Welcome to the November 2014 issue
of Transnational Literature.
2014 has been a good year for the journal. Our reach becomes
constantly wider – recent statistics show that each of our
articles has been downloaded on average more than 600 times,
surely a figure most academic journals in print could only
dream about. We are proud of being a free open-access
journal, available to anyone with internet access, while
maintaining a high standard.
This issue is a typically diverse one. Although each of
the peer-reviewed articles focuses on fiction, there is
a truly international selection. We have papers on Antiguan
expatriate author Jamaica Kincaid, on Russian-Israeli literature,
on Rabindranath Tagore, and on Haruki Murakami. There is
a review essay on Indian-Danish author Tabish Khair, and
a transcript of a speech given at the launch of American-Australian
poet Jeri Kroll's latest book.
Also included is a translation of a story by Kashmiri writer
Ali Mohammad Lone (1927-1987).
Seven stories make up our prose creative writing section,
with themes ranging from suburban neurosis to literary hero-worship,
as well as the big issues – death, ageing, sex, relationships
and sexuality. Relationship to place is also important,
whether the characters are expatriates or disaffected locals:
many of the authors have travelled and lived extensively
Our poetry editor, Heather Taylor Johnson, is overseas at
a writing residency and so we have taken the opportunity
of appointing a guest poetry editor for this issue. Alison
Flett has solicited a lively collection of poems from her
Scottish colleagues, and this makes a special feature within
the poetry section, along with a group of other poems from
a broad range of writers. Read Alison's introduction
The mass migration of almost a million Russian speakers to Israel following the collapse of the Soviet Union, referred to as the Great Aliyah, marked a significant turning point in the history of Zionism. Unlike in previous waves of migration, the immigrants of the Great Aliyah defied assimilatory pressures and used the strength of their demography to build a Russian-language cultural enclave, asserting their unique identity at the expense of a speedier integration into the Israeli mainstream. This important migrant group forced the Israeli state to adopt a multiculturalist model at the expense of its traditional melting pot approach to integration. The Great Aliyah spawned a vibrant Russian-language cultural scene in Israel, and created the new literary genre of Israeli-Russian fiction. This paper seeks to examine this phenomenon, with particular focus on Israeli-Russian notions of identity, through an analysis of the work of two prominent writers: Dina Rubina, who publishes in Russian, and Ola Groisman, who publishes in Hebrew.
After the forceful displacement of people during the trans-Atlantic slave trade came another wave of migration from the one-time colonies to the colonial metropolis. This other shift was the result of political, social and economic instabilities that were witnessed during the clamour for independence of the colonies. The Africans and West Indians were particularly affected by this phenomenon as they struggled for a better and satisfying life. But the experiences of migration have not been very fulfilling to the migrants as they grapple with the experiences of race, class and gender hostilities and the ensuring sense of alienation. The discussion that follows looks at how Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy translates experiences of migration and how these experiences work in reshaping and reconstructing new identities based on the individual’s perceptions of life. It focuses on how the protagonist creates a delicate balance between native culture and colonial integration to build a new identity that transcends gender, race and class. Therefore, migration constructs spaces for the renegotiation of cultural polarities that permit the formation of transnational identities.
This essay is intended to fill the gap in the discussion of humour in Rabindranath Tagore’s writings, particularly his short stories. It argues that although Tagore is often seen as a serious writer, dealing with significant issues concerning religion, politics and culture in his work, he also had a lighter side to his personality, which enabled him to laugh at certain inherent human weaknesses, such as excessive piety, sentimentality, affectedness, arrogance and sexual jealousy, in a comic spirit, rather than being derogatory or sarcastic about them. Sometimes, this laughter was even at his own expense, caricaturing a certain drollery or oddity in his own personality, or at the expense of a close family or associate. The essay investigates four of Tagore’s short stories – “The Path to Salvation” (Muktir Upai), “The Professor” (Addhyapak), “Privacy” (Sadar O Andar) and “The Auspicious Sight” (Subhadristi) – all written during the first phase of his writing career, when he was living at Shelaidah, East Bengal, to bring home the argument that during these early years Tagore was capable of responding to life in its fullness. Thus he could empathise with its sorrows and sufferings as much as relishing its mirth and amusement, which he saw as an inalienable part of the human experience. Furthermore, the humour we encounter in these four stories is different from that in his later stories – such as “Kabuliwala,” “The Editor” (Symapadak), “Number One” (Paila Number) and “Deliverance” (Uddhar) – in that they are written in a tender and sympathetic tone, merely to tease and prod, vis-ŕ-vis his use of, in Freud’s phrases, “tendency wit” or “tendency comedy” in the latter stories.