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Maya is a complex idea


'Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad - A tale of how civilized West had gone barbaric, due to 'native' influences' and needed to brought back to 'civilization'.  |  Illustration by Lisl Weil

‘Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – A tale of how civilized West had gone barbaric, due to ‘native’ influences’ and needed to brought back to ‘civilization’. | Illustration by Lisl Weil

There is one particular episode in “Heart of Darkness” where Marlow is bringing back Kurtz on a steamboat through the forest and African tribesmen gather on the shore. The Europeans in the boat aren’t really threatened by the tribesmen because they are not within reach of their spears. Marlow blows the whistle to frighten them away but that doesn’t satisfy other Europeans. “And then that imbecile crowd down on the deck started their little fun, and I could see nothing more for smoke,” writes Conrad.
It’s a beautiful and provocative scene. What is actually taking place is a massacre. What is being lost in smoke is this massacre. I find the use of language here fascinating. Marlow the narrator and Conrad the author can only say so many things. There is a story beneath the story that remains untold. (via The Moment – Tabish Khair On India’s Thugs | March 8, 2011, 5:45 PM HKT)

Stepping back

Just how and why murder mysteries became popular in English fiction – in early 20th century. And then fade away. Or why horror and monsters were popular in European, especially, Spanish literature in 16th/17th century. Represented by Calderon de la Barca (1600-1681), the Spanish writer.

Post-WWII fiction created a new genre –  filled with International intrigue, spies, plots, cabals, faceless bureaucrats. You could call it Daughter of John Le Carre marries the Ghost of Robert Ludlum.

Empty boxes of cynical ideologies, gift-wrapped in shiny paper.

Blood and bones

Critics, usually from the West, dismissed these waves of popular fiction as inexplicable shifts in taste and fashion. But, taken together for the last 500 years, popular fiction mirrors European imperial reality. Spanish literary monsters were proxies for blood-thirsty and gold-grabbing conquistadors.

This theme reappeared in English literature symbolizing the massacres in post-1857 India. Brutish English men, Draculas and Frankensteins, appeared in India, to ‘pacify’ mutinous Indians (more @ http://goo.gl/wAan1). Pacification usually meant annihilation of entire villages, communities. Emulating their masters, very soon most Englishman in India thought little, if an Indian life was taken.

Best seen in Agatha Christie novels. Closely matching American reality, was Agatha Christie’s famous book, Ten Little Niggers, that became Ten Little Indians to finally Then there were none.

Deciphering maya

Tabish Khair, a writer based in Denmark, with a Bihari origin, had his recent books nominated for some awards. He presents in the extract (linked above) a small bit of Western maya. What would be the modern equivalent of what was called maya in classical Indian texts.

The closest I could come up with was propaganda.


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