Multiculturalism – a source of new world literature
New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) The morphing of the world into a sprawling global village and free passage of people across terrains are changing the tenor of contemporary literature.
New groups of non-majority cultures are acquiring a voice to express their artistic visions in innovative literary formats while the contours of identities are sharpening to narrate stories about lost sub-cultures, the regional winners of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize said at a literary session on “Multi-Cultural Identities: Artistic Expression” in the capital Wednesday.
The 12 regional winners of the Commonwealth Writers’s Prize and the panel of judges are in the capital for the final round of the Commonwealth Writers’ Award April 12. The prize will be given away by Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor, the winner of the Commonwealth writers’ prize in 1991.
“India unlike Australia, America or Britain does not have a rainbow population; hence the impact of multiculturalism in contemporary Indian literature has been slow to seep in. It is just beginning to make its presence felt. Writers have started to trade in their identities to package it better in their literary pursuits so as to give their own places broader images,” capital-based novelist Rana Dasgupta said.
Dasgupta’s book “Solo” won the prize for the best book in Europe-South Asia region.
He said: “The last decade was reflective of this phenomenon when culture, its loss and revival through story telling became big literary themes.
“The decade was marked by the growth of new literary genres like the Chetan Bhagat phenomenon and chick lit. Such stories had to be told because the literary culture of India is broadening and changing. Writers are no longer trying to communicate what being an Indian is, but about India as a social and political entity.”
The writer, whose book “Solo” is described as an “epic tale of 20th and the 21st centuries told from the perspective of a 100-year-old Bulgarian man”, felt that if “nations were the stage on which modern life and feeling unfolded; novels were the form in which these things were recounted, understood and turned, finally, into lore”.
Canadian writer Shandi Mitchell, whose book “Under This Unbroken Sky” won the best first book award in the Caribbean and Canadian region, said “in her country, multicultural experiment was two-pronged — one distinctly Canadian and the other an assimilation of all that was Canadian by the culturally diverse communities”.
“But each culture speaks to one another,” Mitchell said.
The writer, whose book has been inspired by a family photograph and is woven around the struggles of Teodor Mykolayenko, a victim of repression in Stalin’s Russia, “tried to explain the phenomenon of multiculturalism through her own upbringing”.
Nigeria-based Abaobi Tricia Nwaubeni, whose book, “I Do Not Come To You By Chance”, won the best first book award in the Africa region, sees notorious the “e-mail scams of Nigeria as an artistic expression of the multi-cultural society of the Nigerian people”.
Her book is a comic tale of the culture of email scams in Nigeria and a university graduate, who is forced to become a scammer for livelihood.
“I wanted to probe how writers, doctors, intellectuals and professionals become successful scammers. I also wanted to show my audience, the people of Nigeria, the funny side of the victim. It is a part of our history and we cannot sweep it under the carpet,” Adaobi said.
Writer Mridula Koshy, who moderated the session, summed the essence of multiculturalism saying, “plurality of cultures was all about being human and expressing humanity without recourse”.