Carmen San Diego (scarlet1983) wrote in the_margin,
Carmen San Diego

Rushdie on Commonwealth literature

Salman Rushdie on a Commonwealth literature conference held in Sweden in 1983:

"Many of the delegates, I found, were willing freely to admit that the term 'Commonwealth literature' was a bad one. South Africa and Pakistan, for instance, are not members of the Commonwealth, but their authors apparently belong to its literature. On the other hand, England, which, as far as I'm aware, had not been expelled from the Commonwealth quite yet, has been excluded from its literary manifestation. For obvious reasons. It would never do to include English literature, the great sacred thing itself, with this bunch of upstarts, huddling together under this new and badly made umbrella" (62).

"The nearest I could get to a definition sounded distinctly patronizing: 'Commonwealth literature', it appears, is that body of writing created, I think, in the English language, by persons who are not themselves white Britons, or Irish, or citizens of the United States of America. I don't know whether black Americans are citizens of this bizarre Commonwealth or not. Probably not. It is also uncertain whether citizens of Commonwealth countries writing in languages other than English – Hindi, for example – or who switch out of English, like Ngugi, are permitted into the club or asked to keep out" (63).

Rushdie, Salman. Imaginary Homelands. Essays and Criticism 1981-1991. London: Granta Books, 1991.
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