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Chapter 8 - Crime Fiction in South Asia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 April 2022

Jesper Gulddal
Affiliation:
University of Newcastle, New South Wales
Stewart King
Affiliation:
Monash University, Victoria
Alistair Rolls
Affiliation:
University of Newcastle, New South Wales
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Summary

Detective or crime fiction has had a long and varied history in South Asia, at times inflected by local concerns, at other times transporting readers into a world of international intrigue. This chapter traces its development from its colonial origins under the aegis of a local boom in print media, ‘intrusive’ colonial law and policing and the influx of European narratives combined with precolonial tropes. The chapter focuses on iconic ‘homegrown’ detectives like Byomkesh Bakshi in the 1930s, the quintessential Bengali gentleman detective engaged in the high pursuit of truth, the debonair detectives Faridi and Imraan created by Indo-Pakistani writer Ibne Safi in the 1950s–1970s, and the heroes of ‘hard-boiled’ Hindi crime fiction in the 1970s–1990s. Crime fiction has also allowed women writers to imagine bold female detectives who challenge and debate gender norms, from Kamala Satthianadhan’s trailblazing Detective Janaki (1934) to Sujatha Massey’s Perveen Mistry. Crime fiction in South Asia has been intensely translational, not just from English but also across South Asian languages. It has pioneered its own distribution channels and spawned adaptations across media platforms.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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