Postcolonial literature

Published:  12:00 AM, 24 November 2016

Bridging up past with present

Bridging up past with present
Postcolonial literature refers to an academic discipline characterizing various approaches to fictional and poetic ventures that evaluate and respond to the socio-cultural perspectives of colonialism and imperialism, to the ramifications of regulating a country and settling down on its soil and the venalities committed against the native dwellers and their land.

Litterateurs of the postcolonial era have sketched the struggles and tribulations of colonized masses through their verses, essays and fictional works.  The most eminent postcolonial authors and poets are Derek Walcott, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, V.S. Naipaul, Arundhati Roy, Zia Haider Rahman, Khushwant Singh, Amitav Ghosh, Chinua Achebe, J.M. Coetzee, Wole Soyinka, Leopold Senghor, John Masters, Michael Chrichton, Gayatri Spivak and so on. John Masters illustrated the clashes, rebellions and bloodbath that rocked the Indian subcontinent during the colonial times in his novels Night-runners of Bengal and Bhowani Junction. Khushwant Singh movingly portrayed the partition of 1947 followed by communal mayhem in his novels I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale and Train to Pakistan. Michael Chrichton told the nerve-raking stories of the white Europeans' assaults on the African wildlife and mineral resources in his novel Congo. Leopold Senghor wrote poems about the revolts for independence initiated by the Senegalese people against the French colonial forces. Gabriel Garcia Marquez peerlessly fictionalized the rise of civilization, political upheavals and civil wars in South America and Caribbean Islands in his everlasting masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude. So, it may be commented that an ample part of postcolonial literature makes references to the political phenomenon of the colonial days by glancing back at history and this is how postcolonial authors and poets link up the past with present.

Derek Walcott's poems recall the colonial days with a mellifluent mélange of diaspora and classicism as found in his poems "A Far Cry from Africa", "Blues" and "White Egrets". Striking reflections of diaspora are found in books by Jhumpa Lahiri too. Arundhati Roy, on the other hand, described in most of her books the injustice and dispossessions suffered by people even after becoming independent from colonial regime.

Even American literature also comes under the umbrella of postcolonial reckoning because America also had to languish under the colonial batons of British Empire during 17th and 18th centuries. Authors like James Fenimore Cooper, Gordon Wood, Paul Wellman, Thomas Paine and Kenneth Roberts illustrated the American Independence War in their masterpieces.

While writing about cultural expansion of the west across the rest part of the world, which is one of the most fatal weapons of neoimperialism, another well-known writer Edward Said looked back on the driving forces that instigated the colonized people to revolt against their colonial rulers. He wrote in his book Culture and Imperialism that, "Most important, the grand narratives of emancipation and enlightenment mobilized people in the colonial world to rise up and throw off imperial subjection". So, the watchwords of independence and egalitarianism propagated by the western philosophers, poets and ideologues during 18th and 19th centuries bounced back on to the western colonists, as their ideals ignited a spirit of freedom among the masses they had ruled for centuries. In the same way, the gimmicks exercised by the western big guns in the present world by means of their strategies and rhetoric have all chances like the past to be slapped back on to their own faces if history repeats itself, according to the historic evidence found in Edward Said's book.

Another latest conceptual entry in the arena of postcolonial thinking is the "Stranger King Theory." This theory was developed by Professor Marshall Sahlins, an anthropologist working for University of Chicago, United States of America. The Stranger King Theory propounds an innovative superstructure to comprehend global colonialism, which is rather different from most of the conventional notions about the colonial era. It aims to point out the apparent indolence with which many indigenous tribes endorsed colonial authoritarianism at the very beginning without vehement expostulations. In other words, the Stranger King Theory unveils the way the colonial pranksters from the west took advantage of the credulity of the native people whom they fooled and exploited with humbugs and mendacity. In some parts of the world, tribal clans had factional rifts with each other which aided the external powers to colonize their territories and to govern them capitalizing on their deconsolidated posture.

Postcolonial ideas have further expanded through translations. Several eminent authors have been playing significant roles since the end of the colonial era by translating French, German and Spanish books into English. It has bridged up the lingual divide between speakers of different languages. At present postcolonial literature has become familiar to readers and students of different countries due to availability of translated prose and poetry. Particularly, when a book is translated into English it can attract a great deal of readers as English is the most widely used language across the globe.

Postcolonial writers come up with reflections of the fact that the prevalence of class conflict and social variations in today's world has been inherited from the colonial rulers who fragmented the colonized nations into various classes to keep them divided. In this context it may be cited that we removed colonial shackles from our necks long ago but we are still witnessing discrimination and reciprocal malice within ourselves, unfortunate it may sound though.

The writer is a columnist for
The Asian Age
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