As India and Pakistan celebrate 60 years of independence from Britain, the Guardian is featuring a week-long series. It’s kicked-off with this piece by Siddhartha Deb.
These days it is not hard for an Indian writer to seal himself off from social and political turmoil, but in a country where the chattering classes are only concerned with received ideas about globalisation, progress, nationalism and the free market, a writer is unlikely to find any interesting material by being part of the establishment. Meanwhile, just outside a milieu that brings to mind Henry Miller’s phrase “air-conditioned nightmare” (he was speaking of America in the forties) is a sprawling and diverse India, quite willing to share its thoughts and experiences. The citizens of this other India may often be illiterate and trodden down by hierarchies, but they are also irreverent and vocal, well aware that the stories people tell are some of their best weapons against grandiose structures of wealth and power. For those of us who function as dissidents within the upper or middle classes, it is this majority that we collaborate with even as we plunder their lives for material.
Then there’s this short piece about Indian literature not in English by Hirsh Sawhney.
It’s a sprawling, postmodern epic, a radical history of the subcontinent which draws on two millennia of history in a vivid demonstration that Euro-American civilization doesn’t have a monopoly on progress or cosmopolitanism, a towering fictional achievement which summons up a country in flux and casts a steely eye over the myths of colonialism. Salman Rushdie’s genre-defining Midnight’s Children? No. I’m actually referring to Qurratulain Hyder’s A River of Fire.
I’ve just added A River of Fire to my Amazon Wish List. Can someone please tell me why none of our U.S. newspapers has this kind of broad thoughtful books coverage?