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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Mishra Strikes Again

Remember Pankaj Mishra's slash-and-burn review of Salman Rushdie's Fury in Outlook? Well, the man's at it again, and this time his ire is directed at William Dalrymple. Responding to the White Mughals author's article on Indian writing in The Guardian, Mishra, in an indignant letter to the publication, writes that he’s peeved at "...Dalrymple's assumption that he can assess India's youthful literary culture in English by adding up prizes, publishing advances, and sales figures rather than by examining individual texts.”

He goes on: “Not surprisingly, Dalrymple has nothing to say about the best young Indian novelists in English, who mostly live in India - Amit Chaudhuri, Vikram Chandra, Siddhartha Deb, Raj Kamal Jha, Rana Dasgupta, Rupa Bajwa and Tabish Khair. Recent books by Arundhati Roy, Vikram Seth, Amitava Kumar, Urvashi Butalia, and Abraham Eraly disprove his assertion that the state of Indian non-fiction is ‘dire’… Sunil Khilnani, estimable author of The Idea of India, stands accused of having ‘decamped to Washington’ - although he has long been resident in the west. Dalrymple also tries to dismiss Ramachandra Guha, a respected biographer and author of the forthcoming Picador History of Modern India, as ‘a cricket historian’."

Mishra seems to protest overmuch. To state that Dalrymple tried to assess India's literary output by adding up prizes, publishing advances and sales figures is simply choosing to misread the intent of the man's article. Stating that authors such as Vikram Chandra, Siddhartha Deb and Tabish Khair “mostly live in India” is being more than a bit disingenuous. And since Ramchandra Guha and Sunil Khilnani had come in for praise in Dalrymple's article, it seems a tad petty to raise issues about the way they were described.

Oh, hold on, the letter's probably another reaction to this earlier imbroglio.


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