Imaginary Homelands of Writers in Exile: Salman Rushdie, Bharati Mukherjee, and V.S. Naipaul

by Cristina Emanuela Dascalu


The effects of the displacement of peoples--their forced migration, their deportation, their voluntary emigration, their movement to new lands where they made themselves masters over others, or became subjects of the masters of their new homes--reverberate down the years and are still felt today. The historical violence of the era of empire and colonies echoes in the literature of the descendants of those forcibly moved and the exiles that those processes have made. The voices of its victims are insistent in the literature that has come to be called “post-colonial.” Although the term “post-colonial” is insufficient to capture fully the depth and breadth of those writers that have been labeled by it (for it is itself something of a colonial instrument, ghettoizing writers in English who are still considered to be “foreign”), there is a common bond among the works of those novelists who understand the process of exile and see themselves as exiles--both from their homes and from themselves.

In this eloquently argued book with meticulous theoretical groundwork, Dr. Cristina Dascalu presents a most lucid and concise examination of exile. In addition to her negotiation of the term “exile,” what is most original and significant about Imaginary Homelands of Writers in Exile is the selection of authors. Reaching across national (in terms of country of exile) and ethnic (in terms of region/religion of birth) boundaries, Dr. Dascalu elegantly shows the persistent relevance of the experience and implications of exile to the writing of fiction in the world today. Rushdie, Mukherjee, and Naipaul are very distinct authors whose works are not often discussed together in this context. Using Benedict Anderson’s notion of “unimagined communities,” among other critical lenses, she makes significant connections between the way exile functions as a theme and as a condition for their writing.

Imaginary Homelands of Writers in Exile will be a critical addition for all collections in Comparative Literature as well as Ethnic and Immigrant Studies.


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