Monday, June 06, 2005

Once New in Indian Writing

What is new in Indian writing?

Amitava Kumar poses this question in an article in The Hindu. He asks: "How is newness to come into the world? In India, didn't all those who found fault with the innovations of, say, Salman Rushdie, or Arundhati Roy, or Raj Kamal Jha — didn't those readers and critics show similar impatience with what was new by finding it gimmicky or overwrought or incoherent? How were the detractors able to separate what is merely show-offish and self-indulgent from that which is unanticipated and truly brilliant?"

Kumar finally builds a case for intermingling of ideas and the cross-fertilisation of views in new fiction, Indian or of any nationality. He concludes by saying: "What was true then is also true now. In the case of current Indian writers working in English, what is new is also the result of the conversations ongoing with writers all over the world, older writers like Philip Roth, J.M. Coetzee, and Alice Munro, but also younger ones like David Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith, and, why not, even Jonathan Safran Foer."

One cannot agree more. Literature does not happen in a vaccum. It does not happen in isolation either. One idea generates another, adding grist to the mill of literature.

By the way, Kumar's new website is up and running now. You can check it out at

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