By J. Edward Mallot

This publication investigates the ambivalent responses to the opposing compulsions of reminiscence and forgetting in cultural creation in South Asia. Mallot unearths how writers resembling Salman Rushdie, Michael Ondaatje, and Amitav Ghosh indict nationalism's sins by means of gaining access to and encoding the prior.

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Additional info for Memory, Nationalism, and Narrative in Contemporary South Asia

Example text

Saleem Sinai’s fantastic story, beginning with his birth at the precise moment of Indian independence and continuing through the first decades of the new nation’s life, is presented as a counternarrative to officially sanctioned histories. But Saleem narrates his tale well aware of its numerous inaccuracies, generated by both simple error and deliberate evasiveness. At one point he admits a chronological mistake, but refuses to change his account, claiming that “in my India, Gandhi will continue to die at the same time” (198).

Literature has been cited as a crucial component of unearthing, understanding, and addressing trauma, presenting a mode of witnessing that implicitly bridges subject-object positions and, in so doing, reopening possibilities for understanding past events. In giving verbal form to the “unspeakable,” narratives can help begin the process of healing victims. According to Deborah Horvitz, fictional characters react to trauma as “real” victims tend to do: “Fictional characters experience trauma and, subsequently, as a self-protective response, repress its memories.

If India was to join the rest of the modern world, time was of the essence: “We have a long way to go and much leeway to make up before we can take our proper station with others in the van of human civilization and progress. And we have to hurry, for the time at our disposal is limited and the pace of the world grows ever swifter” (579). Architecture provided a surprising and dramatic example of how reluctance to embrace new ideas helped enable further trouble: “India has been static, architecturally considered, for the last few hundred years.

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