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Nineteenth century Irish writer, Oscar Wilde captures an important sentiment in a very famous quote, "The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it." Postcolonial and post- modernist literature is an attempt to rewrite, re-establish and challenge the colonial structures. Most of the contemporary writers, thinkers and critics acknowledge the corrosive effect of a biased history told to and ingrained in the colonized mind and take it up to themselves to redefine, re -formulate and most importantly re-tell history from a different perspective rejecting the established norm. Nietzsche rightfully asserted the need to "bring the past to the bar of judgment, interrogate it remorsefully."
As a branch of literature, history writing was steeped in rhetoric and presentation rather than a scientific inquiry. Even till the end of eighteenth century, historiography was thought to be a literary genre associated with literature. With the advent of Romanticism which had high regard for truth, beauty and imagination that was expressed in poetry, the empirical and factual world of historiography made a separate subject of study. The separation of history from literature was thus initiated and history became a subject of study of university academicians instead of poets.
History of a nation shapes its people. History and the telling of historical facts is a very significant aspect of nation building in the postcolonial modern world. The cliché that history is told by the winning side cannot be truer in the present world. Moreover, colonialism survived on a distortion of historical facts, enslavement, divide and rule policy among other shenanigans making the colonized believe in the superiority of the colonizer. The colonizing nation becomes the centre of authority which defines and stipulates norms and controls the colonized states which exist on the periphery of authoritarian colonial powers. One has to agree with Booker that
In any number of Western historical accounts, the advent of colonialism rescues the colonized world from a timeless malaise, propels it into the flow of history, and opens it to the limitless opportunities for democratization and wealth that are presumably associated with the process of capitalist modernization. Thus, in the colonial situation, the only true historical event is the process of colonization and its aftermath, leaving no room for the colonized world to have a history of its own independent of the history of the European bourgeoisie.
With the advent and popularity of post colonial writers we get a perspective which is not Euro- centric, we glimpse into the loss of nations and in the lives of the people who suffered during colonialism. Now we get a first hand view of the people who endured injustice, violence and bloodshed to free them from the shackles of colonialism. The main objective of post colonial literature remains to give a voice to those who were silenced for centuries and now it is their turn to exorcise the angst, humiliation and slavery of colonial rule. Although many critics still agree and point to the existence of subtle neo-colonial propaganda to still rule over the colonies without any strand of responsibility. Perhaps the only way to topple this prototype of colonialism is through literature and awareness, to highlight that some nations are still robbed off their complete independence and for them it is still a war to gain freedom.
Postcolonial literature discusses a need for the colonized nations that formed the empire to "write back to a centre once the imperial structure has been dismantled" to demolish the "cultural hegemony [that] has been maintained through canonical assumptions about literary activity, and through attitudes to post-colonial literatures which identify them as isolated national off- shots of English literature." The colonizers ruled the land and the minds of the colonized by wrongfully deriding and projecting the colonized cultures, traditions, languages and way of life as being uncivilized, brutish and barbaric. Moreover, Imperialism as we know has many features and methods of subversion cultural and language control are the two most important tools. To ingrain in the mind of the colonized the inferiority of his cultural practices and ensuring that he views his language as being a mere dialect or vernacular, not fully evolved to be considered as proper means of communication. These prejudices and presumptions are then internalized by the colonized subject and ultimately results in apathy and rejection of his self- hood.
Colonialism did not end abruptly. It brought with itself new values, new beliefs, and foreign languages, alien traditions that are not easily tossed away and forgotten. It always leaves some form of colonial residue behind. Language is the most obvious and pervasive of all the colonial legacies, especially in countries over which the British Empire ruled. This becomes greatly evident when one considers the fact that a great amount of post-colonial literature has been written in English as language "provides the terms by which reality may be constituted" and "the names by which the world may be 'known'". The language in a colonized country transcends the basic function of speech as communication and acquires a more cultural significance as it has a socio- economic and global importance. The onslaught of colonialism not only ruined many cultures, continents and traditions it brought on the natives a coerced end of their languages and religions. Colonizers had the ever expanding and insatiable zeal of Christianizing the entire world, which is commonly known as the white man's burden. The need to homogenize and force a common conduct on natives made the governance and exploitation of the colonies easier.
The gruesome effect of colonialism and its aftermath has altered the entire world and its repercussions, are felt in all spheres of our lives and in each and every moment of our existence. Literary theory has defined what post colonialism means to us in our contemporary world as it is outlined in literary writings, novels, theories and criticism. Post colonial literature may indicate different meanings to different critics and readers but have broadly the same characteristics "that they emerged in their present form out of the experience of colonization and asserted themselves by foregrounding the tension with the imperial power, and by emphasizing their differences from the assumptions of the imperial center." The power that the center derived is over thrown and it is evident in the literature of our times. The notion of expressing in an iconoclastic manner which dislodges the established norms is a post modernist approach towards writing. Historians, literary critics, and social scientists use the idea of post colonialism to examine the ways, both subtle and obvious, in which colonization affects the colonized society. Notwithstanding different time periods, different events and different effects that they consider, all postcolonial theorists and theory admit that colonialism continues to affect the former colonies after political independence. By exposing a culture's colonial history, postcolonial theory empowers a society with the ability to value itself.
Edward Said observes that the novel as a cultural form is undeniably significant in formation of colonial attitudes; it also becomes for the colonized people a crucial site for the assertion of their own identities and history. "The power to narrate, or to block other narratives from forming and emerging is very important to culture and imperialism, and constitutes one of the main connections between them." Culture as a concept enables to see one's society and people in a favourable light and when the same energies are invested in anti-colonial resistance through novels it becomes an instrument of subversion.
Besides, the very idea of the former colonies using the fiercest of the colonizer's weapon - language, back on the colonizer is a grand feat of post-colonialism. For instance English, a foreign language once used by the colonizers to subdue, govern and rule the colonies by teaching this language to only a few to oppress the rest, is now used by the post-colonial writers to condemn the colonial rule. English language has now been integrated to such an extent that a very distinctive literature emerges from the colonized nations. Salman Rushdie says that in the linguistic struggle of the Indian English writers he see "a reflection of the other struggles between the cultures within ourselves and the influences at work upon our societies. To conquer English may be to complete the process of making ourselves free." Post-colonial writing gives the freedom to assert one's selfhood and critiques the centuries of colonial rapacious plunder. The empire is writing back in the language of the colonizer. Literature and writers that got easily dismissed by the colonizers are now venerated and have established their undeniable mastery. The focus has now shifted from a Euro- centric worldview to the previously colonized world.
Interestingly, there are numerous stages in the development and growth of postcolonial literature. Earlier those who wrote about the colonies had a natural affinity and identified themselves with the imperial center. Thus the first texts produced in the colonies in the new language are frequently produced by 'representatives' of the imperial power. Such texts can never form the basis for an indigenous culture nor can they be integrated in any way with the culture which already exists in the countries invaded. Despite their detailed reportage of landscape, custom, and language, they inevitably privilege the centre, emphasizing the 'home' over the 'native', the 'metropolitan' over the 'provincial' or 'colonial', and so forth. Even those writers who were colonized had to write and fit into the norms dictated by the patronage system of the imperial empire. The colonialists controlled and regulated all that was published or written had a strict code of censorship and various constraints and restrictions were made keep the masses in dark and uninformed. Hence the development of new and independent literature depended heavily on the abolition of censorship and scrutiny of the literature produced. In many colonies the British colonial used English literature to control and subjugate the colonized by using Western literature as a model example of culture which the 'natives' should try to emulate. Education became a major tool to control the colonized as they were taught in schools to copy the imperial culture. Post-colonial societies struggled to separate themselves from their former occupiers by developing cultural andÂ literaryÂ traditions separate from the English culture. Harish Trivedi explains that "Unlike with feminism or post-structuralism or even Marxism, the discourse of post-colonialism is ostensibly not about the West where it has originated but about the colonized other."
We need a post colonial theory because there is an unmistakable and self- evident inability of the prevailing European theory to deal with the complexities and varied cultural inception and context of post-colonial writing. Western perspective is prejudiced and is incapable of accommodating experiences, studies, themes and events that are culturally divergent as they belong to its binary opposite - the Orients. Postcolonial theory has the decisive and foremost task to interrogate and debate the pre- established theories of style and genre; dismantle numerous assumptions about the quintessential features of language. Writing and speaking are essential in communicating the effects of generations of colonial oppression so that the colonized is not once again relegated to the status of being marginal and powerless. Post-colonial theory has proceeded from the need to address this different practice. New theories have developed to accommodate the differences within the various cultural traditions. These theories give a chance for the marginalized and alienated to find its voice and put forth its grievances and concerns. The idea of Europe being in the centre and having control is now overthrown and the post colonial experience is viewed as uncentred, pluralistic, and multifarious. The concept of pluralism has had an incipient presence in European thought for a long time but it is presently reached its pinnacle in postmodernism.
Modernism as we have seen is often stated and then subverted the notion of the work of art, as being extremely closed, self- sufficient, autonomous body of work that sought to derive a sense of unity and uniformity from the "interrelations" of its parts even when the connections are difficult and divergent to make. Postmodernism both "asserts and then undercuts this view, in its characteristic attempt to retain aesthetic autonomy" from the text as a whole. Postmodernist writers do not wish art to provide any coherence, meaning, unity or comfort; they celebrate fragmentation, incoherence and meaninglessness. As the world around them seems to have no hope of amelioration and there is only further despair and disillusionment ahead. There is only instability, internal contradiction, ambiguity, indetermination and fragmentation possible in literature, art, and language and thought process of a human mind. The desire and need of unity, conformity and stability is not required to a postmodernist and he is triumphant in the loss of a centre that gave meaning or purpose to his existence. Thus, "postmodernism is a contradictory cultural enterprise, one that is heavily implicated in that which it seeks to contest. It uses and abuses the very structures and values it takes to task."
The peculiar aspect of postmodernist writing is that is seems to be answering or returning the text to the world of discourses, texts, theories and intertexts. Postmodernisms' main aim is, to, if can use Derrida's term "deconstruct" a given piece of art, which in a lay man's term could be understood to mean viewing art from unique perspectives and arriving at different interpretations. Authority given to varied interpretations quintessentially challenges the established order of any work of art and its totality and wholeness is questioned. Both postcolonial and postmodern writing usurps this very sense of order and unity. Colonialism thrived because it claimed to bring order and rationality and defined the rest of the world as being its binary opposite because it is non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual, pagan, and irrational.
As applied to literature and other arts, postmodernism is notoriously ambiguous, implying either that modernism has been superseded or that it has continued into a new phase. These two assumptions are neither true nor evidenced. Postmodernism may be seen as a continuation of modernism's celebrated feeling of alienation and disorienting techniques, yet modernism's aim remained to find coherence and totality in a fragmented world. In simple terms the modernist writer would try to find a meaning and purpose from the world through myth, symbol, or formal complexity. Unlike the postmodernist who greets theÂ absurdÂ or meaningless confusion of contemporary existence with a certain numbed or flippant smugness and favoring as well as focusing rather self-consciously on the depthless works of fables, pastiche disconnection and humor. Even as writers take to the new trends of endlessly 'making it new' postmodernism's meaning and validity continues to be part of an ongoing debate. According to Jameson postmodernism emerges as a "specific reaction against established forms of high modernism, which conquered the university, the museum, the art gallery network, and the foundation." The canonical works of Joyce, T.S.Eliot, and Pound etc looked in the context of postmodernism seemed to be stifling and dormant. Hutcheon brings forth another very significant dimension to the study of literature and history as she asserts "It is the very separation of literary and historical that is now being challenged in postmodern theory and art, and recent critical readings of both history and fiction have focused more on what the two modes of writing share than on how they differ."
Fragmentation, intertextuality, and discontinuity that are characteristic of experimental postmodernist literature find a kind of fulfillment in the inherently fragmented, intertextual, and discontinuous form of expression. As critic Hutcheon contends that in "Postmodern intertextuality is a formal manifestation of both a desire to close the gap between past and present of the reader and a desire to rewrite the past in a new context. It is not a modernist desire to order the present through the past or to make the present look spare in contrast to the richness of the past. It is not an attempt to void or avoid history. Instead it directly confronts the past of literature [â€¦] It uses and abuses those intertextual echoes, inscribing their powerful allusions and then subverting that power through irony." Furthermore another conspicuous feature of postmodern literature is the erosion of the boundaries between serious art and popular art, or entertainment. Features of modernism that remained subordinated or marginal are now central or dominant and vice versa. A fundamental shift within the culture in the relations between cultural production and general social life has occurred, closely related to the new moment of late, consumer capitalism. A related phenomenon is the development of numerous genres that blur the distinctions between literature and journalism, and literature and history.
According to Lyotard the idea of totality is symbolic of what he calls as "grand narratives" or "meta- narratives" of modern societies, which are cultural beliefs, practices and history of that society. It is necessary to understand the legitimizing operations of grand narratives in order to demystify their totalizing power. The grand narratives exert not only totalizing and even totalitarian control through universalization and generalization. Every belief system or ideology has its grand narratives, for instance, in Marxism, grand narrative is the idea that capitalism will collapse in on itself and a utopian socialist world will evolve. Lyotard argues that all aspects of modern societies, including history depend on meta- narratives as the primary form of knowledge. Little narratives or personal narratives on the other hand are defined by their local, topical and contingent view point; and they are also a form for producing social and political resistance. Postmodernism offers a critique of grand narratives and brings to light the fact that such narratives serve to mask the contradictions and instabilities that are inherent in any social organization or practice, also the light hearted humor of a postmodernist text exposes the oppressions and repressions of grand-narratives.
Taking the discussion further, Foucault analyzed the way history is made available to the masses. His work is imbued with an attention to history, not in the traditional sense of the word but in attending to what he has variously termed the 'archaeology' or 'genealogy' of knowledge production. In his view knowledge is inextricably connected to power, such that they are often written as power/knowledge. Foucault's conceptual analysis of a major shift in (western) cultural practices, from 'sovereign power' to 'disciplinary power', is a good example of his method of genealogy. His focus is upon questions of how some discourses have shaped and created meaning systems that have gained the status and currency of 'truth', and dominate the way we define and organize both ourselves and our social world, whilst other alternative discourses are marginalized and subjugated. He claims that the knowledge of historical facts and the way it is recounted for us is at the best tampered with and is never free of bias and distortions. His writings are historical because he does not think of history in terms of time, rather he uses words that denote space. Foucault belongs to the tradition of criticism of modernity, which includes Nietzsche and Heidegger, and their philosophy that aspired a total break with Enlightenment. Descartes, the seventeenth century Rationalist disqualified madness from philosophy. The presence of irrationality and insanity is incompatible with his system of thought and according to him a society should immediately abandon delusional or mentally challenged people as they are harbingers of instability and disorder. Hence madness, and the various discourses of madness, constitutes a limit in terms of the reason which disqualifies it as an authentic discourse. Foucault takes the example of the banishment of madness from society and the way power is constituted as knowledge through the establishment and the disqualification of certain kinds of discourse. He distinguishes between the trajectory and workings of power during the Classical Age and in the contemporary times. In the Classical era power remained to be ostentation, working through 'signs and levies'. The authority of the monarch was displayed and reinforced by numerous rituals and ceremonies centred on him and the taxes that he imposed on his subjects. The 'force of prohibition' became a significant aspect of authority and was expressed in the most brutal form of castigation. The functioning of power in the later times became more subtle and 'exercised itself through social productions and social service.' Now the main aim of power became to control the bodies, attitudes, behaviour and the thought process of individuals.
Moreover certain facts are circulated and instilled in the minds of the people so as to have total access and control over their thinking; here history becomes a tool in the hands of those who wield authority. Foucault explains his theory investigating one of the most famous painting Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez a seventeenth century artist. This painting is almost three dimensional in its appearance and the artist successfully plays a trick with the viewer. In the centre of the art piece we see a young princess along with her maids. The painter, Velázquez himself is shown in the art piece, apparently painting the princess, however, with close scrutiny we realize that the object of the painting is the king and queen whose image is reflected on a mirror on the wall behind the artist. An unguided gaze would possibly be made to believe that the princess is being painted and shown but the focus is hidden and is somewhere else.
Through this analogy Foucault is trying to show that historical fact is not reality, the focus can lie elsewhere. Interestingly Foucault's work can be read and interpreted as a counter-discourse, revealing the intricacies of power, and how it controls any sort of information. He examines that those who manipulate history and abuse it for their own benefit by building a network of exclusion and secrecy of information, so that it does not reach to all. He opposes conventional history to the search for genealogy, or the analysis of descent, which he also shows to be a very disquieting alternative. He derogates the impulse of traditional history to create a unified subject, its attempt to dominate the past. A familiar pattern thus emerges in which history is revealed as a set of prohibitive boundaries where both power and knowledge find articulation. And beyond these historically conditioned boundaries lies the articulation of silenced, disqualified knowledge and discourses which we may describe as being in fact "outside" and "beyond" history. Profundity, coherence, and reason are the very attributes of the history of ideas which Foucault has spent his career resisting. Foucault's study of madness and the power equation prevalent in societies over the centuries provides a revolutionary aspect and understanding of the complexities of the execution power. The dynamics of power are ever transitional, where in the earlier times the monarchy remained as the apogee of authority and gradually the reins of power shifts from an individual to inscrutable agencies whose power play is all pervasive yet unbelievably subtle.
The fact becomes clearer that history demonstrated to us may or may not be true and it is upon the postcolonial and postmodernist writers to show distinct versions of the truth and history because they are neither one-dimensional nor complete in it. Hutcheon explains that "It is part of the postmodernist stand to confront the paradoxes of fictive/ historical representation, the particular / the general, and the present/ the past. Postmodern fiction suggests that to re- write or re- present the past in fiction and in history is, in both cases, to open it up to the present, to prevent it from being conclusive and teleological." Hence both postcolonial and postmodernist writers privilege the micro-narratives and multiple narrations to give us varied frame of references and contexts. The totalizing idea of modernistÂ aesthetic which conceptualized and created a different world for art is overturned by postmodernism which attempts to integrate art and life with the inclusion of popular forms and culture. The use of Bakhtin's notion of the carnivalesque, of joyous, anti-authoritarian, riotous, carnal and libratory celebration, readily adds a sense of energy and freedom to some post modern work. The notion of carnival is taken to signify transgression where facts and fantasy mingle to subvert the language of authority. As Gunarah explicates that "the use of the grotesque is a dimension of the 'carnivalesque', and signifies an aspect of the 'unofficial' in the way it dwells on the body and its unavoidable transformations" which bring hilarity to any piece of writing.
The narration in the texts is of primary importance because it privileges in the carnivalesque where the hold of authority as symbolised by an omniscient author is usurped by the use of multiple narrators whose divergent and at times conflicting accounts gives the plot multiple layers and meanings. Hutcheon elaborates that the "Postmodern fiction appears to privilege two modes of narration, both of which problematize the entire notion of subjectivity: multiple points of view or an overtly controlling narrator. In neither, however, do we find a subject confident of his/ her ability to know the past with any certainty. This is not transcending of history, but a problematized inscribing of subjectivity into history." Likewise, there is a constant clash between the heterogeneous descriptions and an independent narrative voice; rendering the reader in doubt over the veracity and authenticity of the text. Postmodernist writers use paradox in order to undercut any legitimization of reality or subjectivity. There is a persistent refusal of seriousness which is highlighted through the use of parody and black humor. A particular narrator gives history we read the more or less abiding concerns and constraints of the individual and his community. Narrative criticism assumes that histories are continually reinvented in the service of contemporary political aim and attempt to widen what can be recounted and imagined. Postmodern narratology suspends the assumption that one event would automatically lead to another, in a sequence; this logic is simply not present 'out there', waiting to be recognized by any disinterested observer. Life stories draw a connection between the events of yesterday and today; the modern narrative perspective, however, suggests that this coherence is an illusion - a tactical manoeuvre.
In Chatman's words "the transmitting source, is best accounted for, I think, as a spectrum of possibilities, going from narrators who are least audible to those who are most." Hence, there are different narratorial voices within a text and in them some are easily detected while others may be undercutting the same narration. Further Chatman argues "What makes a narrator unreliable is that his values diverge strikingly from that of the implied author's: that is, the rest of the narrative - "the norm of the work"- conflicts with the narrator's presentation, and we become suspicious of his sincerity or competence to tell us the "true version." The unreliable narrator is at virtual odds with the implied author; otherwise his unreliability could not emerge." If there is a narratorial voice which at times contrasts with the authorial voice then there has to be discerning reader to comprehend the conflict between the two. Further referring to Chatman's analysis "The counterpart of the implied author is the implied reader [â€¦] but the audience presupposed by the narrative itself. There may not be an overt reference to him at all, though his presence is felt. The narratee-character is only one device by which the implied author informs the real reader how to perform as implied reader, which Weltanschauung to adopt." Thus we have the functions of the narrator, the author and the reader detailed for us which would make the understanding of the writer's perspective easier.
What is the role of a reader in a postmodernist world? Is there an ideal reader? How is the reader supposed to deal with the inconsistencies and divergent ways of dealing with reading a postmodern text? These and many more questions inundate the minds of the readers now. Yet there are no definitive answers to these questions. Keith Wilson attempts to answer a few of these questions in the context of Midnight's Children, "Rushdie does not presume a reader for whom art is a simple representation of life and who has never pondered the nature and limitations of mimetic act; he does not presume a reader who believes that the stock-in-trade written history is incontrovertible objective fact, lying beyond the approximatenesses of interpretation; he does not presume a reader whose literary frame of reference is limited to a twentieth century novel or whose national frame of reference is limited to India. He does not presume, in short, a reader as naÃ¯ve as Padma, for all that he uses Padma as a convenient reader surrogate. Rushdie's reader and collaborator will respond to the nature, problems, and earlier history of novel writing."
As we turn to the two most defining novels that show the impact of history on individuals and the way a historical event affects them personally is captured in Amitav Ghosh's The Shadow Lines and Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. These two novels are celebrated by both readers and critics as being canonical Post- colonial and Postmodernist as the two texts open up unique opportunities of comprehending these two literary concepts in great detail. Both the writers focus on the effects of history on common people in tumultuous times through the characters in their works. Effectively both the novels use various post modernist techniques in narration, the continuous back and forth movement of the different at times jarring narrations the former colonized nations especially India has a different approach to life, reality, narrative and history which is reflected in their literary writings. Both the writers fuse local words in the English language with such an ease and comfort that a glossary becomes redundant. With postmodernism and post colonialism we see a spurt in writing which puts forward the voices of those who never had a say in the shaping of their lives. The use of multiple narrators and the idea of telling a tale through different point of view enable the readers to accept that reality is not a monologue.
Thus, both the writers undertake the post modern enterprise of following a non linear, eccentric and haphazard method of narration employing multiple narrators, encompassing a prolonged time frame where the outcome of an event reverberates long after its occurrence. It is well known that post colonial literature discusses a need for the empire to "write back to a centre once the imperial structure has been dismantled" to demolish the "cultural hegemony [that] has been maintained through canonical assumptions about literary activity, and through attitudes to post- colonial literatures which identify them as isolated national off- shots of English literature." In an interview with David Brooks, Rushdie says draws a parallel between the Indian oral tradition of story -telling ant the postmodern pastiche of novel writing "It seems to be that when you look at the old narrative and use it, as I tried to do, as the basis of a novel, you become a post- modernist writer by being a very traditional one."
Besides, Partha Chaterjee provides an insightful take on the development of history that is now taught, chronicled and recorded in universities and various other places. He begins with tracing the growth of historical recording in Indian universities and the western influences on methodology and way of documentation. He distinguishes between literature and history by claiming that a historical incident is substantiated by intangible fact, unlike fiction which is fundamentally a piece of one's imagination and says that 'Writing history has not become the same thing as writing fiction.' He also admits the fact that outside the walls of academic scrutiny popular history remains vibrant and undying in the form of tales, folk songs and stories and they might or might not have the scientific backing of the modern times yet this history is still alive and popular. History departments now are in abundance in India and their task has been multiplied with different students and academicians projecting numerous view points on the same historical fact by analyzing facts from unconventional angles, and increasing the dynamism of historical studies.
Ghosh's The Shadow Lines is his second novel (1988), in which he focuses on particular personal history - the experience of a single family - as a microcosm for a broader national and international experience. The novel paints a landscape of symbolism and realism that spans time, space and geographical boundaries. The concepts of distance and time are uniquely portrayed in both the physical borders that divide countries and the imaginary borders that divide human beings who are forced within the man made borders Ghosh takes the reader on a fascinating journey of exploration, adventure, partition and the tricks that the memory plays on the mind of his eccentric characters. The title of the novel is quite a philosophical statement asserting that the 'shadow lines' not only define our human shape but our inner struggles to choose between darkness and light and are an intricate part of all human existence. Shadows are intangible at any given moment or realm of perspective and are fleeting. They are depicted as being merely a distorted representation of ourselves.Â
Ghosh manages to speak excessively of shadows, darkness and light, weaving them subtly into the context of his story. He uses the terms both realistically and metaphorically that what we believe in the first understanding may not be true because it is half told. He cleverly uses the meaning related to shadows to show the fact that human relations are like shadows although they are a part of us they are still detached from us. The novel outlines the intertwined threads of historical incidents and its predicament on unsuspecting individuals who do not shape history but are victims of its meandering course. The shadow lines are not just the borders separating two countries but have significance beyond the title.
Meanwhile Rushdie's Midnight's Children is a very popular Man Booker winning novel written in 1980.The novel takes a panoramic view of not only the history of the Indian independence but sweeps across to both Pakistan and Bangladesh while detailing the ups and downs of its characters. In the words of the critic Gunarah the novel "was received with enthusiasm by most of its reviewers, who recognized its originality and dynamism even when its detailed ambitions were not yet clear to all its readers. Rushdie himself has described how Western readers take his writings to be fantasy, and South Asian readers take it to be history. Perhaps it is both, and like other great books, much else besides: politics, social history, farce, filmic extravaganza, uncouth comedy, and a tragedy of loveless families." With each and every passing criticism and reading of the text one is able to comprehend the impact of this novel on its readers. In James Harrison words "A historical past, both private and public, is conveyable by the narrator to only a notional reader whose national, racial and personal frames of references cannot be presupposed, so that the text has to transcend private and local history; Saleem himself, compound of Hindu, Moslem and English, becomes history- free, the original components of past having gone total chutnification in the process of bringing them to a market."
It is important to note that Midnight's Children has been mistakenly understood to be a factual historical account, robbing it off of its fictive prowess. Rushdie spent a lot of time on interviews discussing the need to read a novel as a work of fiction and he claims that a lot of deliberate mistakes have been made in retelling of the historical events so that the reader does not read the novel as being accurate. He says in an interview by Gauri Vishwanathan that "the reception in the west tended to stress or highlight the more fantastical element of the novel, the more fabulous, surrealistic aspects of the novel, whereas in India it tended to be read more like a history book." Giving a glimpse of his methodology he writes in his oft quoted body of essays Imaginary Homelands that Saleem's the protagonist of the novel's "story is not history, but it plays with historical shapes. Ironically, the book's success - its Booker Prize, etc - initially distorted the way in which it was read. Many readers wanted it to be history, even guidebooks, which it was never meant to be; others resented it for its incompleteness." The novel points to the fact that history is a method of fictionalizing experience, as in the telling of lives- biography and autobiography. The truth of the story lies in the telling and is a reflection of the idiosyncratic process of selecting events from memory.
Many critics and readers have fallen in the trap of believing the novel to be a true account and a lot has been written about the novel's misleading representation of history, however it is very myopic and strait jacketed response to a work of imagination to try and confine it within reality. Reder says that through the narrator Saleem "Rushdie offers the notion of a radically individual history as an alternative historiography for the recapturing of Indian history. By allowing Saleem to narrate his own individual history, Rushdie avoids creating a version of history that homogenizes as much as it defines. Rather than playing the western game of history and attempting to write - or rewrite - a history of the subcontinent, Rushdie has decided to challenge Western history on alternative grounds." Also being a postmodernist writer Rushdie wishes to trick and challenge the minds of his readers, he leads them on and finally leaves them to find a solution and an answer on their own to the problems and open ended story of his novel.
The novel is a story of the birth and life of the protagonist who takes upon himself to tell his tale. This method commonly known as 'poioumenon' refers to a specific type of metafiction in which the major part of the narration tries to recall the past incidents. It is an interesting approach to reality since the narrator naturally depends on others to retell his early childhood and a major aspect of this kind of narrative is that it heavily relies on fiction and imagination. Sterne's Tristam Shandy is a popular example of poioumenon narrative, in which the narrator tells the readers the moment and circumstance of his conception. Rest of the novel deals with the troubles of the narrator's growing up years.
Similarly, Saleem, the narrator of Midnight's Children begins from the very beginning, starting with the tale of his grandfather's marriage.
The constant to and fro movement of narration in the novel combined with the menacing premonitions and clairvoyance brings a sense of impeding suspension in the novel. Rushdie employs the clever trick of withholding and passing on relevant information to keep the readers on guessing about the consequence of the incidents occurred and those that are prophesied to happen. Although born on a very celebrated day, that is India's independence; Saleem Sinai is not a heroic figure nor is his life or his actions extraordinary. The burden of a postmodernism of being anti- hero, devoid of any super human actions bears heavily on this protagonist even when he has the most powerful and magnificent power of all the other one thousand midnight children. The times that he is born in and the sheer inadequacy of his will make him impotent and almost a defeated hero. He is not an agent of change, relief or reformation, he is merely a victim of his generation and as he announces that he is unable to do anything as he is "handcuffed to history," thus he will be a spectator to the treacherous times and will be a infinitesimal, passive participant to the enormity of the course of historical events.
There are numerous similarities in the narrative techniques applied in both the novels, yet undoubtedly they are hardly similar in their approach to plot or characterization. What binds these two novels together is definitely a sense to deal with the demons of history and try to show that history can be distorted and fictionalized to help emerge out of the colonial condition. There is no one view of history because only a multiple play of perspective provided by a variety of narration can enable us to see all the contours and specificity of each view. The overarching presence of undisputed and irrevocable historical representation as taught in school books and advertised by politicians is not only interrogated but also heavily contested and defied. Naturally these two novels enable the readers to come to terms to the fact that in this postmodern and postcolonial world truth has lost the privilege to be exclusive, which means that there are numerous approaches to truth and reality, and in this world all the voices and different approaches to truth have to coexist as there is no other choice available anymore.