IMITATING THE EAST- IS THAT THE NAME OF THE NEW GAME?
Author: Diya Jose, M.phil in English Research scholar
Remember the crazy times when Paris played host to an array of painters, poets, novelists, playwrights, musicians and filmmakers drawn from nations across Europe? From Diaghilev and Stravinsky to Debussy and Dali, from Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway to James Joyce and Scott Fitzgerald, from Chagall and Picasso to Mondrian, from Aragon and Arrabal to Beckett and Ionesco- it was an impressive gathering of fugitives that knocked at the gates of the city of Paris in the decades of 1920s and 1930s. They set ablaze the city night cafes with their fierce revelations and endemic quarrels, and out of the strange bonhomie that developed among these wild young and not-so-young men were born some of the most exciting avant-garde movements in art and literature and cinema, like Dadaism, Cubism and Surrealism. The air which these exiled, émigré writers breathed in the city which provided them a spiritual home smelt of free-spirited rebellion, which scoffed at tradition and released new energies which simply altered the existing modes of perception. In the years following the First World War, Paris truly emerged as the world capital of intellectual and creative life, the City of Light that it had always been. It went on to resume this position even after the Second World War, with the existentialist carnival which fired the imagination of an entire generation.
Does the world of Europe, for that matter, have a cultural capital now? With cracks in the canon appearing more and more visible, the notion of there being a cultural capital of a trail-blazing, trend-setting kind has undergone a radical revision. In the globalized village that we have come to occupy, there are multiple centres of creative explosion and diversified aesthetic practices which do not come under any school or movement. Surrealism is often said to have been the seminal movement in painting. The artistic scene that took shape after the violence of Surrealism had exhausted itself was nurtured by styles and methods which plainly could not be assorted under any homogenous label. The strong emergence of the diaspora in countries in Europe and America and England has contributed to the diffusion of literary culture in the postmodern world. Some of the prominent diasporic groups in the Western capitals have thrown up writers and artists who could easily move between the parochial and the cosmopolitan periphery and the mainstream. Their distinct individual voices go on to assert an ethnic-cultural identity, which both moves towards and meaningfully contests the universal canon. It is a sign and in a way an affirmation of the growing spirit of multiculturalism that today we have someone like Salman Rushdie, a South Asian writer whose concerns mainly spring from the seething reality of the Indian subcontinent, who is discussed alongside Continental novelists such as Gunter Grass and Milan Kundera. Rushdie represents the kind of hybridity and suppleness that characterizes the international literary culture that assumed shape after the slow disappearance of High Modernism. His emergence on the global scene, to use a telling epithet coined by him, is symptomatic of the era of “transcontinental bastards” who have reshaped the contours of literary discourses with their polyphonic babble. Literature can enhance our imaginative faculty and critical thinking skills by studying civilizations other than our own. Postcolonial studies try to understand how and why colonized countries developed the way they did in a postcolonial era. Orientalism argues that colonialism was not only a system of political rule but also an all-around worldview that simply believed the West was superior to the East. The linguistic turn in literature and social science marked the beginning of a new way of understanding the unequal relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. Inspired by Michael Foucault’s analysis of knowledge and power, and the insight that language makes the world rather than mirroring it, Said suggested that while the Orient is an integrated part of European material civilization, Orientalism expresses and represents that aspect culturally and ideologically, as a mode of discourse.
There was a time when the Boom writing from Latin American countries drew worldwide attention. Then for a while, the dissident writers from the former satellite nations in the Soviet bloc appeared to occupy the centre stage. Presently the diasporic writers from South Asia living in the U.S.A and U.K are found enjoying unprecedented esteem, their readership has gone up and the awards and honours cornered by them making an impressive tally. Whether this is going to end up as a fad or turn out to be the compulsive manifestation of a churning process accompanying the advent of the Asian Century is there for us to watch and analyze.
Diya Jose is a young writer , hails from Trivandrum ,Kerala. She is a research scholar in English literature and an aspiring young writer .