Author Randa Jarrar's Blog
posted by rockslinga at 1:08 PM
Titles that make you think "what the hell?!" gain as much interest as witty, attention grabbing titles.
Randa: It's the CSMonitor at work again! I read it sometimes for cheap entertainment. Let us forgive them for they know not what they write.
I Googled "the empire writes back." There's a book by the same title:- The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures (New Accents) The plural form (literatures) alone is enough to qualify this as an intellectual "thesis." In any case, the CSM writer found this "phenomenon" (they can write!) quite "clever." It's so annoying, especially because I am in a bad mood.
I believe the phrase "the empire writes back" was first used by Salman Rushdie, and later espoused by many in the community, giving its title to the anthology bridalbeer mentions. But it is indeed bizaree that the CSM calls the movement a "phenomenon," like it's a fad or something.
I meant to say 'bizarre,' not 'bizaree.' Sorry, my keyboard is acting up.
yeah, it's a pretty condescending article. and now that i know rushdie came up with the title, i'm finding the article to be even more ridiculous, since its author didn't even have the decency to credit the title to its original author.
It looks like an interesting anthology and a primer for the literature of the South Asian diaspora. Many of these writers, though, like Jhumpa Lahiri, Sam Selvon and Hanif Kuereishi are not immigrants. They are American and Trinidadian and British born, and they are as much a part of those societies as Bellow or Roth, one or two generations removed from the ancestral land, are Americans. Kureishi, Selvon or Lahiri are Indian by race; but their work is deeply intertwined in the societies they arose from, they can be considered in conjunction with Indian immigrant writers, but they are not immigrants, and this should not be forgotten as the generations of Lahiri and Kureishi stake their claim in their societies as Englishmen and Americans.The introductory reference to Kipling was unnecessary. Anyway, Kipling is a vexing writer, he was a petty imperialist, but there was something that lay behind him and Kim is in parts quite irresistible. It’s almost as though Kim betrays everything Kipling had grown into himself. I just wrote a post on this very subject, strangely enough:http://bookcoolie.blogspot.com/2005/05/kim.html#commentsAnd something on Lahiri too:http://bookcoolie.blogspot.com/2005/05/interpreter-of-maladies.htmlregards
it's really interesting that you areobjecting to the "authenticity"of the writers asimmigrants. Though the article claims the writers are "emigrants," the collection does not; it's subtitle is "Short Fiction From South Asian Writers." Are Lahiri and Kureishi not considered South Asian simply because they have "assimilated" to their societies? Roth and Bellow were of course celebrated as American writers, but their Jewishness was never denied them, or atleast not regularly. It's a very tricky thing, because as non-WASP writers, we all strive to be seen as both American/English AS WELL AS South Asian/Asian/Jewish/Arab/Haitian etc. etc. etc.
It's a very tricky thing, because as non-WASP writers, we all strive to be seen as both American/English AS WELL AS South Asian/Asian/Jewish/Arab/Haitian etc. etc. etc.Yes, you are right, I cannot deny this. It is a tricky and complex matter. I reckon speculatively, just thoughts. But I think that as the demographics and logic of the millions of people of South Asian descent who live in and were born and raised in the West come to define themselves less in terms of their relationship to the ancestral land and more as components of Britain or America, I think this will require a reading of their work away from the context of the immigrant diasporic novel of Salman Rushdie, for example. Rushdie always writes and dotes on the idea of exile, to cast a glance back at the land he came from. These writers have nowhere to look back to. They have to make space for themselves in the new land without the comfort of doting on the idea of the exile. The bridges have been burnt. And maybe that is where the heat of these writers comes from. The trickiness and mess of assimilation anxiety, making a place for yourself somewhere between the ancestral and new is what gives novels like The Buddha of Suburbia their tingle. Remember Kureishi’s opening lines:My name is Karim Amir, and I am an Englishman born and bred, almost. I am often considered to be a funny kind of Englishman, a new breed as it were, having emerged from two old histories.I reference Indian writers, they are the ones I know best, but there are similarities of experience with British-Caribbean writers like Andrea Levy, Zadie Smith, East Asian-American writers like Chang Rae Lee. Its a hyphen thing.
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Randa Jarrar is a novelist, short story writer, and translator ...Read More