Lady Luck Speaks

Desi dating and desires from the doctor of delight.

Sunday, April 30, 2006


Five is not the loneliest number. One is, as Filter told us in their long-forgotten hit.

Five is the number of fiction books I've read this year. I've tried my level best to get myself a copy of Gautam Malkarni's 'Londonistani' but the Waterstones I went into had run out. A pity, since Malkarni seems like a nice guy - just like that Sathnam Sangera from the FT.

I have however, had the misfortune to have read this effort and the much-hyped 'Brick Lane' in the past - which makes me more than qualified to have an opinion on Sarfraz Mansoor's latest piece in today's Observer.

Mansoor's piece comments on what the reading public expects from an Asian fiction writer, with 'authenticity' being the bugbear of multiculturalism. Readers are supposedly fed-up of seeing writers credited with telling typically Asian stories coming from an 'atypical' background - think either Oxbridge-educated, mixed race, in mixed-race relationships or all of the above.

He considers the valid example of recently-lauded 'Foxy-T', written by an ethnic Englishman. Tony White's portrayal of Bengali immigrants is similar to Malkarni's portrayal of disaffected Hounslow boys. What makes White artistic and Malkarni 'inauthentic'? An atypical background doesn't stop you from a) having an imagination and b) writing well. I'm agreed with Sam Leith that 'middle-class people - mixed-race or otherwise - are more likely to get their books published', purely because class and education do make a difference.

If you've benefited from a good education, you'll have read a lot more, thought a lot more about literary technique, and be more likely in the first place to think that writing a novel is worth your while.

Aspirations aside, it's disappointing to see Asians who do well being held up for intense scrutiny. The triple burden of being either a historian, spokesperson or role-model shouldn't be imposed on people who don't set out wanting to be one.


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