Aravind Adiga's Booker prize win for 'The White Tiger' and a reading of 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' got me thinking about the appeal of the indigenous.'The White Tiger' deals with the great Indian class struggle(I haven't read it yet,the reviews and newspapers are my sources) and 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' deals with the eternal strife of the Afghan people (women in particular);enough to have the west sit up and take notice.There is an unwritten rule that I like to call the curse of the great Indian novel;Indian writers need to gain validation in the west in order to gain so much as a compliment from their compatriots.
It seems that a best selling book involving the Indian subcontinent or the middle east must fulfill the following criteria.
- It must conform to a commonly held misconception.
- It must must arouse a condescending sense of pity in the reader.
- The writer must be represented by an American or European agent.
- A first novel is an advantage.
- It must be written in English peppered with indigenous references.
While I loved reading 'A Thousand Splendid Suns', and as an Indian I feel proud when Indian authors gain prominence; I sometimes wonder whether we,in our zest to heap praise upon what we consider to be 'native but mysteriously exotic',overlook the quiet greatness that is staring us in the face.I do not question the methods,the craft or the potential of these writers .I'm just a tad concerned that we may have missed out on the wit of a potential R.K. Narayanan, or the melancholic romance of some obscure middle eastern bard.
It is one thing to offer encouragement and quite another to overestimate achievement.