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Alternative Temporalities of Experiences of Leisure in Recent Indian Fiction


· Melina Munz University of Freiburg / CRC 1015 (Freiburg Im Breisgau, Germany)


07/28 | 18:10-18:30 UTC+2/CEST


Leisure in recent Indian fiction in English is often represented in terms of an experiential mode based on a changed perception of time. This individual form of temporality experienced by a novel’s protagonists is linked to larger questions of time in modern Indian society. In my paper, I am going to argue that the individual temporality of leisure can be understood to be part of alternative and multiple temporalities that have a subversive potential vis-à-vis hegemonic norms of temporality, that is a historically grown concept of time that is influenced by the linearity of historicism, by a unified understanding of time as homogeneous, abstract and empty, by teleological narratives of colonial domination as well as the supposed acceleration and efficiency of globalised capitalism.

I am going to analyse the representations of leisure in Upamanyu Chatterjee’s English, August (1988), Amit Chaudhuri’s A Strange and Sublime Address (1991) as well as Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss (2006). Although all three texts focus on questions of leisure, work and temporality, they represent three different approaches in commenting on an implied background of hegemonic temporality. The protagonists’ thoughts about time passing or plans for the future recede into the background, the experience is characterised by an awareness of the current moment through dense sensory impressions, by a nostalgic perspective on the past or even by a sense of being or lingering in a time without specific duration. Despite the differences in representation, the experiences are in all three novels frequently singled out as exceptional with reference to their plot and temporal structure.