". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, November 23, 2020

Lost Empire's Lost Magic

      . . . . This morning, with tea, reading a London Review of Books's "Diverted Traffic" piece, was struck by this, as was the author:

Warren Hastings's Calcutta 1789

"... how little enduring fiction emanated from British India, despite its commanding hold on the imperial imagination. With the exception of Kipling, many novels about colonial India have fallen between the cracks: who reads Meadows Taylor or Flora Annie Steel now?"
-- Maya Jasanoff; "So Much for Staying Single" / LRB, Vol. 30 No. 6 · 20 / March 2008

However, that leaves out the most well known fiction* of all, out of the British Indian Empire, which, these days, I'd argue, is even better known than Kipling's, Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden. Though, strictly speaking, this fiction isn't 'about' India, but India and the scent of the far-off, the exotic, including the exotic right at home to the middle-class reader in the twilight of the British Empire, permeates The Secret Garden. Without India and the very idea of 'magic' Mary Lenox brings with her from India to Dickon's Yorkshire, this novel couldn't have exerted the spell upon generations of readers, which it still does, even now.

The magic of the British Isles' North in fiction -- has endured, from Sir Walter Scott, right to Ann Cleeves and beyond.

* Or would that be Paul Scott's The Jewel In the Crown, thanks to the BBC (1984)? Though those books were about the end of the Empire -- which Mary Lenox and Colin Craven would witness, while probably having lost a son or two to WWI, while one of them, if not both, may have succumbed to the Great Influenza.

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