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This review is taken from PN Review 67, Volume 15 Number 5, May - June 1989.

Modern Indian Poetry in English, Bruce King. Delhi, Oxford University Press 1987
Landscapes, Keki N. Daruwalla. Delhi, Oxford University Press 1987

         I am Indian, very brown, born in
Malabar, I speak three languages, write in
Two, dream in one. Don't write in English, they said,
English is not your mother tongue. Why not leave
Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins,
Every one of you? Why not let me speak in
Any language I like? The language I speak
Becomes mine, its distortions, its queernesses
All mine, mine alone.
                  (Kamala Das, 'An Introduction')


When histories of post-colonial discourse come to be written, Indo-Anglian poetry will prove a testing ground, and anyone who has attended Commonwealth literary conferences in recent years will testify that it is contentious in India now. The heat and dust generated against English-language poetry by younger Indian academics when Singapore hosted the ACLALS conference only a couple of years ago was all the more surprising for the common reference to a work first published during the Second World War, Mannoni's Prospero and Caliban: the Psychology of Colonisation. There was, of course, the compounding irony that these diatribes came clothed in the language they affected to repudiate.

But the English language in India has produced some intriguing statistical ironies of its own. Though it is spoken by only a small percentage of India's population, it is nonetheless the language in which the largest number of Indians read newspapers: it is the language of the largest number of newspapers, magazines and journals sold in India's ...


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