Archive for June, 2010

Sumana Bandhyopadhay: “Indianisation of English”

 I draw the attention of those interested in Indian English, Indian literature in English and sociolinguistics to the following book, just published:

 

Sumana Bandhyopadhay, Indianisation of English: Analysis of Linguistic Features in Selected Post-1980 Indian English Fiction, New Delhi (India): Concept Publishing Company, 2010

ISBN 13-9788180697036

Hardback, xl + 184 pp.

 

(with foreword by Christopher Rollason)

 

Summary of book:

 

**

 

This study by Sumana Bandyopadhyay is a significant new contribution to the understanding of both Indian English and IWE (Indian Writing in English) in today’ss evolving context. The author brings together diverse strands of both linguistic and literary scholarship, laying particular stress on how Indian English has adapted to homegrown realities while remaining a major variant of a world language. The basic position that both underlies and emerges from this study is that there is an Indian standard English which is a variety of International Standard English.

 

This is a corpus-based analysis, and the various aspects of Indian English discussed are illustrated with examples drawn from some of the best-known living practitioners of IWE. The time-span chosen is essentially the period opened up in 1981 by Salman Rushdie’s epoch-making  Midnight’s Children. Thus, the works of the preceding IWE generation, as represented by the triad of Mulk Raj Anand, Raja Rao and R.K. Narayan, are not included in the corpus as such. The writers chosen, eight in number, are (male): Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Vikram Chandra, Rohinton Mistry, Amitav Ghosh, Upamanyu Chatterjee and (female): Manju Kapur and Arundhati Roy.

 

The corpus analysis takes in aspects of Indian English on the phonological, lexical, functional and structural levels. The phonological aspect is examined with the help of Rohinton Mistry’s novel Such a Long Journey: it is shown how Mistry’s text phonetically represents Indian phonological variants. Fictional conversations excerpted from the same novel are also employed to exemplify Indian English intonation patterns. On the lexical level, the stress is on Indianisation of vocabulary (direct imports of words from Indian languages, hybrid compounds, loan-translations, etc). Of particular interest here is the author’s comprehensive and carefully-worked glossary of Indian lexical items in Seth’s A Suitable Boy. The discussion of functional aspects prioritises such factors as the frequency of repetition in Indian English, and the creative coinage of expressions (with a useful glance at Arundhati Roy), in an analysis drawing on sociolinguistics and pragmatics.

 

Sumana Bandyopadhyay concludes her study by stressing, with the above examples behind her, the vital and dynamic Indianness of today’s Indian English as handled by IWE writers. All in all, this volume may be welcomed as part of the process of opening up new paths for research in a linguistic and cultural area which will increasingly be of concern to scholars in the humanities, both in India and in the new globalised universe. 

 

 

**The full text of the foreword can be found on my Yatra site at:

http://yatrarollason.info/files/Sumana.pdf

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Homage to José Saramago, 1922-2010

As I write, it is Saturday, 19 June 2010, and one day since José Saramago left us (‘Nobel laureate José Saramago dies, aged 87’ – Richard Lea, ‘Guardian’, 18 June 2010 – www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jun/18/jose-saramago-writer-nobel-dies). I am still trying to come to terms with the absence of the Portuguese writer’s voice, as novelist and as commentator on our times.

The sheer range and variety, genetically and thematically, of Saramago’s remarkable shelf of novels is extraordinary. The dense referentiality and sense of place of ‘O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis’ / ‘The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis’ is light-years away from the depersonalised nightmare of ‘Ensaio sobre a Cegueira’ / ‘Blindness’. The worlds of his two very last novels – the genial comedy of ‘A Viagem do Elefante’ / ‘The Elephant’s Journey’ and the despairing bleakness of ‘Caim’ / ‘Cain’ – could not have been further apart. And yet there was a remarkably consistent, trademark ‘Saramago style’, manifested in the long sentences and the avoidance of quotation marks and initial capitals.

As a novelist Saramago will remain an obligatory reference: for Harold Bloom, he was the greatest novelist of our day, in any language. Vital too, however, is his career as polemical intellectual straddling the globe. For Portuguese and Lusophone literary culture he will always be special, as the first and so far the only writer from Portugal or in Portuguese to win the Nobel. Exiled on Spanish soil, in the Canaries, he became a constant presence in literary Spain, as much a part of his adoptive as of his native culture. Known throughout the Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking worlds, in Italy and in France – and even in the hard-to-crack Anglophone market, especially after the success of the film of ‘Blindness’ – he had, thanks also to his indefatigable travels and constant public profile, become an instantly recognisable emblem of the engaged writer.

I feel personally affected by this loss: my own relationship with his work was perhaps an especially close one since, unlike Bloom or indeed most of his Anglophone admirers, I read his books, as they came out, in the original, and so was able to appreciate his remarkable sense of the Portuguese language and its expressiveness and eloquence. Over the years I have been the author of a number of articles, reviews, book chapters and encyclopaedia pieces on the master and his work. I met Saramago twice, at a lecture of his in Brussels in 1999, and in Lisbon in 2006 at the launch of a volume of comparative studies of his work to which I was a contributor. His presence was unforgettable.

The tributes will go on thronging in: José Saramago meant many things to many people all over the world, but my own feeling is that we have lost a major intellectual, a novelist whose gaze extended far beyond the realm of literature and who spoke to us in a trenchant, uncompromising voice, standing up for the truth as he saw it – a voice that was as powerful and multiform as those of intellectuals like Walter Benjamin, George Orwell or Edward Said. In an epoch dominated by the siren tones of postmodernist relativism and crude subjectivism, we deeply need the likes of Saramago – intellectuals of solid beliefs and concrete values, who continue to uphold a vision of human advancement. José Saramago is irreplaceable, but his work will remain as a source of constant inspiration, a beacon lighting up humanity however dark the skies.

Below: I had the enormous honour of being photographed with Saramago in Lisbon in November 2006.