“You and Your stories!”: Narrating the History of the Dispossessed in Amitav Ghosh’s Hungry Tide and Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children

This source preferred by Hywel Dix

Authors: Dix, H.

Editors: Chaudry, B.

Publisher: PHI Learning

Place of Publication: New Delhi

ISBN: 978-8120338654

In this paper, I wish to consider The Hungry Tide alongside Salman Rushdie’s 1981 novel, Midnight’s Children. Midnight’s Children takes the form of a life history of its narrator, Saleem Sinai, from the moment his grandfather returned from Europe to Kasmir in 1919, up to the moment of his birth at the stroke of midnight on the day that India became independent from Britain in 1947, and through a series of personal and political crises in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, up until the imagined moment at which Saleem sits at home composing his narrative of these events for his lover, Padma.

The Hungry Tide and Midnight’s Children are both narratives of dispossession. The innovation of Rushdie’s magical realism, and the large historical sweep of his fiction, have been well documented, in a way that might make Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide seem like a less innovative realist novel by comparison. I wish to argue that on the contrary, The Hungry Tide and Midnight’s Children are complementary novels. Each takes a narrative of dispossession and each works this up into a general narrative challenge to colonial history on the Indian subcontinent. Moreover, I wish to explore the different strategies that each writer develops for fore-grounding narrative as a socially symbolic and political act. In other words, rather than a simple dichotomy between the narrative innovations of Rushdie and the apparently plot-driven realist fiction of Ghosh, I wish to show that the different narrative techniques each writer develops for calling into question official narratives of political control can be shown to relate to each other in important ways.

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