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This report is taken from PN Review 54, Volume 13 Number 4, March - April 1987.

The Axis Michael Hulse
Writing from India in PNR 51, Ruth Morse referred in passing to that London-New York axis of the literary world which has come increasingly and tyrannically to have the function of legitimizing writers' reputations: if a work written in English but published away from this axis has not been noted in London or New York, if a work written in a language other than English has not been translated and published in London or New York, those works effectively do not exist. English is the major world language, and London and New York remain its major concentrations of economic, political and cultural power.

Writers around the world have not been slow to perceive this growing tyranny and to appreciate its consequences. Indian writers, for example, know that the axis will tolerate only a few of their number: say, R.K. Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand, Raja Rao, Khushwant Singh, G.V. Desani, Anita Desai, Chaman Nahal, and of course Ved Mehta (resident in New York) and Nirad C. Chaudhuri (resident in Oxford). Received wisdom in the USA and Britain still has it that Indian English is odd, the culture(s) of India too plurally ungraspable for an outsider, and most of the names unpronounceable; and received taste would still by and large prefer books about India by Paul Scott or M.M. Kaye to books written by Indians. Indian writers realize that this is merely a new twist to the colonial screw of cultural condescension. They realize also that for them the struggle for ...


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