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Clearing a Space

Chaudhuri, Amit

Clearing a Space

Reflections on India, Literature and Culture

Year of Publication: 2008

Oxford, 2008. 330 pp.
ISBN 978-1-906165-01-7 pb.  (Softcover)
ISBN 978-1-906165-06-2 hb.  (Hardcover)

Weight: 0.530 kg, 1.168 lbs

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Book synopsis

In the essays assembled in Clearing a Space, Chaudhuri draws on his own experiences to offer an acute exploration of what it means to be a modern Indian in relation to history. Often beginning with the personal, he inquires into the nature of the secular in India, into the history of such categories as the West, the foreign, the global and the exotic, and into the frequently torn and self-divided nature of modern Indian identity. With the same elegance and intelligence for which he has become known, Chaudhuri writes in these essays about Indian popular culture and high culture, travel and location in Paris, Bombay, Dublin, Calcutta and New York, empire and nationalism, Indian and Western cinema, the place of the everyday in Indian creativity, music, art and literature, politics, race, cosmopolitanism, urban landscapes, Hollywood and Bollywood, Anglophone India, internationalism, globalisation, the Indian English tradition that predates Rushdie, post-colonialism and much more.


Contents: Poles of Recovery – In the Waiting-Room of History: On Provincializing Europe – The Flute of Modernity: Tagore and the Middle Class – The East as a Career: On ‘Strangeness’ in Indian Writing – Argufying: On Amartya Sen and the Deferral of an Indian Modernity – This is Not Music: The Emergence of the Domain of ‘Culture’ – ‘Huge Baggy Monster’: Mimetic Theories of the Indian Novel after Rushdie – Two Giant Brothers: Tagore’s Revisionist ‘Orient’ – Travels in the Subculture of Modernity – Thoughts in a Temple: Hinduism in the Free Market – On the Nature of Indian Gothic: The Imagination of Ashis Nandy – ‘Hollywood aur Bollywood’ – The View from Malabar Hill – Stories of Domicile – Notes on the Novel after Globalization – Anti-Fusion – Arun Kolatkar and the Tradition of Loitering – Learning to Write: V.S. Naipaul, Vernacular Artist – A Bottle of Ink, a Pen and a Blotter: On R.K. Narayan – ‘A Feather! A Very Feather upon the Face!’: On Kipling – Returning to Earth: The Poetry of Jibanananda Das – Women in Love as Post-Human Essay – Champion of Hide and Seek: Raj Kamal Jha’s Surrealism – Midnight at Marble Arch: On The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid – Beyond ‘Confidence’: Rushdie and the Creation Myth of Indian English Writing.

About the author(s)/editor(s)

The Author: Over the past 15 years, Amit Chaudhuri has made a name for himself as one of the most significant figures in contemporary culture. He is the author of several award-winning novels, including A Strange and Sublime Address and Afternoon Raag, as well as being an internationally acclaimed musician and influential essayist. His essays have appeared in many journals including the LRB and Granta. He is currently Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of East Anglia.


«This extraordinary and wide-ranging collection, through a series of highly-focussed aperçus, puts in question the key terms of self-understanding of much modern literature ... a treasure trove of acute and thought-provoking perceptions.» (Charles Taylor, McGill University)
«Amit Chaudhuri’s collected essays and reviews constitute an intellectual autobiography of the first importance.» (Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, Global Distinguished Professor of English at NYU)
«Amit Chaudhuri’s career as a novelist has proceeded in tandem with an ongoing engagement as a robust critic and thinker and musician. In these essays breadth of knowledge and the fluency of thought are held in perfect balance. ‘Clearing a Space’ is a compendious, quietly passionate, rigorous and unfailingly eloquent collection.» (Geoff Dyer)
«In this thought-provoking and compelling set of essays Amit Chaudhuri teases out the implications of polarities that may seem fixed and suggests new ways of exploring the narratives of Indian modernity. He asks hard questions of himself as well as others, and he engages us as readers with the warmth and acuity of his observations across a wonderful range of writing.» (Gillian Beer)
«The essays of Amit Chaudhuri are really a wonderful key to the understanding of the vitality and specificity of Indian modernity … a fascinating contribution to the understanding of this great civilization and its modern transformations. They are worth the serious attention of scholars in the social sciences as well as the humanities.» (Shmuel Eisenstadt, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
«Whether making music or writing prose, Amit Chaudhuri offers a distinctive spiritual history of modernity. These collected meditations – which are as elegantly fastidious as they are intellectually adventurous – confirm him as one of our most provocative and consistently interesting artists.» (Pankaj Mishra)


The Past in the Present. Vol. 2
Edited by Francis Robinson

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