Saturday, August 13, 2005

Gods of juicy things

William Dalrymple has a long article in The Guardian about the post The God of small things Indian Writing in English. [link via Prufrock Two.] Interesting read. I won't get into the details or the merits of the arguments, mainy because I don't think I have the expertise to say anything sensible about stuff like gallows of authenticity. If you don't want to read the whole thing check out Prufrock's page for the gist of it.

Remember the Ram Guha - Dalrymple juicy columns of the past? More could be in the offing! See this:

    There is even a relative absence of genuinely accessible, well-written and balanced general histories of India. The most widely available introductions to the subject - the two Penguin Histories by Romila Thapar and Percival Spear - are both fine, scholarly works, but pretty heavy-going. This as much as anything else, I think, has allowed Hindu nationalist myths to replace history among a large part of India's middle-class, who are keen consumers of desi fiction, but still have surprisingly little home-grown history to interest them.

    In India, with the exceptions of the cricket historian Ramachandra Guha and Sunil Khilnani, author of The Idea of India (who has now decamped to Washington) - there is simply nothing like that. What English language non-fiction there is seems to be written by academics for the consumption of a handful of other, rival academics.

Will Guha argue against this proposition? He shouldn't, as he himself has said more or less the same things in the past. But Guha has the habit of attacking an argument based on who the author is. And Dalrymple's classification of Guha's profession is meant to insult him (though there's really nothing bad about being a cricket historian as such). Let's wait and see.

You might also remember that a point that was debated by Guha and Dalrymple was about the Doon mafia. Dalrymple's article tells us that the origin of that line of thought goes back to Arundhati Roy. Roy told Dalrymple once:

    I grew up on the banks of a river in Kerala. I spent every day from the age of three fishing, walking, thinking, always alone. If you read other Indian writers most of them are very urban: they don't have much interest in, you know, air or water. They all went from the Doon School [the Indian Eton] to St Stephen's [the Indian Oxford] and then on to Cambridge.
Dalrymple irritates Guha enough. What if Arundhati Roy too comes into the picture? Make sure to read Guha's future columns!


At 11:34 AM, Blogger Veena said...

Unrelated links, but did you check out the new Outlook issue? It has articles by both the 'cricket historian' and Khilanani.

At 1:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many thanks Veena. I hadn't noticed these articles myself. I just read both the articles. Good ones.

At 9:56 PM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said...

nice post. the best part was the title!

At 10:01 AM, Blogger Aswin said...

More on ramguha .. any idea as to where his "history of Independent india" starts ? I much of partition/kashmir/annexing of provinces will be covered ? I remember ramguha commenting that events in and around 1947 have not been adequately analysed. I don't know if he was trying to sell his forthcoming book or was making an honest admission.
ps:it was a HT article i guess..was not able to track it down online. it was on the govt decision to sponsor a historical account of the 1857 revolt.

At 6:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Nandakumar.

Ashwin -- I do not know those details. It'll be nice if somebody could comment upon that here.

At 12:51 AM, Blogger Aswin said...

and start having word verification for ur prevent auto-posting of comments. (i came to know abt this thanks to vishnu's comment in nanopolitan)

At 1:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Ashwin. I'll check about it.

At 6:48 PM, Blogger Ananya B said...

Here's what I feel about Arundhati Roy's comment:

Education at elitist schools means nothing without talent. And, logically speaking, isn't it a bigger feat for someone from an upper class background to write a great novel, one that explores various facets of human experience? Yes, some of India’s best writers happen to have attended the Doon School and St. Stephens, but the fact that they have doesn't make them any less great or any less authentic. Tolstoy was an aristocrat, and it would be exceedingly foolish to call him inauthentic. Why not leave personal details, such as class, out of the picture when one considers the merits of an artist's work?

Also, Dalyrmple's suspicion that writers of Indian origin born in the west will be great writers may or may not prove to be true. It is a guess at best.


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