Tuesday, February 3, 2009

“Fantasy, or the mingling of fantasy and naturalism, is one way of dealing with these problems. It offers a way of echoing in the form of our work the issues faced by all of us: how to build a new, ‘modern’ world out of an old, legend-haunted civilization, an old culture which we have brought into the heart of a newer one. But whatever technical solutions we may find, Indian writers in these islands...are capable of writing from a kind of double perspective: because they, we, are at one and the same time insiders and outsiders in this society. This stereoscopic vision is perhaps what we can offer in place of ‘whole sight’” (19)

In his essay “Imaginary Homelands,” Salman Rushdie makes many claims and puts forth many theories about memories, writing, homelands, and British-Indian citizens. Ultimately, he touches on many of the topics of postcolonial literature in general. It seems that the summation of all of these separate points says a lot about the power and influence of writers and writing. Literature can be thought of as “the mingling of fantasy and naturalism” (19). It can be a means for dealing with and attempting to make sense of social issues. Rushdie seems to see British-Indian writer’s double perspective as both a blessing and a curse. While this particular group of writers is beleaguered by a sense of guilt for leaving the Indian subcontinent and a disconnection from the homeland, they are at the same time gifted with a new perspective. The lens of the British-Indian writer is distinct because he is removed, by physical miles and more, from everyday life in India. This dichotomy, being both an insider and outsider, allows the writers to not only reflect their culture more clearly, but perhaps to offer solutions or help bridge gaps.

Quite often, novelists write about the past in order to tell a story about the present. It is only by looking back at our pasts that we can attempt to make meaning out of they way we are living today. It is much easier to realize the implications of our lifestyles by examining a bygone era, because we have perspective: “the book itself, as it nears contemporary events, quite deliberately loses deep perspective, becomes more ‘partial.’..I wasn’t trying to write...in the same way as I wrote about events half a century earlier. It would be dishonest to pretend...that it was possible to see the whole picture” (13). Immersed in the present day, we really don’t know the whole story, or have the “whole vision” just yet. Distance, in this case time, allows us to make sense of things. Rushdie applies the same logic to physical distance from India and British-Indian writers. Being physically distanced from India removes Rushdie from the “quotidian” activities of his homeland. He seems to suggest that if he were immersed in these activities, the lens with which he views the world might be blurred. He would not be able to write so effectively, and with such power. Physical distance, in the form of miles, gives Rushdie a “stereoscopic vision” which helps him build a new world through his work.

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