In this outstanding collection of essays, editors Neil Murphy and Wai-chew Sim seek not so much to demarcate the field of British Asian fiction, but to offer due acknowledgment of the artistic merit of the works of selected authors and simultaneously register their cultural significance. This volume demonstrates in situ the virtues of commentary that engages in a substantial manner with formal and aesthetic considerations, even as it implicates the discourses of alterity that dominate contemporary cultural criticism. Additionally, the essays delineate the complex subject positions explored by authors and texts, and focus on the way writers negotiate the exigencies of their location within and between different social formations. If it is the case that British literature can no longer be discussed in monocultural terms because of the impact of the writers under consideration, it is also the case that the diverse trans-cultural positions they explore are often less specified than proclaimed. Addressing difference, commensurability, and form-related notions of “truth-content,” these essays enlarge our understanding of the range of British (and affiliated) identities, as well as the cultural contexts from which they arose. Working as academics and critics from Singapore, a useful vantage point, Murphy and Sim have extended the parameters of “British Asian” to include, not just writers from South Asia as is traditionally the case, but writers whose parents, or who themselves, have migrated to Britain from other regions of Asia, for example, Japan, Hong Kong, and Malaysia.
This initiative has made it possible for professors Murphy and Sim to bring together, first, an interestingly varied group of authors, among them those who came to prominence in the 1980s––Salman Rushdie, Timothy Mo, Kazuo Ishiguro–––as well as their younger contemporaries––Meera Syal, Romesh Gunesekera, Monica Ali, Hari Kunzru, Ooi Yang-May; and, second, a broad and diverse range of novels that span Timothy Mo’s Sour Sweet (1982) and Tariq Ali’s A Sultan in Palermo (2005), the fourth volume in his Islam quintet.