India Uncut

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Midnight's Children and The Suitable Boy...

... are "virtually identical," says Stephen Thompson in the Scotsman on Sunday, in a review of Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games. He writes:
There are certain books that are so similar to one another they almost beg to be grouped together. This is largely true of Indian novels. Look closely at the ones published in the past, say, 25 years, and you'll see that they're virtually identical, in theme if not in style and content.

For me, Midnight's Children is indivisible from A Fine Balance, which in turn cannot be separated from A Suitable Boy. Directly or indirectly, all three books - and there are other notable examples - are concerned with the same thing: the state of Indian society in the wake of independence and partition.
It's hard to believe that such ignorant tripe, such self-evident nonsense, has been published in a mainstream publication. I came across this on Uma's blog, which also pointed me to posts by Edward Champion and Galley Cat on the subject.

I've noticed that many foreign publications, when they want something written on India or any other third-world country, prefer to have one of their contributors do a half-baked job than get a local expert. This does not stem from racism, but the mistaken belief that to make their audience relate to a subject, they need to get a writer who knows the audience, even if his grasp of the subject is not so good. That's what the Scotsman on Sunday has done here, unlike their daily counterpart, who wisely opted to commission the review to someone who actually knew Indian literature: Chandrahas Choudhury. His review is vastly better than Thompson's, one that does justice to both the subject and the audience.

And ah, I can't resist quoting another shockingly arrogant statement by Thompson: "Sacred Games may well be the first Indian detective novel." Can't a man who has clearly knows little of Indian literature stay away from such ludicrously sweeping statements? Poor Byomkesh Bakshi. (And I'm sure there must be many before Mr Bakshi!)
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