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Varied Registers Of Remembrance

Debjani Sengupta

By Amritjit Singh  Amritjit Singh, Nalini Iyer and Rahul K. Gairola
2016, Lexington Books, 2016, pp. 363, £84.90

VOLUME XL NUMBER 10 October 2016

The trauma of India’s Partition in 1947 played out differently in diverse regions of the subcontinent. The division of Punjab in the West happened at one go and was sudden, cataclysmic, and violent. On the other hand, the Partition of Bengal was a slower process as the displacement took place in waves though the trauma was no less violent than in Punjab. Similarly in Sindh, Benaras, Kashmir and in Hyderabad the impact of 1947 was keenly felt but had different registers of remembrance and enunciations. The anthology under review lays bare the elliptical ways of how whole communities felt, remembered and tried to resist the cataclysmic division and growth of sectarian hatred over a period of time and their affective impact on cultural practices. It takes stock of the literary, sociological and historical archive of the 1947 Partition across generations and borders that interrogate the absences in our memories and of our national histories in the subcontinent. This anthology has come about, in the editors’ own words, ‘on the margins of the South Asian Literary Association annual conference’ when the editors decided to have a one-day pre-conference to assess ‘the negative impact the 1947 Partition continues to have on South Asian populations at home and abroad’ (Preface). The editors had also noted ‘with a certain kind of sadness and irony how most well-known literary scholarship on the subject had rarely gone beyond a few well-known novels, short stories, poems, or films’ (p. ix). The second aspect of the confabulations that has brought about this volume is of wider interest both to the Partition scholar and to the lay reader in that literary works on 1947 continue to evoke interest and especially those that are ‘new’ and rarely talked about. In the Introduction, the span of this anthology is laid bare and one recognizes the impetus and vastness of the project that has been undertaken. Literary and historical insights range from Jammu and Kashmir, Sindh and Pakistan to the North East of India, Bengal and Bangladesh. In that, the contributors have historicized the diverse theatres of the Partition: its vastness and complexity, its narratives that can no longer be seen as Punjab centric and its affective and cultural dimensions. In their range and subject matter, many of the essays are therefore not just looking at 1947 in particular but its affective fallout on the postcolonial societies of South Asia in general to examine ‘the hermeneutic lens ...

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