Indian Fiction in English – Positioning Literary Studies

So, these are the 3 essays that we are going
to take a look at today. Master English, Native Publisher by Rukun Advani. It is a 1992 essay
which also appeared in this collection. This is called the Lie of the Land. This was edited
by Rajeshwari Sundar Rajan. She is one of the leading critics of Indian writing in English.
Then there is a 2007 essay, A Suitable Text for a Vegetarian Audience. This is by Rashmi
Sadana. This appeared in 2007. And Production of Authenticity by Ajanta Sircar,
which again came out in 1992. We will be looking at Ajanta Sircar’s essay to, as part of the
discussion on Sadana’s essay. So these 3 works I have tried to bring together these through
these 3 essays, primarily to try and respond to this question, why we read? what we read?
Yeah. This is, we are not talking about reading outside the academic framework, talking about
reading as in you know the kind of exercise, the academic literary exercise that we do
within the disciplinary framework as part of your courses, as part of curriculum. How certain kinds of things have been prescribed
and certain other kinds of texts are being left out. And this is also a question that
we tried to address such as part of your presentation. Some of you have realised that it is easy
to get hold of material while presenting a text. Yeah. There are a lot of people who
have written about certain things. It is easy to present them within a framework. For example
when certain other takes are boughten, for example when we discussed Temsula Ao or even
when we discussed Zelaldinus by Allan Sealy. We have realised that due to various reasons
there is an impossibility to fit them within the predominant framework. And there are also
texts which are well known certain texts, even in in fact to know heatend us which happens
to be a Booker prize winning fiction. That is not as well known as some of the other
texts. So what are these determinants, and these are certain questions that we have been
trying to address. And I I I think these essays, they do not really try and answer this question
entirely, but they give us certain tools to begin to access this question. Certain different, they they lay certain kinds
of inroads to try and approach this question. So, Rukun Advani’s essay. It is a 1992 essay
which is written from the publisher’s perspective. I should also give you a context and do why
this essay was included in this collection. This collection in the beginning when they
give the introduction to this collection which is called the Lie of the Land, and the subtitle
is English Literary Studies in India. So this entire volume looks at the way English
Literary Studies have emerged, evolved and what is the current status and ask many questions
about the, the shaping of English study’s curriculum. And this is how the introduction
goes to this entire book. The essay is in this volume Address the issue of English Literary
Studies in India, most specifically in the Indian University. And it goes on to stay
the say the official study of English in India has a history of over a 150 years, and eventually
one of the objectives of the essay. The present volume is an attempt to challenge
the status quo. Yeah. And they do tell us you know what are these certain kinds of status
quo which are being maintained. I think now that we are almost nearing the end of this
course, we are also in a position to think about what are the contours, what are the
frameworks within which we have been having the discussion. Which are the major texts
that we always access. What kind of secondary materials are being made available. Which one do we consider more valid than the
other. We too have a fairy fairly good idea of what this status quo to a very large extent
needs. So coming back to Rukun Advani’s essay. this is titled Master English Native Publisher
with a (sub) subtitle A Publishing Perspective on English Studies in India. So Rukun Advani,
at the time of writing this essay, he was an editor with the OUP Oxford University Press.
The and also he is also a a quite well known writer in terms of his he writes lot of mostly
on hilarious topics and not considered as a canonical Indian English writer but a known
writer. And in this essay Riot at the beginning if
you have the essay with you, you can see it right at the in the first paragraph that , he
says the relationship between publishing a Literary Studies is a reciprocal one. Given
the existence of particular varieties of publishing, particular varieties of literary activity
are made possible. I think it is rather self explanatory. So he is drawing a very direct
connection between publishing activity and literary studies in India. And this is something that he maintains throughout
this essay that Indian publishing as far as literary studies is concerned. He argues that
it is ideologically uncommitted and very difficult to position it ideologically. Even in hind-sight
if you look at that set of works that are coming out he argues that there is no overriding
ideology which is driving the set of writings. And this is entirely from the perspective
of the publisher. He of course you know if you read through the essay in the first 2-3
mm pages. In fact he is mocking the literary establishment.
He is mocking them for the kind of jargons that they are using that is one (whe) when
he begins talking about Indian publishing the background, foregrounded. Yeah. That it
is all a you know a a playful use of all of these language. He deliberately tries to down
play the entire critical establishment. The first sentence, it is now customary before
embarking on such projects. Yeah. You see how how you know he is been using the inverted
commas everywhere. It is now customary before embarking on such
projects an interventions to emerge from clouds of mystification by foregrounding one subject’s
position within the discourse or as might be said conversationally introducing oneself.
And this is you know he he deliberately mocks the way literary criticism is being done and
he goes on to say that the publisher’s perspective is entirely different. And he particularly
makes this case with respect to OUP and says yeah, can you come to page 114, in the second
paragraph, the last line. The broad character of Indian publishing and
some of the differences from it that define a publisher like the OUP has quite a lot to
do with the relationship between Indian publishing and English Literary Studies in this country.
So, throughout this discussion keep this in mind, this is a context in which he is discussing.
He is not talking about all kinds of works that have been published by OUP, but he is
talking about this certain body of work, particular kind of body of work which is being produced,
which is the English Literary Studies. And he goes on to you know say a lot of nice
things about OPU, saying it is a non-profits kind of a thing, when he also clarifies what
he means by non-profit, that it does not mean that it is, the publishing activities are
unprofitable, but the profits are ploughed back into further publishing industry. Yeah.
That is what he means by non-profit. And he talks about the ethical bases on which they
work and also some amount of a a the the the kind of frills that they enjoy. He gives some
details about that. We will not go into the details of it. And
in come to page 117. He tries to make a distinction between the the giant publishing houses such
as OPU and the set of publishers whom he calls as committed publishers. He does not obviously
name any of those only occasionally you know he makes references to Sage, Kali and you
know similar publishing houses like OUP. So here when he talks about committed publishers,
he says that here are a certain set of publishing houses who may have in a overt ideology they
may committed they may remain committed to a certain causes. But he also thinks that they do lack something
in comparison to these huge publishing houses such as OUP and he says in the beginning of
page 117, admittedly the overt ideological positions of some Indian publishers are clearer
than those of the bulk, but it is an unfortunate fact that these more committed publishers
have seldom insignificant in terms of a recognisable publishing programme, marketing ability and
staying power. Or alternatively they were had to they have
had to circum to the pressures of an imperfect market to stay alive, whereby their (distinct)
distinctive character has begun to seem diluted. This is not to undermine the importance of
small uncommitted publishers. On the contrary the heroism of such enterprises the and frequently
the significance of their publishing within a culture so fiercely oppositional is sometimes
almost incredible. But within which such activities are unfortunately solitary, sporadically visible
and usually short lived. This is the only mention that he makes about
these committed publishers visavi the publishers the giant publishers such as OUP according
to who according to Rukun Advani does not work with any kind of specific ideology. Yeah.
And few, Rukun Advani does not mention any particular publishing house . He does not
take the take the name of any of the publishing houses, but if you look into you know some
of the ways in which these small publishing houses with very focussed committed ideology. How they also had to partnership with certain
giant houses. Zubaan is one of the best examples of that. This is something you know that which
is being showcased in Zubaan’s website itself. They began this partnership with Penguin India
in 2005. This was the idea that they will together publish joint titles of at least
4 titles per year. So this is how the the division works. Zubaan originates the book,
develops them, and does the editorial work. And Penguin does the print production, marketing
and sales. Yeah. This is precisely also addressing the gap
and the lack that Rukun Advani is pointing out. Because these publishing these small
committed publishing houses, sometimes they may not have the energy to do this kind of
vast marketing. Yeah. So that aside. Yeah. And he comes back, he brings back the discussion
to the academic publications of OUP. And OUP as we know if we take the case of English
Literary Studies, this is you know one among those reputed, pear reviewed, committed publications
and it is the the kind of work that they bring out are also accepted rather uncritically. Because this is from one of those you know
bastions of English language and literature. Yeah. So, he te Advadni makes these claims
about OUP’s academic publication that they have found a receptive audience in India and
also at some place you know, he says this they have also found an international audience
because of the kind of work that they have been doing and if it is not ideology driven,
if this is not about certain political or or even apolitical commitments, how do they
make this decision. And he says, it is based on the dominant consensus
of what constitutes educational rather than commercial literature. And this is in fact
quite important what constitutes educational material. So it is like you know Advani takes
it for granted that there is a consensus about what can constitute educational material as
far as literary studies is concerned. And this consensus seemed to be rather uncritically
say accepted by a publishing house such as OUP. And he also says it is not that they have
not been trying to be attentive to the different nuances of political positions or different
kinds of articulations within this consensus. And he says for whatever best that they could
understand it is as if the most Indian academics do not have any ideological position at all.
Yeah. And mostly this is what he says, at best they are driven by a philosophy of a
quietism of aloofness. We do not find the overtly participating in any kind of ideological
commitment or battles. We can of course differ with him but we will
just move on for now. And he identifies these different kinds of market as far as English
Literary Studies is concerned. And when you are thinking about the English Literary Studies
do not you know narrow this down to Indian English Fiction alone, think about the the
course structure that you are following. Think about the various kind of things that are
being introduced to you through this syllabi and through the curricular. And also you know the range of things that
you know, the the universities across the length and breadth of this country are also
following. Yeah. So there is this anthology market. He talks about you know how the English
in this Anthology Market, English Language and Literature Markets are seen as one and
the same thing. There is hardly any distinction being made between English Language and English
Literature. If you, and and this is he also says this
is also because even when language English language is being taught right from school
days, this is also done through passages from literature. Yeah so there is an overlap and
not much of an effort has been made to bring out the distinction. And the other thing is
that this is very much driven by universities and syllabi. And come to page 121. He talks about you know there are this in
fact gives us a lot of details about how the profits work, and how they make money from
this educational market. Yeah. And in page 121 he there is a paragraph which begins talking
about the profit margin on such anthologies someway somewhere half way through do you
see the sentence beginning, whereas he would have to sell a library hardback at his own
risk and spend money on warehousing it for several years. Our prescribed anthology comes under the category
of a no risk publishing because he knows he cannot lose on his investment. and because
he knows exactly how soon he will recover his investment. Which is why there is lot
of politics behind the text being prescribed. Yeah. Some of them are for political reasons,
some of them are for economic reasons like he points out an anthology that too a prescribed
anthology by a university. Yeah. That is that falls under a no risk publication. Why is it a no risk publication? All the students
who are registered under that university they will buy it. Yeah. There will be a larger
market for it. There will be you know the the secondary material which which will get
than produced. So it is a larger market which emerges based on how the the university prescribes
a particular kind of text. Yeah. So mmm the. Yeah. Then the next set you know which he
calls critical editions and m financial editions. That is what he also calls as the Eng.Lit.
Markets. Yeah. Which we are obviously familiar with in different
varying degrees. And he says the Eng.Lit. Market is a quite a thriving one. And this
come to page 122. Yeah he talks about the out of copyright classics which are mostly
also prescribed by universities across Novels of Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Dickens, Dorjelian,
D.H. Lawrence, so and so on. If you take if you go and take a look at you know the syllabi
and curricular of at least some 10, 20 universities all over India. You can find that it is pretty much a same
set of texts which they would be, may be there would be 1 or 2 which would be, which may
jet out, which may jar you know in comparison to the others. Otherwise it is pretty much
a similar range of texts which are being discussed. So he talks about the the market for these
editions of widely prescribed out of copyright classics and out of copyright means you do
not have to make an effort to get the copyright again. And he says that this is this is worked quite
well for the publishing houses because most of the prescribed texts have been from these
you know out of copyright classics. So they do not really have to make an effort to get
the copyright of the recent works. And there is also you know the market for the text with
introduction and detailed notes. There would be as soon as the text is prescribed. Yeah.
We are talking about a typical university. Yeah. And there that very moment a set of scholars,
a set of reputed academics would come together and they will also bring out another edition
with annotated notes. Yeah. These are this is how the market works. And he says, it is
not that again you know OUP or a publishing house like that. They are not attentive to
the different political readings which a text can lend itself to. But they also have to
do this you know tightrope act. Yeah. Because they want to keep all the factions happy. One cannot have an entirely radical reading
of a text because that may that may totally disappoint a number of people who are into
the conventional reading of things. Yeah. But one cannot entirely have the conventional
reading alone but many may because many may find that they have not been included the
new kinds of readings or the new kinds of challenges. So Advani is saying it is not
as if we are unaware of these things happening but we also want to make all academic factions
happy. And then there is this literary market where
you know this is mostly focussed on the library hardbacks and he says in terms of the turnover
value it is smallest and he also talks about certain limitations as far as this segment
is concerned. The literary market the market for library hardbacks. Yeah. And he says while
this is of much strategic importance. It is very important. Though the turnover is very less it is important
to bring out these you know the library hardbacks of different works and it also ensures the
academic relevance of a publishing house such as OUP. But he says there are certain limitations.
He says there is a lack of good quality research monographs coming out from India. There are
certain reasons that he outlines for that. And the first reason he says is, it is due
to the somewhat peculiar status of English studies in India. He says reasonably a large number of mediocre
students are the one who come to pursue English studies. So he says a large number of mediocre
students come to pursue English and the second one is even worse. They finally go on to teach.
Yeah. So there is an impossibility of bringing out good quality research monographs. Yeah.
And this was written in 1992 and today we are in 2018. Do you think this is a relevant
argument that he is making? There is a certain truth value to what he
is saying, if you are only looking at skills and merit in a particular way. Yeah. That
is what he is doing. Yeah. He is talking about the the high achieving ones who clears certain
kinds of entrances. You know who make it big in the job market and mediocre in what sense
he uses mediocre. That has not really been spelt out in this essay. But this is the generalised
claim that, he makes. Yeah. We will we are not agreeing with him but we will just move
on with the essay. And he says one is the lack of good quality
of research monographs due to the lack of good students and the lack of good teachers.
There are no good academics here. Yeah. As far as English Literary Studies is concerned.
Yeah. This is what Rukun Advani is saying. And the second thing that he says is that
the literature that we study here are that of England and America. Yeah. So, even when someone wants to bring out a
good academic work and a a good research monograph they would rather get it published outside
India because the market here may not you know work in favour. Yeah. In fact Rukun Advani
he himself had published he did a PhD. He published one of his his thesis I think into
a book. Yeah. So I do not know well that fared. Yeah. And yeah. And he is saying may be the way ahead is to
include translations of (region) regional Indian classics as well. So that there is
a wide market and there is a better quality does not really go into the details of any
of these arguments that he is making and how to you know come out of this loop that English
Literary Studies according to him has fallen into. So , since we need to move on. So finally
he says when there when a text is being prescribed a corrective focus is should be placed. Do not think that he is using subalterns in
the way that politically you are familiar with. He is talking about the subalterns of
BA passes as far as you know a typical university system is concerned. He says when a text is
being prescribed also keep in mind this large mass of students who are coming in. Yeah.
The prescribed text should also meet their demands again you know it is not a essay where
he outlines all of these things. And he talks about you know how there are
lot of changes coming in but you know that is really been, the change is not been powerful
enough to bring a change in the entire publishing scenario. And he is saying again from the
publishing point of view. If a group of academics do come together to say rework the the the
curricular or the syllabi or the demands of the educational system. Then perhaps on the
publishing houses will also take a step forward to completely challenge everything. So here the crux of this essay is that he
is at some level arguing this is an apolitical field altogether, English Literary Studies.
And the publishing is not determined. The kind of books which are brought out the decisions
behind bringing out certain kind of texts. It is not driven by any kind of ideology but
via broad consensus. Yeah. And lot of details are being supplemented but some of those may
have some of those details also may have become relevant in the contemporary because you know
we have come a long way from 92 till the contemporary. So, I want to juxtapose this essay. Yeah. This is from the publishing perspective arguing
that there is no politics at work. I want you to now take a look at the 2007 essay by
Rashmi Sadana which is again which is an essay entirely based on academic reading and this
is scholarly work. So the essay is titled as A Suitable Text for a Vegetarian Audience:
Questions of Authenticity and the Politics of Translation. Just as said the context yeah
be the first couple of lines we will read together. This is something which happens
at the Sahitya Akademy. In 2000 Kiran Nagarkar’s novel Cuckold, won
India’s top literary prize. The Sahitya Akademy Award, for best original work in English.
Yet the aculeate seemed to alienate him further from his priced readership in his home state
of Maharashtra. The novels emplaced that he initially established Nagarkar as an acclaimed
author where written originally in the Marathi language. He went on to write more Marathi
place but then made a mistake of writing 2 novels in English; Ravan and Eddie 1995 and
Cuckold in 1997. How might be characterised the (compe) competing
loyalties and claims to authenticity in India’s contemporary multilingual field. This essay
argues that postcolonial English has come have less to do with the relationship between
coloniser and colonised and much more to do with internal language politics and competing
nationalisms. So here the essay talks about the mistake that Kiran Nagarkar has done.
Think about the first novel Rajmohan’s Wife by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. That has been
described as a false start. Yeah. Now also recall the many anxieties that Raja
Rao had  while writing in English. He did not want his act of writing in English to
be presented as a betrayal of the nationalist m the cause. Yeah. Language also becomes a
a way in which one talks about nationalist loyalties. How one defines one’s identity
with respect to the nation. Yeah. And those are certain things that we have already taken
a look at here. Rashmi Sudhana is telling us. Not it has become as if the battle is not
between the colonised language and the use of the colonisers language and the use of
that language. But it is between the way language is used within this subcontinent in the postcolonial
scenario. And she will shortly show us how. And here there are a she this essay is structured
in a very unique way. She begins by discussing Kiran Nagarkar and his (recept) the reception
of his work in the Marathi establishment after he started writing in English. And in the second half of the essay he moves
on to the novel by Vikram Seth, A Suitable India, A Suitable Boy and how the translation
of the work from English to regional language had operated within a different politics altogether.
And she is trying to bring in the questions of translation, the question of language and
tie it up with how by a larger critical tradition itself as formed. So here you know she begins by talking about
how Kiran Nagarkar switched from writing in Marathi to writing in English was seen as
a kind of betrayal and he was also accused of have having committed a crime of having
written a in English. So, here is this interesting thing about how bilingualism works in India
in the contemporary. when it comes to evaluating an Indian writer, most of the writers who
are writing in English which is most of the writers who we have already taken a look at. It appears as if they are competent mostly
or only in writing in English. And there is no question of the bilingual aspect coming
in to play most of their cases  because their education and their background their lived
experiences all tell us a different story as far as their familiarity with the native
languages are concerned. But on the other hand the Bhasha writer. One could think of
a number of Bhasha writers who are competent in both languages U.R. Ananthamurthy. Yeah.
The Kannada writer. Yeah. He is written in both Kannada and English.
O.V. Vijayan the Malayalam writer. He translated his own iconic work. What is that? Yeah, The
legends of Khazak as it is known in the translation. He translated his own work from Malayalam
to English. There will be and Kiran Nagarkar of course. He was a an established Marathi
writer and he until he lost his legitimacy when he moved to writing in English. One could
come across a number of such writers who are fairly well received writers in their local
native traditions but they also have proficiency of writing in English. But the moment as far as the critical establishment
of Indian writing in English is concerned, the moment the Bhasha writer begins to write
in both these languages, it is as if you know they lose their legitimacy and credibility
as far as their local audience or the local establishment is concerned. Yeah. Of course
there is a way in which the Indian writer in English. He has access to fame. He has
access to wealth. He can make a living out of that. He is an he or she is an international
celebrity. Those things remain entirely inaccessible
to the Bhasha writer. But the moment the Bhasha writer makes this crossover to writing in
the other tongue as well he realises that he or she realises that even the native turf
which otherwise seemed very sure in terms of the audience in terms of reception. Yeah.
That also becomes a little shaky. Yeah. This is something that Krian Kiran Nagarkar talks
about it. In fact you know the and the the Sahitya Akademy. You come to the second page
of the essay. He explained how the publishers sent 36 review
copies to various Marathi newspapers and journals. Not a single review of the book has appeared
in the 4 and a half years that have gone by. A complete you know rejection of this work
as far as the Marathi is Marathi critical establishment is concerned. The last line,
If you do not acknowledge an author’s work, it ceases to exist. And that is what had happened
with him as far as a Marathi literary establishment is concerned. And this is you know again drawing
your attention. The first point that this essay Rashmi Sahana makes in his essay. The language battles in India now it has got
less to do with the relationship between coloniser and colonised and much more to do with internal
language politics and competing nationalisms. Yeah. Think about the language riots which
happen. It was not between English and Indian languages. It ceased to be. English ceased
to become the colonisers language. It became one of the Indian languages and one of the
fierce battles which were fought during the 1960s and 70s. It was between Hindi and Tamil.
Yeah. There was a very bha there was a very acute
divide between the North and the South as far as the imposition of a certain language
was concerned. Yeah. And it is within it is from such a context that Rashmi Sadana is
addressing this entire politics which works in the as with respect to translation and
language. And this is how English language is being seen. Today it is a global literature.
In Indian context we do not, we no longer see that as a an alien tongue. And that is is also you know a language which
unites us in multiple ways. You take out that language and we do not have a medium to communicate
with each other. Yeah. And it has it has become the second mother tongue. This is also been
seen as the language of the urban elite. Lot of the the the privileges are associated with
language, language also means English language also means access to certain spaces. It also
means the definition of your identity in particular ways that it ensures certain privileges. It ensures that you access certain privileged
spaces today. Another let us try and understand Sahitya Akademy stands for. This is the National
Akademy of letters as you all know this was bha bha established in 1954. And Sadana gives
an interesting description for Sahitya Akademy because most of these debates that she talks
about they were all staged in the Sahitya Akademy. This a space where struggles over
cultural authenticity are staged, where linguistic choices are defended, promoted, and derided,
where the regional trumps the national and yet is continually subjected to it. Yeah. So, this gives a a totally different equation
to the language games which are at work. So let us do this exercise very quickly together.
You will begin to see that most of the works that we have been taking a look at. Yeah.
Though you know we did not make this choice of a text based on whether they have won the
Sahitya Akademy award or not. We find that there is an uncanny similarity between their
works that have won Sahitya Akademy Award and the ones that have become a part of cannon
part of literary cannon as far as Indian writing in English is concerned. Yeah. we have done most of there are a few writers
whom I have left out in-between. Almost every year an English writer was given the Sahitya
Akademy Award from 1960 onwards. There are just a few exceptions here and there. this
has not been given. You will find if you search online you will find the entire list. So,
let us take a look at the writers whom we have done. At least one novel we have done
from Narayan Raja Rao. Barrier Elwin I do not know if you remember when we were talking
about the strange case of Billy Biswas. Yeah. m I do not remember whether I mentioned it
or whether Suma mentioned it. One of us did draw your attention to. How that was the time
the setting of the novel is also from the time when the various anthropological debates
were being staged. Yeah. between Barrier Elwin and Barrier Elwin is in British writer who
lived in India for a long time. He is an anthropologist. So he has been talking about how to incorporate
the tribals into the mainstream and argued that you know you really do not have to really
do that and just Leave them alone. Yeah. So, he was in that sense he is part of the
discussions of critical establishment. Mulk Raj Anand of course. Anita Desai, Srinivasa
Iyengar the critic Arun Joshi we discussed. Yeah. Nayantara Sahgal we did not discuss
it. But her’s is an emergency novel which is part of the cannon. Vikram Seth A Suitable
Boy, Shadow Lines yes. Shashi Deshpande. We just made a passing mention of her while talking
about the women writers. Allan Sealy’s Trotter-Nama, Ruskin Bond’s again. He was just mentioned here and there but of
course all of these are familiar names. familiar authors. Meenakshi Mukherjee as a critic.
Upamanyu Chatterjee, Arundhati Roy, Temsula Ao and Mamang Dai is of course familiar to
at least some of you. Yeah. So that is this uncanny similarity between the authors and
critics who won Sahitya Akademy Award and how they also found their rights. Not as if
you know there is a conspiracy at work. Yeah. This happens rather inadvertently because
this is how the critical this is how critical traditions and cannons operate in work across
literary traditions. So, Yeah. This is not something you know she does not make that
argument at all. I thought that this is interesting to take a look at you know Sahitya Akademy
Award winners and the text that we are familiar with. So coming back to Sadana’s essay. She
says literary language has generally been being used as a barometer of a cultural authenticity
as far as critical authenticity within India is concerned. We also have this rare distinction
of having a literary tradition in multiple languages. Yeah. This is not something that many literary linguistic
traditions across the world can boast of. So ours is a very problematic complicated
territory as far as language and literature is concerned. The moment we begin to talk
about (lang) the moment we begin to talk about literature it becomes difficult not to address
questions of language because literature is written in language and which language whether
it is a translation. It becomes a becomes a complicated territory altogether when we
talk about language and literature in India. The aim of this. It is rather late into the
essay that Sadana tells us about the aim of this essay. To peel away the layers of cultural
authenticity. She keeps talking about this term. Layers of cultural authenticity that
both animate and cloud social political debates in India about language, cultural identity
and globalisation. This is an essay which brings together many aspects. She is in fact
you know trained in English Literary Studies. She is an anthropologist and a historian has
done lot of interesting works at the intersection of all these disciplines. So she also is able to take an interesting
take on literary studies and its reception. That is something she also comes to talk about
directly towards the end of the essay. It is a rather long essay we will not go into
the details of everything. Just some of the things I will you know put forward before
you. She says that these many debates about language. These many debates about which text
is more authentic than the other text. This is not always about language. This is not always about the merit of a text.
On the contrary, this is about caste, class and religious considerations. Yeah. And certain
instances she talks about and if we also recall the discussions that we have had yet. Though
that was not necessarily always about caste or religion. If you think, if you recall,
how we found it difficult to talk about Temsula Ao’s work within this literary critical tradition.
Yeah. That is a clear case that it is certainly not about language. It is about many many
other things. Yeah. The debate is not about whether the author
is writing in English or not. Whether the writing whether the author is writing in English
to cater to certain demands which have been put forward by this tradition. Yeah. And she
says and here the here is where I want you to very deliberately draw a you know parallels
between rather you know the contrast the between Advani’s essay and from the publisher’s
perspective. And Sadana’s essay from a reader’s critics perspective. She says what is at stake
is in fact ideology. Authenticity is a term. Merit, literary merit,
authenticity. These are just convenient terms. Yeah. She does not say pseudonyms but I am
using that term. This is just you know a nice way of a euphemistic way of talking about
many things which are otherwise uncomfortable. So she says, what is at stake is certain kinds
of ideology and it is not authenticity. And she says India’s cultural production and particularly
this the writings which are coming out from India. It is yet another stage on which its
modernity is tried and tested. Yeah. So, there is a an inadvertent way in which
somebody it it could be a body of you know an establishment like Sahitya Akademy, it
could be the publishing house, it could be the curriculum, it could be the university
syllabi. Yeah. So, or it could be all of these things together. They are always ensuring
that, Yeah, the projections of modernity are always in the right way. It always becomes
convenient somehow to talk about a writer like Raja Rao and place him at the beginning
of Indian writing in English, than you know talking about a writer from say from the Northeast.
Yeah. Because at some level the the story you do
not have to labour too much to position Kanthapura and Raja Rao because it is always already
about nation about Gandhi all the right kind of elements are there. But there have been
writings from the margins written in English as well but we do not make an effort to bring
them into this critical oora. Yeah. If you take the example the of Gandhi and Ambedkar.
Ambedkar also wrote extensively in English. But as part of Indian Writing in English we
when we discuss the origins, we talk about the writings of Gandhi; we talk about the
writings of Nehru; but certainly not Ambedkar. But if you because if you begin talking Ambedkar,
yeah that will take us on a different trip altogether. Yeah. We may have to march the
trumpeter of some other ideology altogether. So that can be kept in the margins. Yeah.
So as a as a as an additional point may be those things can be mentioned. But they should not be allowed to come and
take the centre stage of discussion at any point. Which is why again coming back to an
author like Temsula Ao. When we talk about her, yeah, our history the trajectory of the
literary tradition is going in a certain way. And there is a writer who is always been a
writer whose history, whose traditions have always been in the margins and in order to
situate her, we may have to unsettle and reorient many things that we have been discussing as
part of mainstream. So, coming back to this essay. She now comes
to a totally different thing altogether and makes it fit very well with the ongoing discussion.
She talks about the problem with Hindi. So so far the discussions have mostly been about
most of the other discussions that we have been having about Indian (la) writing in English.
Whenever we talk about language we talk about English versus Bhasha. She brings in a different
different battle altogether. And she begins by talking about Hindi as a
language. He ta she talks about the hegemonic power that Hindi enjoys in a different way.
And about you know she draws attention, she asks us to recall the popular rejection of
Hindi by the south and how in the 1950s and 60s English began to be considered as a more
neutral language. In fact when the language bill was passed yeah, that was on the basis
of these sort of many things which were happening in the 1950s and 60s where English began to
be seen as a more neutral language whereas Hindi was seen as being imposing another kind
of hegemony within the nation. And mm yeah. So one needs to begin to look
at these language debates and the kind of validations that they begin to give to us
in a different framework altogether. Not English versus Bhasha anymore. She is saying it is
this also operates within the internally in a different way altogether. So what is the
advantage that English what is the advantage that English gained over the others during
this point it becames a language of it became the language of government bureaucracy, higher
education and to quote Aijaz Ahmad. It became the language of national integration
and bourgeois civility. Yeah. And again think about what Rushdie said. Writing in English
is more national, it is global whereas Bhasha is parochial. It has narrow concerns it does
not know how to rise above the the the many limitations which are also regressive. And
this began to be seen as a less. Less is a colonial remnant and more as a global attribute
and more importantly it began began to be seen as a language of privilege. So this is a complex terrain that we are talking
about. Difficult to sides and say which is more morally right and which is more ethically
acceptable. Yeah. And it is in this context that Sadana brings in the idea of translation.
She brings in this question of English and Hindi. Both are languages of privilege in
different ways and she asks this question why is it that people yeah, why is it what
is the reason that people choose to write in English or not to choose in to write in
English. What is the reason for choosing one language
over the other? Yeah. And she says it is no longer important to ask why are people writing
in it is she is trying to argue that it is no longer important to ask this question about
why people are writing in certain languages or not. That is a rather dated question. But
the question should be reframed in such a way. The concern should be reframed in such
a way that we should begin to ask how English and Hindi are a contained and deployed in
this space. And due to the nature of the limited kind
of discussions and texts that we have been bringing to this class. We have we are really
not able to talk about any language other than English. Right. Yeah. Because from the
beginning we have talking about since the course itself is titled Indian Fiction in
English. Yeah. There is a way in which it becomes convenient to talk about English versus
Bhasha. English as a coloniser’s language. How English becomes global. It also a convenient way of setting aside
the many internal debates as far as the language issue is concerned. Yeah. So here this essay
from this point of time onwards is asking this question how English and Hindi are contained
and deployed as far as the space Indian Fiction in English is concerned. Now when she begins
to talk about A Suitable Boy this perfectly begins to make sense. Yeah. A Suitable Boy.
This is Vikram Seth’s 1993 novel which was internationally published. And we have taken
a look at this. We can also see the kind of advance that he
received in 1993. Oh some atrociously filthy amount which we cannot even imagine. What
what kind of a can you are you able to locate that place where he where she talks about
the advance that he received. I think it was some in 1993 it was (3) (37) 375 thousand
dollars. That was way back in 1993. I do not know how much does that come to. More than
a crore. Yeah. So it was a much ha, it was a much talked about affair in a much talked
about affair. Yeah. That Vikram Seth receiving this money not
after having written it. Yeah. This was the advance for writing it. Not counting the kind
of revenues that this generated. Not counting the money that he got from the copyright.
Yeah. So, that is a different thing. So, in 1993 this was internationally published. And
in 1998 a Hindi translation came out. It was called Koi Accha Sa Ladka. The translation
was by Gopal Gandhi. Yeah. And contrary to now you know again juxtapose this with Kiran
Nagarkar’s complaint at the beginning. That the moment he started writing in English
he was delegitimised by the Marathi literary establishment. Something entirely different
happened with Vikram Seth. The moment the English Hindi translation came out in 1998,
yeah it was immediately accepted by the literary establishment Seth becomes Seth himself. He
authorises this saying you know the work has actually gained in translation. He did not
have a single negative thing to say about the translation. He also you know, He said in in through this
process he was in a certain way ready to even share the credit with the English translation
and Rashmi Sadana says not with the translator. Gopal Gandhi we did not hear much about him
but about the translation. Yeah. Giving the credit to (lang) to the language. He says
you know he was (wi) willing to give a part of his claim of authorship to the Hindi translation
thereby saying I could have written this Hindi as well. Yeah. Because this is a text perhaps which would
gain in translation when this is reproduced in Hindi. So this is what Rashmi Sadana says.
Rather than defending his use of English, Seth raises and then gives into those who
would always question the authenticity of an English novel. Seth himself maintains that
the Hindi version captures something that he was unable to render. His admission did
not go unnoticed by the Delhi literary establishment. And he is till date one of the Indian English
Writers who receives this uncritical admiration and critical reception from various non-English
Literary establishments within India. This is something I want you to keep this in mind.
This is something that Rushdie or an Arundhati Roy could not achieve at all. Yeah. They have
always been considered as outsiders. But Vikram Seth in spite of the kind of fame the kind
of wealth and celebrity status that he has and in spite of the many different worlds
that the Bhasha writer and the Indian English writer inhabits. Yeah. There is a way in which the the English work
and the Hindi translation have been able to come and sit together. Yeah in fact, Seth
received an even higher amount rather recently I think this one also talks about it. There
was another work of him also which again you know got this. Yeah. This was in 2005 I think
it is in the page 13 of this Seth has received 1.3 Million Pound advance from Time 1 a books
for his memoa Two Lives in 2005. Yeah. Second one these are advances these are the this
is not the amount which he received after having written the book. Yeah. Yeah and I I I do not think even there is
a single Indian Bhasha writer who can even lay claims to this sort of a an achievement.
Yeah. And this Hindi translation which came out. It also received the validation of many
Indian English critics, Harish Trivedi is a postcolonial critic. He said the Hindi translation
is good because you know it has this twice-born sanskar and Indian English Fiction itself
was always you know known as twice-born fiction. That is the term that Meenakshi Mukherjee
gives to him. This twice-born does that indicate anything? Yeah. Who’s typed twice-born? Yes
it is a very direct reference to the, to the upper-caste who has been twice-born. Yeah.
Directly borrowing this from the the caste hierarchy. And this work A Suitable Boy by
Vikram Seth for the same reason Harish Trivedi argued. This has been considered more Indian
than others. He specifically mentions Rushdie and Arundhati Roy who could not achieve this
status. Yeah. And she brings in another interesting twist
to this. So there is a Suitable Boy which has got global recognition global attention.
It has been a huge commercial success. A Hindi translation which is validated by the Hindi
Literary establishment. Now there is another thing which comes in to intervene in this
debate. Enakshi Chatterjee wanted to translate this work into Bengali. So Enakshi Chatterjee thought she would take
a look at the Hindi version as well because that is the language that she would connect
emotionally with. She wanted to read the Hindi version as well. It is then that he realised
she realised that the Hindi translation had left out some descriptions of leather processing.
Yeah. It was it was also talking about the Jhamar workers the Jhamar castes and leather
processing. The Hindi translation had omitted that entire section. So, Enakshi Chatterjee was also addressing
an audience as part of a an event in Sahitya Akademy. She said, may be this was done for
religious consideration for a largely vegetarian audience. This is the term that Enakshi Chatterjee
had used. So who is this largely vegetarian audience. That is the refers to predominantly
upper-caste Brahminical audience. And while Enakshi Chatterjee felt that you know, a translator
does not have the right to omit certain things she said she has also been thinking of using
some of these liberties as a translator because in the beginning there is a reference to the
town Brahmapur in A Suitable Boy. She says to a Bengali audience describing
the town Brahmapur and it is the you know talking at length about the relevance of the
term and all. It could be it it it would it may not come across as a being authentic.
Because every Bengali knows yeah what Brahmapur is and what are the connotations to that.
So, she says that you know when she is addressing the Bengali audience may be she will use that
liberty to avoid those segments as well. Yeah. So the Sadana brings our attention back to
this point. Yeah. The certain segments which are lost in translation.
Yeah. So she also asks these questions about whether translating texts can be seen as a
moral practice that that does the translator have any responsibility and what are the fundamental
rights of the translator. Yeah. Can the translator make the work into an entirely new work altogether
or he or she or should she or he or she just stick to you know whatever has been written
in the original one. And again hmhm tidies up with the validation that the translation
received from the author himself. Yeah. He also must have felt yeah perhaps it is
ok to remove certain segments because what if that causes a what of that you know causes
a totally disturbing thing when it is given to a largely vegetarian audience. So what
is at stake here. In Sadana’s own words. In the portrayal of Dalits in a middle-brow Indian
English novel and its Hindi translation. Yeah. So there is this Indian English novel which
talks about caste. Not centrally and it is not as if Seth is endorsing, yeah the Dalits
being looked upon the middle class but at the same time she is asking this question,
Sadana is asking this question. What is that stake in the portrayal of Dalits in a middle-brow
Indian English novel and its Hindi translation. Yeah. Here we are even beginning to wonder
whether some of the things that Rushdie said in his introduction. Are they beginning to sound true at certain
levels because in the English one can afford to have certain things in the English work.
But the same sort of things cannot be included in the Hindi translation of the same text.
So this deletion Sadana is talking about. There is an extensive section you know where
she talks about, which part has been deleted and you know the details of that which you
can take a look at at later point. Sadana exclusively talk about this act of deletion
and she says this deletion speaks directly to the caste politics in the Hindi belt which
she also refers to as the cow belt. By extension or the leather workers the Jhamar
caste, they cannot be included into the mainstream of a narrative which is being discussed. And
she also talks about how this is again again you know indicating the entry of the cultural
pressure of Hindu nationalism or Hindutva. This is again a text a essay which was written
in 2007 when these sort of debates are just beginning to be staged in the literary and
cultural scenario. And this deletion Sadana says is a very overt deliberate effort to
appease an upper-caste audience. And finally there is a it it also showcases
a particular configuration of the Hindi English Literary field. Yeah. Something which otherwise
does not get talked about at all. Yeah. It is mostly about English versus Bhasha but
she is telling us that other kinds of alliances can also be formed on the basis of not just
language but on the basis of certain kinds of audiences, certain literary traditions
and very importantly on the basis of caste, class, and the privileges associated with
it. Yeah. And in her own words. The omission speaks
to yet another aspect of linguistic authenticity dictating whose stories belong in which language
and which authors and translators are authorised to tell which stories. This is pretty much
self explanatory and it also opens up the possibilities of asking many different questions.
As far as the Indian literary tradition is concerned. Yeah. And this is how she begins
to end this essay. She talks a little bit about her methodology
her approach that she has taken in this an analysing this these you know different kinds
of texts and the different sort of things associated with it. She says literature reflects
and presents, but it also (pro) it is also produced and consumed under particular social
political conditions. She says unless one moves away from this hermeneutic approach
towards literature. The meaning making the interpretative process of just looking at
the text for what it is. She says these sort of interesting things
will be presented to us if you just step out and look at the social and political conditions
in which it has been produced. Yeah. Again we do not have much time now. But do think
about this in the context of what Advani also said from the publishers point of view that
they are not able to see any politics in it. Because it is very overt. It is not an overt
kind of thing at all yeah. And she Sadana also talks about the advantages
that you would get if you have an ethnographic approach of the study of literature looking
at the material conditions looking at the extra literary things, looking outside the
text and see how it has been received, how it has been presented in various contexts.
And finally the question of literary analysis yeah moving from hermeneutics to the meaning
of everyday life. Yeah. And and in most of your presentations I would
also say that this is an attempt that you have been trying to make to step out of the
text and see what it has been doing to the literary establishment or from where these
stories are being told, who’s stories are being told from where through what kind of
context. Yeah. And about the questions of language. What is English allow Hindi apparently
does not, what made this have to do with Seth writing the novel in English in the first
place. Yeah. So asking this also this questions right Rushdie
write after all. So English on the context has also been seen as a (la) language of liberation
as far as the Dalits are concerned. There is this Dalit thinker and activist Chandra
Bhan Prasad who said Macaulay is the father of Indian modernity and not Ram Mohan Roy.
Yeah.  Because an English he said there should be
a temple for English because English can be worshipped as a goddess and whatever this
goddess would say is, come to me and I will empower you. So the these are the different
b b politics these are the different contexts within which Indian writing in English its
tradition and these things operate. I hope to be able to continue with this you know
when we meet again next. Thank you. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *