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This report is taken from PN Review 57, Volume 14 Number 1, September - October 1987.

Axis? What is Axis? Adewale Maja-Pearce
Writing in PN Review 54 Michael Hulse, picking up from an earlier article by Ruth Morse (PN Review 51), makes a great song and dance of what he identifies as the 'London-New York axis of the literary world which has come increasingly and tyrannically to have the function of legitimizing writers' reputations. . .'. At the root of this is what he sees as the dominance of the English language: 'English is the major world language, and London and New York remain its major concentrations of economic, political and cultural power.' In support of his argument he points out that only a few Indian writers are 'tolerated' within the literary world of these monolithic centres - R.K. Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand and Anita Desai, amongst others - because 'received wisdom' has it that Indian English is 'odd' and Indian cultures 'too plurally ungraspable': the literati in London and New York like their India watered down, and so prefer to read Paul Scott and M.M. Kaye. 'Indian writers,' he adds, 'realize that this is merely a new twist to the colonial screw of cultural condescension,' and in consequence understand that 'the struggle for that wider readership . . . will be uphill all the way.'

This is by no means a new argument, but its assumptions are staggering. What Michael Hulse misses, above all, is his own 'cultural condescension' by imagining that Indian writers, who live and work in a country with a population more than ten times that of ...


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