Having moved beyond postcolonialism and a welter of sari-and-mango novels, Indian literature has struck out into darker, messier terrain, Rana Dasgupta writes. Is this the new lore of an agonised nation?
This is why emerging nations strive to beget great novels. During the years of America’s rise, for instance, the project of the “great American novel” was conscious and determined. Industry alone would not make the United States great: to grow beyond Europe it needed to match Flaubert and Tolstoy. In 1897, the novelist Frank Norris wrote that American writers should be focused on the task of creating the novel “which is the most thoroughly American in its tone and most aptly interprets the phases of American life”.
The same challenge has continued to define American writing and literary taste ever since. In awarding the 2001 National Book Award to Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, the jurors explained that the novel had proved Franzen “one of the most astute interpreters of the American mind and spirit”.
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