English Heart, Hindi Heartland examines Delhi’s postcolonial literary world—its institutions, prizes, publishers, writers, and translators, and the cultural geographies of key neighbourhoods in light of colonial histories and the globalization of English.
Rashmi Sadana places internationally recognized authors such as Salman Rushdie, Anita Desai, and Vikram Seth in the context of debates within India about the politics of language, and alongside regionally recognized writers such as K. Satchidanandan, Shashi Deshpande, and Geetanjali Shree. She undertakes an ethnographic study of literary culture, probing the connections between place, language, and text in order to show what language comes to stand for in people’s lives.
In so doing she unmasks a social discourse rife with questions of authenticity and the cultural politics of inclusion and exclusion. She illustrates how the notion of what is considered authentic not only obscures larger questions relating to caste, religious, and gender identities, but that the authenticity discourse itself is continually in flux. To extract cultural capital from India’s linguistic hierarchies, writers deploy what Sadana calls ‘literary nationality’.
Her book argues that English in India, and the way it is positioned among the country’s other languages, does not represent a fixed pole, but rather serves to change political and literary alliances among classes and castes, often in surprising ways.