Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Foreign Notions

Salman Rushdie says that his novel is a portrayal of “‘my’ India, a version and no more than one version of all the hundreds of millions of possible versions” (10). I think that this demonstrates the power of art and literature to bridge connections with individual and universal experience. In Love and Longing in Bombay, the reader is immersed in various points of view, opinions, and layers of storytelling, which inevitably prove Rushdie’s point. The various voices show the reader that there are endless philosophies and ways of life in Bombay, but ultimately, they share commonalities of love and loss, joy and fear, and memory and dreams that penetrate below surfaces and make connections.

This is why I find it so interesting that the word “translation” somes, etymologically, from that Latin for ‘bearing across’ (17). With literature, a writer can reach an audience across the sea, and the distant reader can travel to places he or she may not have otherwise visited. The initial distance between reader and writer, culture and culture, transforms into connections, the sharing of ideas and philosophies. I particularly like Rushdie’s comment that he “write[s] ‘for’ people who feel part of the things I write ‘about,’ but also for everyone else whom I can reach” (20).

I agree with Rushdie when he states, “the largest and most dangerous pitfall would be the adoption of a ghetto mentality. To forget that there is a world beyond the community to which we belong, to confine ourselves within narrowly defined cultural frontiers, would be, I believe, to go voluntarily into that form of internal exile which in South Africa is called the ‘homeland’” (19). The dialogue of literature and art among cultures inevitably seems to prevent this mentality from taking place. The western reader is exposed to foreign notions of home, love, and memory in Love and Longing in Bombay, only to find such notions not so foreign.

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