Social Scientist. v 18, no. 207-08 (Aug-Sept 1990) p. 71.

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The Ideology of Form: Notes on the Third World Novel

Is the Third World Novel in general and more specifically the Indian English novel different from the Western novel? If so, how do we account for and understand this difference? Moreover, what is the ideological relationship between the Western^ novel and the Third World novel? My paper tries to discuss such questions. Though my discussion centres on the novel, I shall be interested in broader issues of cultural interaction. I hope, then, to use this venture on the novel to unpack wider speculations on ideology and culture.

To begin, I want to consider two recent works on this topic as convenient points of departure. The first is Viney Kirpal's 'What is the Third World Novel?' (Journal of Commonwealth Literature, XXIILI [1988], 144-156). In this paper, which has- an astonishingly wide range of reference, Viney Kirpal suggests that the Third World Novel is indeed different in its form1 from the Western novel. She identifies at least five features which make it different: (1) 'the loose, circular, episodic, loop like narrative technique'; (2) the plotlessness of these novels from the Western point of view; (3) 'the use of language which is regional, ritualistic, proverbial, metaphoric and therefore quite distinct from language in the English novel'; (4) the use of myths by the Third World novelist not just as structuring devices, but as 'value-endowed paradigms' of reality; and (5) 'illustrational' or 'archetypal' rather than 'representational' characterisation (150-152).2 Kirpal accounts for these differences by offering certain sociological explanations:

A shared social reality continues to be available in the third world where the old and the new (for example, architecture, customs, literature, economy systems, political structure) co-exist. The belief that traditional third-world societies would eventually get replaced by the Western concept of a modern society has so far been belied. The traditional has, in many ways, continued to assert itself in spite of challenge and provocation by the new. (147)

Social Scientist, Vol. 18, Nos. 8-9, August-September 1990

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