You all look like Gunga Din to me

(The cartoon, as most of you will know, is by the bright boys over at Badmash–if you’re not already a fan of their work, go there NOW.)

Without comment, I refer you to Stephen Thompson’s Sacred Games review, which explains why all brown people write the same damn way. Using Midnight’s Children and A Suitable Boy as examples of novels that resemble each other might not have been the greatest way to make his point–they belong to the Great Indian Family, sure, in just the same way Brilliant Cousin Diku who ran away to become a circus ringmaster resembles Maya didi’s son Tuku who topped the ICS exams and took a year off to discover his nation.


THERE are certain books that are so similar to one another they almost beg to be grouped together. This is largely true of Indian novels. Look closely at the ones published in the past, say, 25 years, and you’ll see that they’re virtually identical, in theme if not in style and content.
For me, Midnight’s Children is indivisible from A Fine Balance, which in turn cannot be separated from A Suitable Boy. Directly or indirectly, all three books – and there are other notable examples – are concerned with the same thing: the state of Indian society in the wake of independence and partition. In his long-awaited new novel, trumpeted by the publishers as seven years in the making, Vikram Chandra must be given credit for writing against this traditional grain.

It’s a bit like saying Philip Roth, Jonathan Franzen and John Irving have this tendency to set most of their work in… contemporary America, isn’t that odd? And strangely enough, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Nadine Gordimer have all tackled the history and present-day concerns of the African continent–that can’t be a coincidence, right?





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