whoops, world english again

Lynne Murphy M_Lynne_Murphy at BAYLOR.EDU
Mon Apr 26 18:31:35 UTC 1999

I idiotically didn't attach the thing I said I was attaching in my last

Here it is.  I think it's a weird little list.  Salon's gotten into
these "5 best books on X" lists lately.  I remain convinced (this has
been a discussion in my dept lately) that 'postcolonial' is too broad a
category to be meaningful.


P.S.  I don't believe Doris Lessing is South African; she did some of
her growing up in Zimbabwe.

World English
                                The author of "Gain" and "The Gold Bug
Variations" picks five novels from the
                                edge of a new language.

                                - - - - - - - - - - - -
                                BY RICHARD POWERS

                                April 26, 1999 | The last 40 years have
witnessed the apotheosis of
                                World English, a phenomenon in many ways
without precedent in
                                the planet's history. English
literature, too, has been brilliantly
                                enlarged by an explosion of novels that
derive neither from the
                                British Isles nor from North America.
The de-colonizing of the
                                globe continues to produce colonial
revolts that forever change the
                                shape of the mother tongue. (The
linguistic determinists tell only
                                half the story: Place reinvents language
every bit as much as
                                language reinvents place.)

                                Englishes proliferate beyond any list's
attempt to be representative,
                                but here are a Nigerian, an Indian, an
Australian, a South African
                                and a Trinidadian, sharing little but a
linguistic genome more fluid
                                than that of Darwin's finches.

                                Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
                                Rushdie's sprawling epic of Indian
history, politics and religion
                                conjoins the coming-of-age tale of two
boys to the coming-of-age
                                tale of the entire subcontinent. The
tale of Saleem and Shiva -- born
                                on the stroke of Indian independence, a
Hindu and Muslim swapped
                                at birth -- becomes a magical allegory
examining all the knobby
                                excrescences of nationhood and identity.

                                Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
(1958; first U.S. edition,
                                Achebe describes, in harrowing detail,
the disintegration of an Igbo
                                village and the dissolution of its
leader under the onslaught of
                                Western colonial contact. This work, and
its sequels that appeared
                                throughout the 1960s, sparked a literary
outburst throughout West
                                Africa, writing that in turn
retroactively altered the patrimony of
                                the English novel.

                                Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (1988)
                                Two damaged innocents who share an
incurable passion for
                                gambling fall in love and attempt to
transport a glass church across
                                the impassable wilds of the Australian
interior. Peter Carey's highly
                                wrought style and intricate,
neo-Dickensian plot invoke all the mad
                                British enterprise on that

                                A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul
                                This novel might be called the darker
shadow of "Heart of
                                Darkness." A West Indian of East Indian
descent, Naipaul casts one
                                of the coldest eyes imaginable on the
horrors of colonization and
                                decolonization. A Muslim Indian
businessman, a witch, a Belgian
                                priest, a white intellectual and his
high-gloss wife are all drawn into
                                the maelstrom of Mr. Kurtz's -- and Mr.
Mobutu's -- Africa.

                                The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
                                Anna, Lessing's fiercely self-realized
heroine, records her life in a
                                series of differently colored notebooks:
blue for a personal diary,
                                yellow for fictional transformation, red
for her experiences with
                                Communism, black for a memoir of Africa
and golden for her
                                struggle for sanity, where all the other
colors come together.
                                Lessing is a novelist of ideas possessed
of the greatest passion.
                                salon.com | April 26, 1999


M. Lynne Murphy
Assistant Professor in Linguistics
Department of English
Baylor University
PO Box 97404
Waco, TX 76798

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