Trespassers and Compass-Killers. Writers on the Borderline
Amitav Ghosh's novel The Shadow Lines (1988) is probably the most important fictional work to have appeared in South Asian literature in the last quarter of a century: it sums up and fictionalises all the major issues of Postcolonial literature – the search for identity, the need for independence and the difficult relationship with colonial culture, the rewriting of colonial past, an attempt at creating a new language and a new narrative form and the use of personal memory to understand communal past. In this article I try to show how Ghosh manages to do so by continually transforming the title metaphor, thus ever changing its meaning. The first part of the essay is devoted to the use of the image of borders in Postcolonial theory, and especially in Salman Rushdie’s critical essays, while the last section deals with a novel where the extreme possibilities of the same metaphor are exploited: Rayuela (Hopscotch) by Julio Cortázar.
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