Red Herrings and Indian writing

Went looking for Indy Hazra’s piece on Indian writing, and discovered just how apposite the title–Red Herring–was. If you follow the link from Google, you arrive at the slightly bizarre HT “vot article? ve know nuffink about no article” page, which carries a Zen-like set of musings on the impermanence of writing: “the stories on Homepage and Section Pages keep changing through out the day, what you find in morning may have moved out by evening.”
We tracked it down, finally.

“I would be failing in my journalistic duties — truth-telling, that is — if I told you that I’m not always easy about the ‘Indian’ tag. Is there something called Indian Writing as a genre? If you go to any bookstore, it certainly would seem like that’s the case. A thriller written by an Indian (say Shashi Warrier or Ashok Banker or Sharadindu Bandhopadhyay) won’t be sitting pretty on the thriller section which is full of the Dan Browns and Patricia Highsmiths. Instead, it’ll be there on the shelf marked ‘Indian fiction’. The same goes for humorous, supernatural and historical fiction.”


“A writer who’s Indian, by virtue of his geographical location, is obviously steeped in a tradition that may or may not seep through his writings. This tradition, by the way, is urban and modern; local, national and global. But to parade ‘Indianness’ in a work of fiction simply to represent the nation is like making the props on the stage become more prominent than the play itself.”


  1. I don’t largely disagree with Indrajit on this issue but unfortunately, in bookstores in countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, there are hardly any shelves marked “Indian fiction”. At least in Singapore, I have seen a couple of titles by Rushdie, Naipaul and Amitav Ghosh (and some occasional new titles) only in large bookstores like Kinokuniya and Borders. I wish there were more Indian Novels available in the bookstores.

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