The politics of loss: Post-colonial pathos and current booker prize-nominated texts from India and South Africa

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4 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores two recent texts that are connected to arguably the most prestigious English-language literary prize, the Booker — Kiran Desai’s The inheritance of loss, which received the award in 2006, and Achmat Dangor’s Bitter fruit, which was nominated for the award in 2004. The prevalence of Indian and South African writers among the shortlisted texts necessitates a closer examination of the politics that undergirds the Booker and its relationship to these locales. By focusing on the two most recently shortlisted novels from Indian and South African writers, I argue that the Prize is mediated by a politics of loss in terms of assessing post-colonial fiction from India and South Africa, where texts must fulfill Western stereotypes of what I term “post-colonial pathos” in order to contend seriously for this award. The inheritance of loss and Bitter fruit are exceptionally well-crafted novels that depict post-colonial India and South Africa as places of bitterness and unrelenting historical determinism. These texts communicate a particular idea of history and culture in this form of post-colonial pathos, and are intimately caught up in the mechanisms of empire; they are represented as being overwhelmed by their histories and marked by the triumph of loss or instability over love or redemption. The theoretical underpinnings of the Booker, which value particular things from particular places, articulate a “new” version of the old “tensions of empire” where a politics of loss is expected from Indian and South African literatures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-88
Number of pages12
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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