Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 9 (Oct-Dec 1984) p. 43.


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Plots on Reality

Alok Rai

Meenakshi Mukherjee, Realism and Reality : The Novel and Society in India, Oxford Univ. Press, Delhi, 1985, 218 pp., Rs. 125

MEENAKSHI MUKHERJEE has staked out rich country. But it isn't surprising that the sober grant-giving agencies choked on her project : they're not in the business of funding adventures, voyages

around the possible corner of Africa, crazy attempts to discover India *by heading across the Atlantic. (And in any case, according to reports received from our agents in the field, India has been discovered already.) Mukherjee recognises the unconventional nature of her critical project: it is in that daring that the interest of her book lies.

The novel in India, as Mukherjee has shown, emerged relatively suddenly, in more or less recognisably modem forms, about a generation after Macaulay's infamous Minute. Her book ranges from these dim nineteenth century beginnings all the way to post-Independence India, to the sophisticated narratives of U.R. Anantha Murthy 'and Krishna Baldev Vaid. Such a study, naturally, requires that the evolution of narrative modes be followed through several languages, and apart from the languages that she herself has, Mukherjee has drawn on the excellent repository of national literature which the National Book Trust—unsung and probably unwept when its grant is diverted to the Committee for National Integration through Community Singing—has created in its Aadaan-Pradaan' series. Even so, it is no mere survey that Mukherjee has undertaken; and she is careful in her Preface to preempt the criticism that she has failed, as anyone must fail, at writing a comprehensive history of the novel in India.

Her book, instead, takes 'a holistic view', and endeavours to indentify and

Journal of Arts and Ideas 43


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