Rohinton Mistry is the only author whose every novel has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Such a Long Journey (1991), A Fine Balance (1995) and Family Matters (2002) are all set in India's Parsee community. Recognised as one of the most important contemporary writers of postcolonial literature, Mistry's subtle yet powerful narratives engross general readers, excite critical acclaim and form staple elements of literature courses across the world. This study provides an insight into the key features of Mistry's work. It suggests how the author's writing can be read in terms of recent Indian political history, his native Zoroastrian culture and ethos, and the experience of migration, which now sees him living in Canada. The texts are viewed through the lens of diaspora and minority discourse theories to show how Mistry's writing is illustrative of marginal positions in relation to sanctioned national identities. In addition, Mistry utilises and blends the conventions of oral storytelling common to the Persian and South Asian traditions, with nods in the direction of the canonical figures of modern European literature, sometimes reworking and reinflecting their registers and preoccupations to create a distinctive voice redolent of the hybrid inheritance of Parsee culture and of the postcolonial predicament more generally.
This chapter introduces Rohinton Mistry, an Indian author whose work presents a repeated image of various kinds of journeys. It first presents some background information on his childhood and education in Bombay, India, showing that he became a writer almost by accident, and then identifies his sources of inspiration, including his Zoroastrian faith and childhood experiences. The chapter also addresses the controversy over the perceived privileging of Indian writing in English, and Mistry's current place in Canadian literature.
The structures of migration in Tales from Firozsha Baag
This chapter discusses Mistry's first book, Tales from Firozsha Baag, a collection of linked short stories, noting that this book introduces symbols, themes and techniques which can be seen in his later writings. It describes the writing styles and techniques that Mistry used in this book, including his even and engaging tone, which has become characteristic of his writings, and takes a look at the short stories and the short-story cycle in the book, which has features such as the thematic and symbolic patterns of recurrence and development.
Language, lies and the crisis of representation in Such a Long Journey
This chapter studies Mistry's Such a Long Journey, a novel that contains elements of a political thriller and which shows that the operations of history are linked to, and impose on, everyday life. The novel, which is set in 1971, presents political events that put pressure on a family already under strain. The chapter discusses Such a Long Journey in detail, and notes the political features included that seem to be characteristic of a political landscape of deceit, corruption and decline. It determines that Such a Long Journey presents a powerful combination of casual brutality and political deception, which descends on the fiercely guarded private world of sensitive individuals.
Performing in the spaces of city and nation in A Fine Balance
This chapter focuses on A Fine Balance, a novel that further pursues the themes of political decline and personal moral responsibility. It notes that although these themes were previously addressed in Such a Long Journey, A Fine Balance, unlike its predecessor, addresses these them on an epic scale. The chapter shows that this novel tests the fabric of the nation through a group of characters caught up in the dangerous delirium of a paranoid political regime.
This chapter examines the ‘Pandora's Box’ of corruption and religious majoritarianism that serves as the background to Mistry's Family Matters, a novel which takes place against the backdrop of communalist politics and corruption. It stresses that while Family Matters does not have the power and scope of A Fine Balance, it is still able to continue the study of the interconnected spaces of a multitudinous nation, as well as the intersubjective processes of storytelling which can be found at the centre of Mistry's oeuvre.
This chapter summarises the six main channels of critical interest in Mistry's work, and then identifies and discusses the many criticisms of Mistry and his work. It includes readings of Mistry as a realist writer, and criticisms of the way the skein of surface realism is continuously interrupted by moments of fabulist allegory, pronounced modernist patterning and occasionally metafictional interventions. The chapter also tries to show that realism only accounts for an overall tendency within Mistry's work.
This concluding chapter discusses Rohinton Mistry and his works as a whole. It shows that his fictions are characterised by a style that is unobtrusive and apparently direct, and which also contains considerable symbolic complexity. The chapter highlights Mistry's fascination with pattern, as well as the influence of his Zoroastrian background on his texts, and also tries to explain how Mistry's writing raises ethical questions and what his fictions offer to his readers.