“’The Awkward Grace of a Legend:’ Violence and Transfiguration in Desmond Hogan’s The Children of Lir”
The University of Northern Iowa
Desmond Hogan’s collection, The Diamonds at the Bottom of the Sea (1980) introduced the world to a powerful Irish short story writer who had already won acclaim for his novel, The Ikon Maker (1976). His second collection of short stories, The Children of Lir, not only secured his reputation but also confirmed his artistic commitment to the genre of the short story.
This paper will evaluate Hogan’s global and local status as a writer of short stories who melds his commitment to the realism of contemporary Irish life—with all its attendant historical circumstances—with the quintessentially Irish longing to contextualize contemporary experience through ancient Celtic myth and lore. The paper will especially evaluate the success of his collection in light of its unique depiction of the simultaneous role that violence and return plays in contemporary Dublin and the Irish countryside through the transfiguring lens of Celtic mythology.
Narration and narrative in Raja Rao’s tales of India
York University, Toronto
Raja Rao was born in Hassan, Karnataka in India in a well-known Brahmin family. His first collection of short stories The Cow of the Barricades and Other Stories was published in 1947.
Most of the stories in The Cow of the Barricades are set in rural South India, in the 1930’s, during Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership in the Indian independence struggle against the British. My paper will demonstrate Rao’s depiction of the interminable link between the legendary and the historical-political in the life of the Indian villages. It will argue that in trying to portray the sacred interspersed with everyday life in the rural culture Rao creates a continuum. For instance, by merging the historical figure of Gandhi and the British viceroy with legendary/mythical heroes of the Hindu tradition.
He portrays sexual and economic exploitation of the marginalized lower caste, woman and poor. However, for the female characters in Rao’s stories, in spite of the death of a husband or a child, “everything went on in the household as usual.” (“The Little Gram Shop,” 78). The short stories are deeply rooted in Brahmanism and Hinduism and Rao’s eulogization of Brahmanism results in his sentimental response to the “traditional” and oppressive practices sanctified by Hinduism.
Rao’s preoccupation with his Brahmanic heritage led to experiments at evolving a diction, which combined native Sanskritic features with English. As first-generation Indian English writer, faced with the challenge of using “a language that is not one’s own to convey the spirit that is one’s own,” (Rao) he solved the problem by Indianizing the English language. My paper will illustrate Rao’s exemplary contribution to Indian-English literature through a demonstration of his expression of an Indian rural sensibility (through his use of similes, metaphors and nature imagery to describe character and landscape) and his literal translation of vernacular idioms and phrases into English. I will show Rao’s successful infusion of “[t]he tempo of Indian life” into the English language by! his choice of an old, gossipy, grandmother narrator with a rambling, distorted syntactical style whose repetitions, turns of phrase and consistent digressions successfully evoke the spirit of India’s traditional folk narrative, the Puranas.
Rao presents a picture of an “unchanging” Indian village in his short stories (through characters, folkloric narrative style and diction), and a number of critics have located their significance in that “there is much in this picture that is more or less true, even today.” (Naik) I point to the lacuna in existing critical opinion by arguing that Rao’s narrative techniques (unconsciously) undermine the cultural stability of a traditional, apparently organic Indian society. His “english” (The Empire Writes Back) problematizes his portrayal of the “authentic,” timeless India. The heterogeneity of his style points to hybridity and cultural interchange, which is the self-conscious identity of India.