THE DECOLONISATION OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE (Part 1)

LANGUAGE (Part 1)

Post-colonialism has emerged as one of the most exciting and challenging fields of study in recent years. Harish Trivedi, a noted Indian critic, sums up the phenomenal rise of Post-colonial Literature as follows: “Of all the terms of academic discourse which have risen to ascendancy successively over the last two or three decades, perhaps none has done so more quickly and completely, more glibly and globally than Post-colonialism”. Post-colonial writing has in the recent years become a process of overturning the dominance of the Empire from the colonies. If colonialism involved ‘colonising the mind ’, then the resistance to it required, in the contemporary Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiongo’s phrase the terminology of ‘decolonising the mind ’. As Salman Rushdie, one of the pre-eminent Postcolonial writers puts it: “The language like so much else in the colonies, needs to be decolonised, to be remade in other images, if those of us who use it from positions outside Anglo-Saxon culture are to be more than artistic Uncle Toms”. Language is more than simply a means of communication; it constitutes our world-view by splitting up and arranging our sense of social reality into meaningful units. Payday Loans Online

The acclaimed Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong has made the following remarks on the significance of language: “Language carries culture, and culture carries, particularly through orature and literature, the entire body of values by which we come to perceive ourselves and our place in the world.

How people perceive themselves affects how they look at their culture, at their politics and at the social reproduction of wealth, at their entire relationship to nature and to other human beings”. As Ngugi says, language does not just passively reflect reality; it also creates a certain way in a person’s mind about his/her understanding of their world.

Salman Rushdie’s article in the London Times issue of July 3, 1988 is a significant document in which he speaks of two waves of decolonising imposed on English. The first wave was the wave of the American and Irish writers, James Joyce-Samuel Beckett, Ralph Ellison-James Baldwin, and their contemporaries. The second wave is in the erstwhile colonies where, “English, no longer English language, grows from many roots; and those whom it once colonised are carving out large territories within the language for themselves”.

In the same article Rushdie also refers with admiration to the work ‘All About H.Hatterr’ by G.V. Desani “who showed how English could be bent and kneaded until it spoke in an authentically Indian voice”. Desani is considered as the first writer who attempted to decolonise the English language in his book ‘All About H.Hatterr ’, though not seriously and consciously as Rushdie did in his books.

In his article “Common Wealth Literature does not exist” Rushdie comments “Indian society and Indian Literature have a complex and developing relationship with the English language”. He also remarks in the same article that English is the Post-colonial India’s literary language “not only because of its technical vocabularies and the international communication which it makes possible, but also simply to permit two Indians to talk to each other in a tongue which neither party hates”.

Salman Rushdie is a Post-colonial writer who wants to beard the British literary lion in its own den. He comments thus: “We can’t simply use the language the way the British did; it needs remaking for our own purposes […] To conquer English may be to complete the process of making ourselves free”. Rushdie uses English in his own unique way to decolonise the language. He has kneaded and twisted English so that it had become the right medium for expressing his thoughts and views just as he wanted.

Rushdie adopts the style of ‘magic realism’ in his fiction. ‘Magic Realism’ is term originally coined by Franz Roh, a prominent German art critic in 1925 to describe the tendencies in the work of certain German painters. Essentially the art described as “Magic Realism” was realistic and also simultaneously possessed with a strange dream like quality. The term got recognition and was adopted as an art form in the United States with the 1943 exhibition of Modern Art by American artists at the New York Museum of Modern Art. The term was applied to literature in the late 1940’s by the Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier, who recognised the tendency of his native region’s traditional storytellers as well as contemporary writers to illuminate the mundane by means of the fabulous. Magic realism was basically a Latin American literary phenomenon characterised by the incorporation of fantastic or mythical elements matter-of-factly into otherwise realistic fiction.

Magic realist novels and stories have typically a strong narrative drive, in which the recognizably realistic mingles with the unexpected and the inexplicable, and in which elements of dream, fantasy, fairy-tale or mythology combine with the everyday realistic happenings, often in a mosaic or kaleidoscopic pattern of refraction and recurrence. Some of the prominent writers who nursed up this new style of writing after the post-War years were Jorge Amando (from Brazil), Jorge Luis Borges (from Argentina), Gabriel Garcia Marquez (from Colombia), and Isabel Allende (from Chile). Rushdie has adopted the Magic realist style to perfection and his ‘Midnight’s Children’, ‘Shame’ and ‘The Moor’s Last Sigh’ are classic examples to illustrate and explain his style. He had consciously adopted ‘Magic Realism’ as the ideal form in his fiction for representing the fragmented histories of the Post-colonial societies of India and Pakistan.