Beyond the Nation: the Mobility of Indian Literature

Bill Ashcroft


This paper argues that while it is generally accepted that contemporary Indian literature entered a decisive, cosmopolitan and globally popular phase with the publication of Midnight’s Children in 1981, this period actually demonstrated a continuation of deep skepticism about nationalism that had originated with Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi. The three decades after 1981 have revealed a literature whose mobility and energy has had perhaps a greater impact on English literature than any other. The argument is that this mobility goes hand in hand with skepticism about nation and nationalism that has had a pronounced impact on the perception of the globalization of literature. Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (1997), Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss (2006), Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger (2008) and Hari Kunzru’s Transmission (2004) sketch the trajectory of the contemporary novel’s extension of Midnight Children’s subversion of the grand narrative of nation. Three of these share the status of Rushdie’s novel as a Booker Prize winner and indicating that the impact of India’s nationalist skepticism has been felt globally.


Indian literature; nationalism; globalization; mobility; Arundhati Roy; Kiran Desai; Aravind Adiga; Hari Kunzru

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Copyright (c) 2014 Bill Ashcroft