Arvind Krishna Mehrotra and the ‘interplay of languages’
Seen in the context of the analogy UNESCO draws between cultural and biological diversity, this chapter reflects on the leading contemporary Indian poet Arvind Krishna Mehrotra’s choice of English as a literary medium and on his practice as a poet-translator. Like a number of other major poets of the post-independence era, including Arun Kolatkar, A. K. Ramanujan, and Adil Jussawalla, and following in a path Joyce pioneered, Mehrotra refused naturalism in two ways: first, he declined to write in his ‘mother tongue’ (Hindi); second, he chose not to indigenize English as an Indian language. Instead, he chose a number of foreignizing and, for him, denaturalizing strategies, including Americanization. The chapter, which also considers the significance of these strategies given the terms of the Indian constitution, ranges widely across Mehrotra’s oeuvre, focusing on The Absent Traveller (1991) and Songs of Kabir (2001).
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