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'Asia' Features Diversity of Indian Literature[TheKoreaTimes2009.06.19]
 Asia  | 2009·07·20 17:10 | HIT : 9,161 | VOTE : 2,242 |
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'Asia' Features Diversity of Indian Literature  

“Asia” magazine’s Indian special

To mark its third anniversary, the quarterly bilingual magazine ``Asia'' has launched an intensive cover story on Indian literature in its summer issue to facilitate discourse between readers of different nationalities and ethnicities.

Bang Min-ho, a professor of Korean literature at Seoul National University, who serves on the editorial board of the journal, says in an essay that the publication is renewing its purpose.

``We Koreans are writers from the periphery. And so one might argue that the first order of business for us would be the enrichment and development of our own national literature. After all, we want Korean literature to be acknowledged as a full-fledged, legitimate member of an imagined community of world literature. Then why do we, at Asia, publish works written in other languages, while reserving the prestige we enjoy on our isolated peninsula? Three years ago, we imagined that Asia, our journal, by providing a forum for cultural interaction, might become instrumental in creating an Asian cultural community. But have we gone about it in a pragmatic way?'' Bang says.

He says that it is imperative for the journal to explore literature from various Asian nations.
``We have chosen the fiction and poetry of this issue with an eye towards achieving a better understanding of Indian literature,'' he says.

In this issue, the Seoul-based magazine published in Korean and English covers the diversity of the culture of India that has 22 officially recognized languages.

It is hard to cover the vast landscape of Indian literature in one single issue but the journal presents high quality works by renowned Indian authors who contribute to the colossal literature scene to protect human dignity and India's diversity. The issue carries not only short stories but also poems and essays on various themes.

It introduces Rohinton Mistry, an Indian writer working in English, whose ``Paying Guests'' sheds light on how class division and religion work in Indians' daily lives through the author's down-to-earth description of tenants.

Also, a trenchant essay by Nilufer Barucha's ``Ethic Encloser, Transnational Space and Multiculturalisms,'' casts light on the current state of Indian writing in English. It is an essay that functions well both as an introduction to the discourse and as a critical intervention.

Amartya Sen's ``China and India'' deals with the millennia-old relationship between India and China. Most writers on the subject tend either to consider Chinese culture and Indian culture separately ― as major civilizations ― or to focus mainly on the influence of Indian religion on Chinese culture. But this essay eyes the interaction between the two civilizations, providing a refreshing insight. It is a meditation on the hybridization and fusion of civilizations, which concludes in a consideration of the creative possibilities.

Sukrita Paul Kumar, an Indian poet and critic, argues in her essay on ``Cultural Diversity in India'' that some mainstream Indian writers just reflect the urban and over-articulate Westernized Indians in their works, just a minuscule portion among the millions of people existing in the much larger and culturally rich rural territories of India. ``Multilingualism as well as pluralism flourish when each linguistic group can retain its identity and yet co-exist with the other in harmony,'' she says.

She says that for the last several decades, in India now, a large section of society has been creatively recording its plight in what has come to be known as ``Dalit Sahitya,'' a unique genre of modern Indian literature by the ``untouchables themselves.'' In mapping the cultural scene of the country, this voice can no longer be ignored. ``More than one-sixth of India's population, about 160 million people live a precarious existence, shunned by many because of their rank as `untouchables' or Dalits ― literally meaning `broken people' ― at the bottom of India's caste system,'' she says.

Also, one of the distinguished works in the magazine, is ``Wings,'' a story by Asha Bage, in which an older sister marries and goes to a far away place leaving the young protagonist alone. This is a situation found often in many Korean novels and the subject matter of ``Wings'' seems familiar to Korean readers in that way.

But ``Wings'' is more than just a simple plot. It is, above all, a well-crafted literary work of fiction with a contemporary sensibility ― a story that vividly captures a segment of modern Indian life. A lyrical atmosphere suffuses the story. The skillful rendering of the disconnect between that lyricism and the reality of the story speaks to the author's remarkable craftsmanship and status as a critic very much in touch with reality.

Bage is an established writer in Marathi. Her works have received critical acclaim and four awards from the state of Maharashtra. She was a recipient of the Katha award for creative fiction in 1992, and many of her stories have been translated into English, in addition to other Indian languages. She lives in Nagpur and is an aficionado of classical Indian music. ``Wings'' reflects India's changing social setup and lifestyles.

By Chung Ah-young
Staff Reporter
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