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Other South Asian Literary Voices In English

June 2007
Other South Asian Literary Voices In English

Indian writing in English has become so mainstream that one scarcely bats an eyelid when a new book hits the shelves. It's hard enough to keep up with major authors, let alone the minor ones who routinely churn out what can be called ABCD (Arranged marriage-Bindi-Curry-Dowry) novels for the mass market. So perhaps it's easy to forget that other South Asian authors have also made their mark on the literary scene for works in English. Sri Lankan-born Michael Ondaatje is a highly acclaimed writer who won the Booker Prize, while the Bangladeshi Tahmima Anam is new to the game. Then there are others—Pakistani Mohsin Hamid and Nepali Samrat Upadhyay, for example—who have been gaining broader attention with their latest books.

In The Royal Ghosts, a collection of stories, Upadhyay takes a look at the royal family's brutal mass murder through the eyes of a troubled taxi driver, who is grappling with his own family issues. Michael Ondaatje's newly published novel is about families, too, sundered by violence in this case. "I began Divisadero as soon as it came into my possession and over the course of a few evenings was captivated by Ondaatje's finest novel to date," declares Jhumpa Lahiri. In The Reluctant Fundamentalist, on the other hand, Mohsin Hamid uses a Westernized Pakistani narrator for an unsettling examination of fundamentalism. Critics have called it a taut thriller, and recently, Mira Nair listed it as one of her five most important books. Tahmima Anam's A Golden Age, not yet published here, is a fictional take on the creation of Bangladesh. Rehana, the East Pakistan-based protagonist, gets caught up in the drama when her children are stuck in West Pakistan during the freedom struggle in the early ‘70s. Anam's father is the editor of Bangldesh's largest English-language daily.

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