Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-7d8f8d645b-2q4x6 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-05-29T00:23:12.885Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

14 - Postcolonial writing in India

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 January 2012

Ato Quayson
University of Toronto
Get access


Indian middle-man (to Author): Sir, if we do not identify your composition a novel, how then do we itemise it? Sir, the rank and file is entitled to know.

Author (to Indian middle-man): Sir, I identify it as a gesture. Sir, the rank and file is entitled to know.

Indian middle-man (to Author): Sir, there is no immediate demand for gestures. There is immediate demand for novels. Sir, we are literary agents not free agents.

Author (to Indian middle-man): Sir, I identify it a novel. Sir, itemise it accordingly.

The above exchange, which constitutes one of several frontispieces that frame G. V. Desani’s maverick and freewheeling novel of 1949, offers a provocative opening for this essay. Writing two years after the independence of India, Desani makes his ‘author’ and his initially blustering stance define the very essence of postcolonial necessity. Now is the time of immense social and cultural change, a moment pregnant with opportunity, which demands transformation of the mere fact of the novel into something far more meaningful: the ‘gesture’. And yet this grandiloquence is rapidly brought down to earth by the brute realities of the market, which relentlessly declares its own chain of demand and supply. The author’s quick turnaround, while ridiculous, is touchingly redeemed by the pragmatism that propels it. Moreover, it is an ‘Indian middle-man’ who, in the name of the ordinary ‘rank and file’, imposes on the author these mundane yet unavoidable pressures.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Adiga, Aravind. The White Tiger, London: Atlantic Books, 2008.
Ahmad, Aijaz. In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures, London: Verso, 1992.
Ali, Agha Shahid. Country without a Post Office, New York: W. W. Norton, 1997.
Ali, Agha Shahid. Rooms Are Never Finished, New York: W. W. Norton, 2002.
Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable, with a Preface by E. M. Forster (1935), London: Bodley Head, 1970.
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, London: Verso, 1991.
Appadurai, Arjun, and Breckenridge, Carol, ‘Public modernity in India’, in Breckenridge, Carol (ed.), Consuming Modernity: Public Culture in a South Asian World, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.Google Scholar
Aravamudan, Srinivas. Guru English: South Asian Religion in a Cosmopolitan Language, Princeton University Press, 2007.
Banerjee, Sarnath. The Barn-Owl’s Wondrous Capers, Delhi: Penguin India, 2007.
Basu, Kunal. The Miniaturist, London: Weidenfield & Nicholson, 2003.
Bennett, Bruce. ‘Literary culture since Vietnam: a new dynamic’, in Bennett, Bruce and Strauss, Jennifer (eds.), Oxford Literary History of Australia, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998.Google Scholar
Bennett, , Bruce, et al (eds.). The Penguin New Literary History of Australia. Ringwood, VIC: Penguin Australia, 1988.
Bhabha, Homi K.The Location of Culture, London and New York: Routledge, 1994.
Bhalla, Alok (ed.). Stories about the Partition of India, 3 vols., New Delhi: Indus, 1994.
Bird, Delys. ‘New narrations: contemporary fiction’, in Webby, Elizabeth (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Australian Literature, Cambridge University Press, 2000.Google Scholar
Bond, Ruskin. The Room on the Roof (1951), New Delhi: Penguin India, 2008.
Bose, Sugata. Hundred Horizons Now: The Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005.
Brass, Paul, Language, Religion and Politics in North India (Cambridge University Press, 1974)
Brennan, Timothy. Salman Rushdie and the Third World: Myths of the Nation, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989.
Cannon, Garland, and Brine, Kevin R. (eds.). Objects of Enquiry: The Life, Contributions and Influence of Sir William Jones, 1746–1794, New York University Press, 1995.
Chakrabarty, Dipesh. ‘Nation and imagination: the training of the eye in Bengali modernity’, Topoi: International Review of Philosophy, 18.1(March 1999).Google Scholar
Chakrabarty, Dipesh. ‘Postcoloniality and the artifice of history: who speaks for the “Indian” pasts?Representations, 37 (1992).Google Scholar
Chandra, Vikram. Love and Longing in Bombay, London: Faber and Faber, 2000.
Chatterjee, Partha. ‘Disciplines of governance’, in Chatterjee, Partha (ed.), Texts of Power: Emerging Disciplines in Colonial Bengal, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.Google Scholar
Chatterji, Joya. The Spoils of Partition: Bengal and India, 1947–1967, Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Chaturvedi, Vinayak (ed.). Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial, London: Verso, 2000.
Chaudhuri, Amit. Clearing A Space: Reflections on India, Literature and Culture, New Delhi: Black Kite, 2008.
Chaudhuri, Maitreyee (ed.). Feminism in India, London: Zed Books, 2004.
Clive, John, and Pinney, Thomas (eds.). Thomas Babington Macaulay: Selected Writings, Chicago University Press, 1972.
Das, Gurcharan. The Elephant Paradigm, New Delhi: Penguin India, 2002.
Davis, Kathleen. Periodization and Sovereignty: How Ideas of Feudalism and Secularization Govern the Politics of Time, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.
Deb, Siddhartha. An Outline of the Republic, New York: HarperCollins, 2005.
Deb, Siddhartha. Point of Return, New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
Desai, Anita. Clear Light of Day, London: Heinemann, 1980.
Desai, Kiran. The Inheritance of Loss, London: Hamish Hamilton, 2005.
Desani, G. V.All About H. Hatterr (1948), New Delhi: Penguin India, 1986.
Devy, Ganesh. After Amnesia: Tradition and Change in Indian Literary Criticism, Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 1992.
Dingwaney Needham, Anuradha and Sunderrajan, Rajeswari (eds.). The Crisis of Secularism in India, Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 2007.
Dirks, Nicholas B.Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India, Princeton University Press, 2001.
Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee. The Mistress of Spices, New York: Random House, 1997.
Evans, Stephen. ‘Macaulay’s Minute revisited: colonial language policy in nineteenth century India’, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 23.4(2002).Google Scholar
Fraser, Bashabi (ed.). Bengal Partition Stories: An Unclosed Chapter, London: Anthem Press, 2006.
Fraser, Robert. Book History through Postcolonial Eyes, Re-Writing the Script, London: Routledge, 2008.
Ghosh, Amitav. In an Antique Land, London: Granta in association with Penguin, 1992.
Ghosh, Amitav. Shadow Lines (1988), New Delhi: Penguin India, 2005.
Ghosh, Amitav. ‘When death comes ashore’, New York Times, 10 May 2008.Google Scholar
Gopal, Priyamvada. Literary Radicalism in India: Gender, Nation and the Transition to Independence, London: Routledge, 2007.
Guha, Ramachandra. A Corner of a Foreign Field: The Indian History of a British Sport, London: Picador, 2003.
Guha, Ramachandra. India after Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy, London: Macmillan, 2007.
Guillory, John. Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation, University of Chicago Press, 1993.
Hasan, Anjum. Lunatic in My Head, New Delhi: Penguin and Zubaan Books, 2007.
Hasan, Mushirul (ed.). India Partitioned: The Other Face of Freedom, 2 vols., Delhi: Roli, 1995.
Hasan, Mushirul, India’s Partition, Process: Strategy, Mobilization (Oxford University Press, 1993)
Hyder, Qurratulain. River of Fire (Aag kar darya, 1959), trans. Hyder, Qurratulain, New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1998.
Jain, Kajri. Gods in the Bazaar: The Economies of Indian ‘Calendar Art’, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.
Jalal, Ayesha, Self and Sovereignty: Individual and Community in South Asian Islam since 1850, London: Routledge, 2000.
James, C. L. R.Beyond a Boundary, London: Hutchinson, 1963
Jameson, Fredric. ‘Third World literature in the era of multinational capitalism’, Social Text, 15, (Autumn 1986).Google Scholar
Joshi, Priya. In Another Country: Colonialism, Culture, and the English Novel in India, New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.
Kabir, Ananya Jahanara. ‘Analogy in translation: imperial Rome, medieval England and British India’, in Kabir, Ananya Jahanara and Williams, Deanne (eds.), Postcolonial Bibliography 1244 Approaches to the European Middle Ages: Translating Cultures, Cambridge University Press, 2005.Google Scholar
Kabir, Ananya Jahanara. ‘Subjectivities, memories, loss: of pigskin bags, silver spittoons, and the Partition of India’, Interventions, 4 (2002).Google Scholar
Kapur, Manju. Difficult Daughters, London: Faber and Faber, 1998.
Kapur, Manju. The Immigrant, Delhi: Random House, 2008.
Kaul, Suvir (ed.). Partitions of Memory: The Afterlives of the Division of India, New Delhi, Permanent Black, 2001.
Kesavan, Mukul. The Ugliness of the Indian Male and Other Propositions, New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2007.
Khilnani, Sunil. The Idea of India, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997.
King, Bruce. Modern Indian Poetry in English, rev. edn, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Kohli, Atul (ed.). The Success of India’s Democracy, Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Interpreter of Maladies, London: Flamingo, 2000.
Lahiri, Jhumpa. Unaccustomed Earth, London: Bloomsbury, 2008.
Mehrotra, Arvind Krishna. (ed.). A Concise History of Indian Literature in English, New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2008.
Mehta, Suketu. Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, New York: Knopf, 2004.
Mistry, Rohinton. A Fine Balance, London: Faber and Faber, 1995.
Mistry, Rohinton. Such a Long Journey, London: Faber and Faber, 1991.
Mistry, Rohinton. Tales from Firozeshah Baag, Markham, ON: Penguin Canada, 1987.
Mukherjee, Bharati. Jasmine, New York: Viking Penguin, 1989; Grove, 1999.
Mukherjee, Meenakshi. ‘The anxiety of Indianness: our novels in English’, Economic and Political Weekly, 28.48 (1993).Google Scholar
Mukherjee, Meenakshi. The Twice-Born Fiction: Themes and Techniques of the Indian Novel in English, New Delhi: Heinemann, 1971.
Mukherjee, Neel. Past Continuous, London: Picador, 2008.
Mukherjee, Meenakshi, Realism and Reality: The Novel and Society in India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1985).
Nandy, Ashis. The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983.
Narayan, R. K.Malgudi Days (1972), New York: Penguin, 2006.
Narayan, R. K.Swami and Friends: A Novel of Malgudi, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1935; repr. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett, 1970.
Naregal, Veena. ‘Colonial bilingualism and hierarchies of language and power: making of a vernacular sphere in western India’, Economic and Political Weekly, 34.49(1999).Google Scholar
Naregal, Veena. Language Politics, Elites, and the Public Sphere: Western India under Colonialism, London: Anthem Books, 2002.
Nehru, Jawaharlal. The Discovery of India (1946), London: Meridian Books, 1951.
Niranjana, Tejaswini. ‘Translation, colonialism and rise of English’, Economic and Political Weekly, 25.15(1990).Google Scholar
Orsini, Francesca. The Hindi Public Sphere 1920–1940: Language and Literature in the Age of Nationalism, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Pandey, Gyanendra. Remembering Partition: Violence, Nationalism, and History in India, Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Patke, Rajeev S.Postcolonial Poetry in English, Oxford University Press, 2006.
Peer, Basharat. Curfewed Night, New Delhi: Random House India, 2008.
Ramaswamy, Sumathi. The Goddess and the Nation: Mapping Mother India, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009.
Rao, Raja. The Serpent and the Rope, London: John Murray, 1960.
Ray, Raka. Fields of Protest: Women’s Movements in India, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.
Reddy, Madhavan Meenakshi. You Are Here, New Delhi: Penguin India, 2008.
Rocher, Rosane. Orientalism, Poetry, and the Millennium: The Checkered Life of Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, 1751–1830, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1983.
Roy, Anuradha. Atlas of Impossible Longings, London: Maclehose Press, 2008.
Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things, London: Flamingo, 1997.
Rushdie, Salman. The Enchantress of Florence, London: Jonathan Cape, 2008.
Rushdie, Salman. Midnight’s Children, London: Jonathan Cape, 1981; reissued London and New York: Penguin, 1991; London: Vintage, 1995.
Rushdie, Salman. The Satanic Verses, London: Viking, 1988
Rushdie, Salman, and West, Elizabeth (eds.). Mirrorwork: 50 Years of Indian Writing, London: Henry Holt & Co., 1997.
Sadana, Rashmi. ‘A suitable text for a vegetarian audience: questions of authenticity and the politics of translation’, Public Culture, 19.2(2007).Google Scholar
Sealy, Alan. Trotter-Nama, New York: Knopf, 1988.
Sen, Amartya. Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity, London: Penguin, 2006.
Seth, Vikram. An Equal Music, New York: Random House, 1999.
Seth, Vikram. From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet, London: Chatto & Windus, 1983.
Singh, Khushwant. Train to Pakistan (1956), New Delhi: Roli Books, 2006.
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. ‘Can the subaltern speak? Speculations on widow sacrifice’, Wedge, 7.8(1985)Google Scholar
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Towards a History of the Vanishing Present, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.
Srivastava, Neelam. Secularism in the Postcolonial Indian Novel: National and Cosmopolitan Narratives in English, London: Routledge, 2008.
Stoler, Ann Laura. ‘Colonial archives and the arts of governance’, Archival Science, 2 (2002).Google Scholar
Stoler, Ann Laura. Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995.
Suri, Manil. Death of Vishnu, New York: HarperCollins, 2001.
Swarup, Vikas, the novel on which the screenplay for Slumdog Millionaire (dir. Danny Boyle, 2009)
Swarup, Vikas. Q and A, London: Doubleday, 2007.
Tharoor, Shashi. The Elephant, The Tiger, and the Cell Phone: The Emerging 21st-Century Power, London: Arcade Publishing, 2007.
Thayil, , These Errors Are Correct; Vikram Seth, The Golden Gate, (London: Faber & Faber, 1986).
Thayil, Jeet. These Errors Are Correct, Chennai: Tranquebar, 2008.
Treveleyan, Charles. On The Education of the People of India, London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1838.
Tyrewala, Altaaf. No God in Sight, New Delhi: Penguin India, 2005.
Varma, Rashmi. ‘Provincializing the global city: from Bombay to Mumbai’, Social Text, 22 (Winter 2004).Google Scholar
Vassanji, Moyez G.The Assassin’s Song, Toronto: Doubleday, 2007.
Vishwanathan, GauriMasks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Young, Robert J. C.Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race, London and New York: Routledge, 1995.

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats