). There are stories of the supernatural and stories about animals. Ramanujan points out. Narayan recognizes his indebtedness to the oral tradition. -web. both agents were right. R. and a warning from the agent who did accept the book to the effect that short fiction did not sell well.ebscohost. grim stories and humorous stories.tl~CUhost As Interpreter of Maladies went into a second printing." from The Quilt and Other Stories (1994). Narayan describes how a storyteller provided his village not only with entertainment but also with moral and religious instruction.! I:. the parents are devastated. R. However. In Malgudi. The Storyteller and the Story The people of the Indian subcontinent have one quality in common. Demons.corn. K. 1989) is a Parsi housing complex in Bombay. like any village. In Ismat Chughtai's "Sacred Duty. Many deal with family relationships. Subramaniam. but when it becomes evident that their families will never let them be themselves. Ramanujan's list could well be used as the basis of a study of subjects and themes in South Asian short fiction. women who know how to play power games. houstonlibrary . a delight in storytelling.orglehostldellvery?s Id=9942bf5e-585d-4bcc-9173-a433. who interprets events for his community and sometimes serves as its conscience. K. Its success was clearly due to her very real talent. she was not assured the audience that an earlier novel might have provided. They are fam iliar in cities as well as in villages. According to conventional wisdom. in Love and Longing in Bombay one finds family conflicts and conflicts between families. As A K. and even stories about storytelling.Illl:. a you ng couple attem pt to placate thei r parents by being married in both MusIim and Hindu ceremonies. Ramanujan classifies the folktales that pervade South Asian society by subject matter. For example.
by Jhabvala. The Inner Courtyard: Stories by Indian Women. editor. nor are the characters as different. even if these women break free of their traditional prisons.tl~CUhost Throughout her works. However. the two worlds are not as separate as the divisions suggest. Colonialism.! I:. as is evident in the titles of two volumes by major writers which appeared in the 1990's. they may not find happiness. K. by Salman Rushdie. it is not easy for anyone to adapt to a strange land and an alien culture. Bharati Mukherjee. As Mukherjee shows in works such as The Middleman and Other Stories. this useful anthology is made up primarily of works translated from a dozen different languages. which she believed enslaved women and deprived them of their identities. 1995. Given the multicultural nature of the subcontinent itself and the fact that so many of its people emigrate to other areas of the world. it is hardly surprising that the conflict of cultures continues to be a major theme in South Asian short fiction. Shashi Deshpande. 1992.corn. Essay by: Rosemary M. including the patriarchal system. Gupta. though Rushdie does have a third group called "East. because they affect not just one people or one part of the in contemporary Indian fiction. In Arranged Marriage (1995). Aditya. 1994): 299307. R. and the yearning for spiritual certainty in an ever-changing world world but all of humanity. Lakshmi. houstonlibrary ." Hogan. Literary India: Comparative Studies in Aesthetics.orglehostldellvery?s Id=9942bf6e-585d-4bcc-9173-a433. "boundless creative energy. eds. conflicts within families and conflicts between cultures. In both books." World Literature Today 68 (Spring. Divakaruni dramatizes the plight of women immigrants. Patrick Colm.ebscohost. While no good writer will ignore the influence of culture on one's life. and Culture. bound to husbands they barely know and too fearful of their displeasure to venture into the new world outside the door." Nevertheless. The Penguin New Writing in India. Many of the writers will be new to English-s peaking readers. Although he Gupta praises their technical skill and their . Canfield Reisman Bibliography Behl. The author identifies six major themes sometimes finds the writers' thinking simplistic. and Lalita Pandit. eds. and David Nicholls. "Trends in Modern Indian Fiction. this courageous writer called for an end to all forms of tyranny. London: Virago. Originally published as a special issue of the Chicago Review. East into Upper East: Plain Tales from New York and New Delhi. rebellion and dislocation. Tradition and change. Among the other South Asian female writers who focus on women's issues are Attia Hosain. there is one section for stories set in the East and another for those set in the West. London: Penguin. A wide-ranging collection of eighteen previously published works. in the end the best authors manage to transcend the particular. and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.cataloq. West.Illl:. Holmstrom. each preceded by a brief -web. _ 71 these themes pervade South Asian short fiction just as they pervaded the storyteller's myths.
New York: Feminist Press.Illl:. Kiran Desai. A K. New York: Viking.. Languages. Vikram Chandra. In a lengthy introd uction. Albany: State University of New York Press. 1964. 1990. ed. _ 81 . 1997. Contains a number of short stories with biographical notes on the writers. This "special fiction issue" includes essays on a wide range of subjects.cataloq. Fourth Edition) Survey of Short Fiction. Provides an essential context for the study of Indian fiction. short fiction. New York: Henry Holt. Narayan. Modern Fiction Studies 39 (Spring. Holmstrom's prefatory essay. 1991.ebscohost. home and exile. Meena Alexander considers issues of femininity and female power. eds. and Elizabeth West. Kali for Women. considering such topics as caste and race.corn. and a photography-essay. a profile of R. and Others. each originally written in a different language. Includes an index. political and social change." contains essays on various subjects.! I:. and language. R. 1993). In her introduction. "Indian Fiction in English. Ramanujan. There are also reviews. State University of New York. houstonlibrary . 30. Essays by various scholars compare works from different literary traditions. Cross References South Asian American Identity in Literature (Topical Overview-Identities South Asian Long Fiction (Topical OvervieW-Critical Theory of Short Fiction (Topical OvervieW-Critical Edition) and Issues in Literature) Survey of Long Fiction. Rushdie's introduction is excellent. Second Revised Copyright of this work is the property of Salem Press and its content may not be copied without the copyright holder's express written permission except for the print or download capabilities of -web. devoted to "Fiction on the Indian Subcontinent. 1995. and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. 1997). Narayan. as is the glossary. Gods. Contains seven stories." is also helpful. Also contains an important interview with Anita Desai. eds. insightful. Truth Tales: Contemporary Stories by Women Writers of India. K. Mirrorwork: Fifty Years of Indian Writing. the ed itor maps subcontinent linguistically and comments on the cultural significance of the folk tradition. Narayan's versions of major traditional myths. Demons. His introduction explains the importance of the storyteller in community life. Folktales from India: A Selection of Oral Tales from Twenty-two the GUest editor Aparajita Sagar's introduction is New York: Pantheon. K. and short fiction by Salman Rushdie. Rushdie. including gender issues.tl~CUhost introduction. Salma n.orglehostldellvery?s Id=9942bf6e-585d-4bcc-9173-a433. This issue. 1947-1997. The New Yorker 73 (June 23.
orglehostldellvery?s Id=9942bf6e-585d-4bcc-9173-a433.ebscohost. houstonlibrary .! I:. Second Revised Edition Accession Number: 103331 CSSF15090120000610 -web. Source: Critical Survey of Short Fiction.Illl:.cataloq.corn. This content is intended solely for the use of the individual user.tl~CUhost the retrieval software used for access. _ 91 .
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