Prufrock's Page

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Authentic Or Exotic?

Payal Kapadia has a decidedly mixed review of Rupa Bajwa's The Sari Shop in The Japan Times, during the course of which she levels the accusation that Indian writers continue to "package their country like an ethnic curiosity for the easy consumption of an international reader."

Now this is, of course, a charge that has been made many times over -- take, for example, the spat between JNU's Meenakshi Mukherjee and author Vikram Chandra over "the cult of authenticity". More recently, Amit Chaudhuri explored the issue in The Telegraph: Part 1 and Part 2.

One's own rather simplistic opinion is that the moment any author -- Indian or otherwise -- starts to depend on local colour and custom to attract readers, the quality of his or her prose dips irreversibly. And though there will always be a market for trash, such writers never get taken seriously, in the short or long run. Chandra again: "Be pure in location, be pure in tradition, be pure in audience, be pure in intent." Intent: that's the key word.

Obviously, the issue has many ramifications and spirals; far too many, in fact, for this hapless blogger to sort out in this post. It should be stated, though, that one doesn't hold the opinion that Bajwa belongs on any list of "inauthentic" authors. However, the always-insightful Nilanjana S. Roy begs to differ in this Business Standard column.


  • Give Bajwa a break. 'The Sari Shop' is uneven and raw, but MOST DEFINITELY AUTHENTIC

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:21 PM  

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