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.
postcolonialliteratures from 1947, are cast in a
gendered mould. Nationalism, which has been so fundamental to the decolonisation process around the world, bears a clear mark for gender, and this gender
marking, rather than being referred to a monolithic or transhistorical concept
of patriarchy, can be explained as a speciﬁc historical development of power
deﬁned by sexual diﬀerence. To put it more plainly, this book submits that,
without this marking for gender, it is well-nigh impossible to conceive of the
modern nation. Whether we look at its iconography, its
Where postcolonialism is neo-orientalist – the cases of Sarojini Naidu and Arundhati Roy
from out there, promoted by their class position or other
elitist structures, have been admitted to the city the better to ensure the eﬃciency of its monitoring.
The question must then be, are there ways of cutting through this neocolonial and still masculinist bind in order to give the very real vitality and oppositionality of postcolonialliteratures their due regard? It is evidently true that
no cultural or academic interest in reversed values or subversive texts will of
itself reverse hierarchies in the world, especially where these postcolonial interests
’ diagnosed as symptomatic of postcolonialliterature by Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin in The Empire Writes
Back, and cites as examples the ‘ironic continuation of certain
stereotypes and clichés’, such as Rustomji’s lament for the
passing of the British because of the disappearance of Johnnie
Walker Scotch onto the black market, in ‘Auspicious Occasion’,
and Kersi’s parents’ internalised ideas about the inferiority of
Indians in ‘Lend Me Your Light’. Such conventions are reanimated,
yet their validity is simultaneously problematised and undermined. Less convincing is the
Kew (London: Picador, 2020), p. 84. See also Nicholas Shakespeare, In Tasmania (New York: Overlook Press, 2004).
14 Kate Fullagar, The Warrior, the Voyager and the Artist: Three Lives in an Age of Empire (Yale: Yale University Press, 2020).
15 Elleke Boehmer, Colonial and PostcolonialLiterature: Migrant Metaphors (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), chapter 1 . See also my efforts to interrogate centre–periphery models of empire by working laterally in Empire, the National, and the Postcolonial: Resistance in Interaction (Oxford and New York
conversation with history sustained?
In a metaphor which has become a byword for postcolonialliterature, Caliban has taken the language of Prospero and inverted it,
or reinvented it, for his own purposes. ‘We shall never explode
Prospero’s old myth’, Lamming argues in The Pleasures of
Exile , ‘until we christen Language afresh’. 76 To command the
and consumption of postcolonialliteratures allow the English to reinvent
their empire. The country is recentred as a sovereign international power;
its capital is both cultural and financial. If the dominant features of
Englishness, according to Paul Gilroy, are its xenophobia and paranoia,
for Huggan it is corrosive paternalism that best describes this national disposition. Looking at its cultural relations with its former colonies,
Huggan uncovers the ways that metropolitan Britain arrogates authority
over them. Huggan tends however to rely on India to illustrate
– Such a Long Journey (1991), A Fine
Balance (1995), and Family Matters (2002), receive a host of
literary prizes, and achieve recognition as one of the most
important contemporary writers of postcolonialliterature.
Mistry draws his inspiration both from sharply recalled
childhood experiences and from the upheavals of migration.
However, as always with such intense and apparently personal
narratives, the relationship between fiction and autobiography
is hard to determine. Certainly there are overlaps between the
events and life choices of the writer and some of his
The structures of migration in Tales from Firozsha Baag
language, they say, ‘the most
interesting feature of its use in postcolonialliterature may be
the way in which it also constructs difference, separation, and
absence from the metropolitan norm’.13 Here this challenge
gains an extra dimension as the norms of the colonial language,
English, and the Gujarati of her employers, are contravened by
Jaakaylee’s mix-and-match idiom.
At first Jaakaylee’s reports of a ghost are dismissed by the
Baag residents as the ramblings of an old woman from a
backward part of the country where everyone believes in such
Elleke Boehmer, Colonial and PostcolonialLiterature: Migrant Metaphors (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).
72 Margaret Harris, ‘The Antipodean Anatomy of Victorian Studies’, AUMLA: Journal of the Australasian Universities Modern Language Association , 100 (2003), 68; Maggie Tonkin, Mandy Treagus, Madeleine Seys, and Sharon Crozier-De Rosa, ‘Re-Visiting the Victorian Subject’, in Maggie Tonkin, Mandy Treagus, Madeleine Seys, and Sharon Crozier-De Rosa (eds), Changing the Victorian Subject (Adelaide: University of Adelaide Press, 2014), p. 3.