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THE OXFORD ANTHOLOGY OF WRITINGS FROM NORTH-EAST INDIA: POETRY AND ESSAYS
Edited by Tilottoma Misra
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 332, Rs.595.00

THE OXFORD ANTHOLOGY OF WRITINGS FROM NORTH-EAST INDIA: FICTION
Edited by Tilottoma Misra
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 298, Rs.595.00

VOLUME XXXVI NUMBER 3 March 2012

What Foucault says about 'identity' and the 'History of thought' holds true for any anthology as well. An anthology is a peculiar creature; it paradoxically seeks to introduce the reader to the 'identity' of a subject, while simultaneously denying the subject any nuanced positing of the self. After all, an anthology is always a glimpse of a larger world, a dressed-up shop window at best, a fragmented portrait. In The Oxford Anthology of Writings from North-East India: Poetry and Essays Tilottama Misra undertakes to lead the reader to one such 'window'.  Given that there are many unresolved issues with the popularly homogenized construct 'North-East', this anthology takes an ambitious leap of faith. The anthology comprises two parts. One volume has 102 pages of poetry and 205 pages of essays. There are 87 poems by 35 poets representing their states, which are arranged alphabetically. There are 18 essays essentially 'ranging from the philosophical to the analytical and the descriptive'. The other volume has short stories and excerpts from novels of 31 authors.The editor, in her 20 page introduction, claims to anthologize 'new trends in contemporary literature of the seven states'. The overarching theme of this anthology can be deciphered from the editor's claim that 'most of the writers who find a place in this anthology are in a sense the children of violence'. Misra says in her introduction that the authors were either exposed to the aftermath of Partition or they were the children of the times of insurgency and counter-insurgency or they are presently growing up and living through quotidian violence. Misra 'does not make any claims of comprehensiveness' and yet the editorial choice seems to be governed by the understanding of the 'North-East', which 'does not actually denote anything more than a geographical region'. The 'Introduction', duplicated verbatim in both the volumes, follows a set pattern: a brief introduction to the states' linguistic and literary history in the context of the coming of Christianity in the 19th century, a brief on the nature of literature chosen, an attempted analysis of the nature of literary discourse in the region and a bid to locate the chosen pieces into some imagined framework. In effect, Misra appears somewhat nebulous about the context and the content of the anthology. For instance, while introducing the Assamese poets, Misra writes, 'All these poets have assimilated a variety of trends from the modernist poetry of England, America and Europe (?) with the tradition ...


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