Kunapipi 14 (3) 1992 Full Version
Anna Rutherford 0
0 Univeristy of Aarhus , Denmark
Kunapipi is a tri-annual arts magazine with special but not exclusive
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Copyright© 1992 by KUNAPIPI
This book is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study,
research, criticism or review as permitted under the Copyright Act no part may be
reproduced without written permission. Enquiries should be made to the editor.
VOLUME XIV NUMBER 3, 1992
Kunapipi is published with assistance from the Literature Board of the
Australia Council, the Federal Government's arts funding and advisory
body, and the European branch of the Association for Commonwealth Lit
erature and Language Studies.
We are grateful to the Commonwealth Foundation for its support in pr()
viding subscriptions to Kunapipi for Third World countries.
We wish to thank Thomas Yoseloff for permission to reprint the wood cut
which appeared in The Voyage of the Bounty Launch, edited by Owen Rutter
and first printed by Golden Cockerell Press in 1934.
COVER: Wood cut by Robert Gibbings.
Kunapipi refers to the Australian Aboriginal myth of the Rainbow Serpent
which is the symbol both of creativity and regeneration. The journaft
emblem is to be found on an Aboriginal shield from the Roper River al'l!l
of the Northern Territory in Australia.
Jtme Downing, 'The Cup'
Ksmchan11 Ugbabe, 'The White Rooster'
Umdeg White, Excerpts from Bounty:
'The First Man'
Stephen Gray, 'The Anna Mary Letters'
Paul Hetherington , 'A Deep Verandah'
MArk Milhemoff, 'Fictional Streets'
Gtoff Goodfellow, 'Crossover'
fdm Stephen Martin, 'Henry Adams Meets Robert Louis
Stevenson: Ambiguous Perceptions of the South Seas'
mku li1rbi Korang, 'Ama Ata Aidoo's Voyage Out:
Mapping the Coordinates of Modernity and African
Selfhood in Our Sister Killjoy'
Drlvid Leahy, 'Running in the Family, Volkswagen Blues and
Heroine: Three Post/Colonial Post-Modernist Quests?'
Clrol Sicherman, "'Transport Me ... into the Hearts of Men":
Bharati Mukherjee's Darkness'
Geoff Goodfellow Interviewed by Gordon Collier and
I THE HEARING
The case is Christian's mutiny. But your court
Won't stomach that Christian. It smells of
Mercy. This tale's awash like the Bounty's
Bilge with meanings no one wants. Ay, it was
Christian's mutiny. We were all there, you
All saw, Adams, black Matthew, gunner Mills,
By Christ, Adam's mutiny! Jack Adams, John Doe,
Every-man-Jack's mutiny! But your Lords
Need a hanging, not this tale rippling
Irishly like a stone in a green lagoon.
I remember the white untidy beach, my head
A washed up coconut jumping with sandflies.
If my fiddle were jailed and not fa thorn
Five in the Barrier Reef singing to catfish.
I'd strike up a jig the court martial
Would dance to! Michael Byrne, Irish fiddler,
Two thirds blind, on trial for my life.
I kissed that maid and went away, Says she, Young man, why don't ye stay
George Stewart, midshipman. That's a truly
Life matter! Gentle George, drowned in leg-irons
In a panic of keys while your Captain Edwards
Jumps ship as light and easy as he's danced
From your court. Tacks his ship on the coral?
Huzzah! Drowns his shipmates? Well away!
And George's bounty, sweet brown Peggy, who
Ever chose a better wife in the South Seas
Or England? Crouched on the poop by the cage
Keening and I could smell the blood, George
Heaving at his chains yelling she was bloodying
The baby and us cursing double Edwards
She was after carving open her scalp
With a shark's tooth.
All dark his hair, all dim his eye, I knew that he had said goodbye. I'll cut my breasts until they bleed. His form had gone in the green weed.
Did she see her midshipman
Dead in Edward's box on Great Barrier Reef?
A life matter truly! And now I recall
The oath he swore her in Matavai bay
He'd never again set foot in muddy
England with its watery sun and broomsticks.
That sweet sundown with the wind offshore
Drunk with blossoms no white man had named,
He held up his left arm to my better eye
And I squinted at a heart with a dart
Through it and a black star. "What's this?"
I warbles, and he says "tattoo." Took him
All day and hurt like blazes. But permanent.
One of their words, tattoo. Strange how we
Needed their lingo to make a landfall.
English boy, please tell to me What is the custom in your country?
The new Cythera. Two volcanic breasts
And a fern-lined valley. Half a degree
Leeward, you'd miss it. I'll say this for Bligh,
In the whole South Seas he'd smell out one
Breadfruit tree on a rock. But Tahiti
Scuttled us. There were oceans we couldn't
Sail and that island named them: taboo.
Another locution we harboured. We're
All marked with Tahiti, hearts and stars
And commemorations. You, Millward, is it
God's truth you've Tahiti's chart on your yard
And testicles? Morrison, scratching your
Journal of excuses, is your loving groin
Gartered with Honi soit qui mal y pense?
How d'you hope to escape hanging after
Pledges like that? Leave Bligh out of it,
Truly the only blind man in Tahiti,
A poor fool with his rules and longitudes
While Michael Byrne, fiddler, kept watch.
Taboo: Christian's mutiny. Ten of us
Of twenty-five still waiting to be hung.
King Louis had a prison, He called it his Bastille, One day the people tore it down And made King Louis kneel.
U THE FIRST MAN
the fifth Age when
cunning gave birth to mockery.
JOHN STEPHEN MARTIN
Henry Adams Meets Robert Louis
Stevenson: Ambiguous Perceptions
o f the South Seas
There is little scribal literature in nineteenth-century Polynesia, since those
societies were 'oral'. There were only a few literary travellers from the
West to this part of the world, and few who attempted to record the liter
ature. Virtually all that is 'literate' about the South Seas of that time are
the visions by Europeans expressing their own ambiguous approaches to
an Otherness which challenged Western life. This paper is a short study
of two literary travellers who did observe the societies of the South Seas
and recorded some of the literatures, but at the same time persisted in
making these observations merely a reflection of their own interests.
Robert Louis Stevenson had come to the South Seas in 1888 because of
respiratory problems. Sent by the New York Sun to write a series of travel
letters of the region, Stevenson intended to return in 1889, but became
convinced that he needed the tropics to survive. The letters - later
collected under the title, In the South Seas - were full of history, geology,
anthropology, oral legends, and notices of language, gathered during two
of the three voyages Stevenson made. Coming first from Hawaii to Tahiti,
Stevenson translated some Tahitian literature, but also worked on The
Master of Ballantrae and 'Ticonderoga', works in his earlier mode that had
given him his reputation. At the same time, meeting Prince Ori-a-Ori of
the Tahitian royal family, Stevenson became his brother by exchanging
names with him, taking Ori's longer name Teriitera.1
Early in 1889, Stevenson, accompanied by his wife Fanny, began a sec
ond voyage to some remote islands not previously visited or written about
by other Europeans. These islands included the Gilberts where drunken
natives threatened them until the King, a whimsical tyrant, protected
them, and thereby induced Stevenson's admiration?
In December, 1889, the Stevensons landed at Apia, Samoa, and Stevenson
purchased a four hundred acre estate- Vailima - three miles from Apia,
intending to become a plantation lord.3 He left Samoa afterwards only
once for short visits to Australia and Hawaii before he died in December,
His life at Samoa was curious. On the one hand, he spoke against the
semi-slave labour system used by American and European plantation and
trade groups, and was subjected to attacks from those groups in the local
papers. He began to record the history of colonialism, and supported the
native king against the foreign powers. When the natives revolted, Steven
son allowed them to use his home as sanctuary and when they were de
feated, he intervened to safeguard them from wholesale execution. Steven
son also took some ostentatious delight in aiding native prisoners, seem
ingly to rebuke the local colonials from the Western world.4
Interestingly, however, Stevenson wrote in his story entitled 'Mackintosh'
of a Samoan who murders his white lord who has forced the Polynesians
to build roads; the story possibly reflects the fact that Stevenson himself
boasted, somewhat as a 'Lord', of his role in getting the local chieftains to
As for Fanny, she too experienced a division of soul. While she enjoyed
the islands as a visitor, it was quite something else to consider settling
there for her husband's health. Doubts about getting on with the natives
may have led to Fanny's mental break-down in 1893, which in Stevenson's
description appears to be a case of manic-depression.6
Reflecting these ambiguous facts, Stevenson's travel book In the South
Sells marks a transition in his work. In it, Stevenson tells tales and stories
similar to Herman Melville's portrayal of the rituals of cannibalism, tattoo
ing, and feasting found in the novel Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life. Unlike
Melville, however, Stevenson dwelled with some relish on these activities.
In his 1890 edition of Ballads, Stevenson relates some of the Polynesian
tales he has heard, based on histories of murder and revenge, but he could
not sustain a narrative line and their plots, seemingly mythic in the tradi
tion of oral literatures, remain elusive to Western audiences?
However, the presence of Otherness in these stories influenced his
themes in his three novels about the South Seas - The Wrecker, The Ebb
Tide, and The Beach of Falesti. In these works, Stevenson fully undermined
the Western idea of the South Seas as an Eden, a paradise of free love, and
the home of 'the noble savage'. Instead, Stevenson's stories examine the
Mr. Hyde-like invigoration of Westerners in response to evil in a world of
For example, in the novel The £bb-Tide (1893), three impoverished
Western outcasts from Tahiti seek to murder an English gentleman named
Attwater, who has become rich through pearl fishing and controls his pri
vate island. Being outcasts, they seek to murder Attwater for his wealth.
However, Attwater shows himself to be a tyrant who is utterly ruthless
because he is secure in his beliefs as a Christian evangelist and Victorian
moralist. One of the outcasts, an exiled Englishman who understands the
mde of the gentleman, is urged to poison Attwater. This places him in a
dilemma. Not killing Attwater would mean siding with Attwater's civil
ized tyranny. Killing him would place him as a renegade pirate. The man
must make a decision in a universe which has no clear moral divisions.
lndeed, all the men must make a similar decision, and the story ends with
'the ebb-tide' of each of the outcasts being discontented with any and all
choices. Here Stevenson depicted how the moral and social problems of
the West have destroyed the very paradise of freedom sought.
Curiously, despite such a transformation in his thought, Stevenson's life
in Samoa was interpreted in the fin-de-siecle West simply as an idyllic
escape. Indeed, his hermitage at Samoa was an inspiration for the Amer
ican historian Henry Adams, who, along with the painter John La Farge,
was setting out in July, 1890, on his own voyage through Hawaii, Samoa,
Tahiti, Fiji, Australia and Ceylon: 'I expect to be a pirate in the South Seas
... imitating Robert Louis Sterhenson [sic] .... Civilisation becomes an
intolerable bore at moments...'
Adams also expressed a wish to meet Stevenson, and he did, in mid
October, 1890. Adams, a satirist of great power, parodied Stevenson as the
restless European, weak and complaining, clearly an outsider and full of
contradictions evident to others if not himself. Stevenson reportedly
praised Samoan life except when he tried to account for his lingering dis
contents, in which case he praised Tahiti as a greener pasture.
Adams attributed Stevenson's nervous restlessness to his disease, but he
also, with some sympathy, questioned his sanity: 'he cannot be quiet, but
sits down, jumps up, darts off and flies back, at every sentence he utters,
and eyes and features gleam with a hectic glow...'9
However, more generally, Adams was satiric and never grasped the
transformation of spirit that Stevenson was experiencing. Rather, he
typified Stevenson as a Westerner 'gone bush', and thus similar to a
madman. Adams wrote to John Hay of Stevenson after having met him
and then having gone on to Tahiti:
Of all the Scotch lunatics who have helped to distort and mislead my mind since
the reign of Lady Macbeth, I believe Robert Louis Stevenson to be the daftest.... He
gave us an idea of Talti that Paradise could not satisfy. All the men were Apollos;
all the women were, if not chaste, at least in other respects divine. He detested
Samoa and the Samoans, but adored Talti and Tailians; though, to do him justice,
he always excepted Papeete which he recognised as a hole. I have now seen all of
Taili that he ever saw.... The result has been one consecutive disappointment which
would have been quite unnecessary had Stevenson been only idiotic.10
However, this same letter revea ls an ambiguity of attitudes present in
Adams. I laving first run down Tahiti, Adams himself then eulogized it for
its surreal qualities, especially in the singling out of the colour purple, the
chosen colour of the melancholic fin -de-siecle to be found in the paintings
of Paul Gaugin:
The landscape is lovelier than any well-regulated soaker of Absynthe could require
to dream in; but it is the loveliness of an ame perdue. In Talti, the sense of the real
always shocks me; but the unreal is divine. I can see nothing here but what is
tinged with violet or purple, always faintly or positively melancholy; yet the melan
choly glows like sapphires and opals.11
Stevenson's beliefs and behaviour reflected much of Adams's soul.
Adams was very Bostonian in attacking Stevenson for his lack of Western
decorum and apparent uncleanliness. He socialized with the American
consul in Samoa and joked about Stevenson's behaviour, noting how
Stevenson often deferred social engagements because of his Jack of dress.
Ignoring Stevenson's real poverty, Adams portrayed him and his wife as
true 'gone bush' Westerners who no longer knew how to present them
selves to their fellows. In the same letter to Elizabeth Cameron cited
before, Adams played upon the American view of the poor Irish. Stephen
son's home was said to be in
a clearing dotted with burned stumps exactly like a clearing in our backwoods. In
the middle stood a two-story Irish shanty with steps outside to the upper floor, and
a galvanized iron roof. A pervasive atmosphere of dirt seemed to hang around it;
and squalor like a railroad navvy's board hut.
Adame; went on to fix his first impression of Stevenson and his wife for
ever in his mind:
As we reached the steps a figure came out that I cannot do justice to. Imagine a
man so thin and emaciated that he looked like a bundle of sticks in a bag, with a
head and eyes morbidly intelligent and restless. He was costumed in very dirty
striped cotton pyjamas, the baggy legs tucked into coarse knit woollen stockings,
one of which was bright brown in color, the other a purplish dark tone. With him
was a woman who retired for a moment into the house to reappear a moment after
wards, probably in some change of costume, but, as far as I could see, the change
could have consisted only in putting shoes on her bare feet. She wore the usually
missionary nightgown which was no cleaner than her husband's shirt and drawers,
but she omitted the stockings. Her complexion and eyes were dark and strong, like
a half-breed Mexican.12
Describing the same meeting to John Hay, Adams altered his metaphor
from 'shanty Irish' to 'birds', and wrote:
Stevenson and his wife were perched - like queer birds - mighty queer ones too.
Stevenson has cut some of his hair; if he had not, I think he would have been
positively alarming. He seems never to rest, but perches like a parrot on every
available projection, jumping from one to another, and talking incessantly. The
parrot was very dirty and ill-clothed as we saw him, being perhaps caught un
awares, and the female was in rather worse trim than the male.13
Adams recalled these depictions when speaking of yet another visit:
We found Stevenson and his wife just as they had appeared at our first call, except
that Mrs Stevenson did not now think herself obliged to put on slippers, and her
night-gown costume had apparently not been washed since our visit. Stevenson
himself wore still a brown knit woollen sock on one foot, and a greyish purple sock
on the other, much wanting in heels, so that I speculated half my time whether it
was the same old socks, or the corresponding alternates, and concluded that he
must have worn them ever since we first saw him. They were evidently his slippers
for home wear.14
Stevenson was apparently unaware of these views, and was himself civil
and complimentary. Writing to Sidney Colvin, his editor, Stevenson said:
'when Adams and Lafarge [sic] go ..., it will be a great blow. I am getting
spoiled with all this good society.'15 And to their mutual friend, Henry
James, Stevenson wrote: 'We have had enlightened society: Lafarge the
painter, and your friend Henry Adams: a great privilege- would it might
Despite his Bostonian attitudes that precluded an understanding of
Stevenson's new material on the South Seas, Adams was personally at
tracted to Stevenson, and often was ambiguous in the same paragraph, as
when writing to John Hay:
Stevenson absolutely loves dirty vessels and suffocating cabins filled with mildew
and cockroaches; he has gone off to Sydney chiefly, I think, to get some more sea
dirt on, the land-dirt having become monotonous. By the bye, for our eternal souls'
sake, don't repeat what I say of the Stevensons, for he has been extremely and
voluntarily obliging to us. I have none but the friendliest feelings for him, and
would not for the world annoy him by ill-natured remarks; yet he is dirtyY
Stevenson, it seems, was Adams' model of the perfect social renegade
the man who escaped the oppressive parameters of Western middle-class
society. However, Stevenson was also Adams' model of the outsider- the
man who both sensed and represented the Otherness of life for the literate
Westerner of the day. This recognition brought Adams and La Farge to
sympathize with Fanny, whom Adams earlier likened to a 'wild Apache'
and an 'Apache squaw'. 18 'Both La Farge and I came round to a sort of lik
ing for Mrs Stevenson, who is more human than her husband. Stevenson
is an ailu, - uncanny...'19 To John Hay, Adams defined ailu, or aiku, as
a Samoan ghost, spirit, or demon in the Greek sense. The islands swarm with ai'ku,
sometimes friendly, as of dead parents or children; sometimes hostile, as of
tempters; occasionally verging on fetishes or symbols like the rainbow, or certain
rocks; but at bottom simply uncanny. This is the note of Stevenson, although to us
he has been human, not to say genial.20
Speaking of one evening that was 'wet and gloomy', Adams related to
John Hay a moment of Stevenson's ai1u, what might well have been the
basis of Stevenson's novel, The Ebb-Tide:
I shall never forget the dirty cotton bag with its sense of skeleton within, and tbe
long, hectic face with its flashing dark eyes, flying about on its high verandah, and
telling us of strange men and scenes in oceans and islands where no sane traveller
would consent to be dragged unless to be eaten.21
The point is that the ambiguity that Adams found fertile for his parody
of 'the bushed Westerner' was present in his own beliefs and underlay his
voyage, as he constantly revealed his own dis-ease. For example, when
mentioning to John Hay that he was impressed with Stevenson's energy
and sense of the uncanny, he would slip in his own complaints:
My dyspepsia here is greatly modified by a counter-diet of mangoes.... Stevenson
is the only man whose energy resists the atmosphere, and Stevenson owes it to his
want of flesh to perspire with. La Farge usually announces his arrival in one of the
happy phrases which are La Farge's exclusive property: 'Here comes the aiku/'22
In sum, the parody of Stevenson's Otherness allowed Adams to acknow
ledge tangentially his own struggle with an enervating dyspepsia and his
ceaseless case of Western 'nerves'.23
Adams had initially spoken of his voyage as a happy, even sexual, quest
for the 'old-gold maiads in Nukuheva' -the Marquesian isle of Melville's
mythic Typee natives.24 The truth was that Adams was deeply disturbed
by the inexplicable suicide of his wife in 1885 and the deaths of his own
father and mother in 1888 and 1889 -deaths which signalled the end of
his eighteenth-century convictions about his place in life. After his return
to the United States, Adams would express his bewilderment about life in
his celebrated The Education of Henry Adams (1907), which focused on
living in a modern, technological society with values that have more in
common with the eighteenth century.
Adams's voyage was to have been an escape from his old life as the
author of a monumental nine-volume History of the United States during the
Administrations oflefferson and Madison (1889-1891). In fact, the only things
that he found of interest in Stevenson were observations he could relate
to his Western concepts of the evolution of nations. His letters were ob
sessed with questions about the place of the Polynesians in the history of
the world. Were the Samoans more advanced culturally than the Tahitians
or Fijians? What was the meaning of 'culture'? What was the relative
status of each of these people on the cycle of history exemplified by the
rise and possible fall of the United States and the previous republics of the
West? What were the motive forces of history?
Adams acknowledged Stevenson's intimate knowledge of the South
Seas.25 On the other hand, when Adams learned that Stevenson's travel
letters were being published in the New York Sun, he wrote: 'I am curious
to see his letters in the Sun. I never met a man with less judgment, and on
venture I would damn in advance any opinion he should express, but he
is excessively intelligent...'26
From the few citations presented here, it is evident that the bulk of their
conversations dealt with the relative status of the Polynesian nations, and
the two men disagreed and sought to articulate those differences.27 Adams
wanted to rank the peoples according to their morals, such as family life,
warfare, and relation between the sexes. It was a Victorian frame of ideo
logy: if the morals of these people resembled those of Westerners because
of colonial influences, they were to be considered decadent, on the down
ward course. All this was complicated for Adams by the fact that the Fiji
ans still practised the clubbing of their women; ironically, if Fijians were
considered to be a race yet to evolve, they had already passed be/'ond an
heroic age since they lacked any evident poetry, oral or written.2 In con
trast, the Tahitians, who inducted Adams into brotherhood (as they had
earlier done with Stevenson),29 had an oral history (which Adams himself
recorded),30 and should have been in their formative stage; however, for
Adams, Tahitian history was 'sad' and 'melancholic' because of European
domination, and deserving of the colour purple with its fin-de-siecle over
In contrast, Stevenson saw the people of Polynesia less ideologically and
more ambiguously. In his travel book In the South Seas, Polynesians were
an indigenous race- with a development distinct from the West, including
the matters of morals. Their history of cannibalism and practices of tattoo
ing were aiku -u ncanny matters of an Other world- only to the Western
mind. However, unable to find a thread in such matters, Stevenson trans
formed their Otherness into an image of what could threaten a Westerner
who was not able to believe any longer in the morals and values of his
heritage. This was the thrust of the novel The Ebb-Tide.
The lives of these two men summarize two Western perceptions, neither
adequate, of the islands: a pristine Paradise, about to be lost to Western
consciousness as the price of 'progress', and a landscape of emptiness
asking to be 'filled in' and rendered 'meaningful' by Western beliefs.
Superficially, these two men seemed totally different - Stevenson the
apparent renegade, Adams a somewhat fastidious Bostonian. However,
both were belated romantics. To the romantic, the world was an Other. To
the belated romantic, one's self was an Other that continually surprised
one's conventional self, denied one belief in traditional values, and chal
lenged one to partake of the Other even at the cost of one's presumed self.
THE ANNA MARY LETTERS
To Hans Christian Andersen
1 Jan. 1869
Dear Mr Andersen, My name is Anna Mary,
Last-borne of Mary my mother, deceased
Of the desert fever while I was but a 'wee bairn';
I am but ten, too young to remember her voice.
I do like your fairy tales so much - the tin soldier and the ugly,
Ugly duckling. I would like to go and visit you;
When Papa comes home from Africa I intend
To ask him to take me. I live where he began
As a piecer of cotton, threading those bales...
Long enough to join us over six thousand miles;
What with the water-thrust and water-damp
The Clyde is perfect for the manufacture of cloth;
Without cotton my dolly'd have no clothes.
I'm sure he will agree. In the New Year.
17 June 1871
Four of his children in this cottage on the Clyde; good and damp
Enough to drive the cotton, even if it's not Victoria Falls.
I send you the photo of my Papa and me:
His arm is about me and mine about my dolly.
I would like you to notice my hoop-skirt and pantaloons,
But not my face and hair scooped away, ugly still;
Papa draws back breath and calls me 'sprightly' now;
If you ask me he's forgotten the meaning of his own hearth;
He says we're sickly and weak, bad seed,
But he's the one won't kiss for bad teeth, rotten tongue;
He was born here, he should know; we were born
In the wildest desert so generous, where a man may breathe indeed.
30. See Jean-Claude Lauzon's recent film, Uo/o, for a variation on this lament for an un
achieved nation, in which Pierre Bourgault, formerly one of Quebec's most militant
nationalist leaders, plays an ambiguous, spectral keeper of a strange baroque
museum of quebecois cultural artifacts. Leo, the precocious protagonist, who would
prefer to be identified as an Italian (Leolo), has no worthy male figure to emulate
within his dysfunctional family and eventually succumbs to the ingrown madness
inherited from his grandfather.
Set forth for the benefit of
poore Schollers, where the
Master hath not time to
From a 1656 writing book.
'Transport Me ... into the Hearts of Men': Bharati Mukherjee's Darkness
'Transport M e ... into the Hearts o f
Men': Bharati Mukherjee's Darkness
In the miniature painting described by Bharati Mukherjee in 'Courtly
Vision', the final story of Darkness, we see an emblem of Mukherjee's own
art,1 an example of intertextuality in which the description of a painting
becomes a text that provides the entire book 'with a means of interpreting
it and of justifying its formal and semantic peculiarities'? Mukherjee's
anonymous painter depicts 'Count Barthelmy, an adventurer from beyond
frozen oceans', admiring 'a likeness of the Begum, painted on a grain of
rice by Basawan, the prized court artist' (p. 195); at the end of the story,
the Emperor Akbar - third and most notable of the six great Mughal
emperors- cries out: 'You, Basawan, who can paint my Begum on a grain
of rice, see what you can do with the infinite vistas the size of my opened
hand... Transport me ... into the hearts of men' (p. 199). As he leads his
army out of the capital, Akbar wishes not merely to travel to meet the
enemy but to engage in a more thrilling kind of travel, a voyage of the
mind and heart. He wants to be transported.
In this kind of 'transport', a spiritual and intellectual ecstasy, individual
identity is expanded, translated, so that multiple identities coexist in a
single consciousness. Mukherjee is herself a 'translated' person, in the root
sense (borne across) noted by Salman Rushdie? and Mukherjee's fiction
translates Indian and Western cultures into one another. As Rushdie says,
while 'it is normally supposed that something always gets lost in transla
tion ... something can also be gained';4 rootlessness 'can lead to a kind of
multiple rooting'.5 This may be a peculiarly Indian concept: for Mukherjee
and Rushdie, the 'translated' person experiences loss and gain, not one or
the other, as Shiva is male and female, not one or the other.6 Such a person
does not have a single identity but, instead, 'a set of fluid identities' (Dark
ness, 'Introduction', p. 3).
In her introduction to Darkness, Mukherjee charts her path from a V.S.
:-Jaipaul-style 'expatriate' living in Canada and describing her characters'
pain with 'mordant and self-protective irony' to its opposite - an assimil
ated, Henry Roth-style 'American writer' of tolerant insight into an extra
ordinary range of characters (pp. 2-3).7 Like her character Dr. Manny Patel,
a psychiatrist at Creedmore State Mental Hospital, she 'is not one for
nostalgia ... not an expatriate but a patriot' (p. 98) who has accepted the
--------------------------------------------task of defining the term 'American', welcoming assimilation as something
'genetic' rather than 'hyphenated' or 'hybrid'/ abandoning her earlier
irony because it was 'the privilege of observers and of affluent societies'.9
'Chameleon-skinned,' Mukherjee now enters 'lives ... that are manifestllo
not my own ... across the country, and up and down the social ladder'. 0
The final stage of Mukherjee's transformation from 'expatriate' to 'im
migrant' - an immigrant whose 'roots are here' in the United States11
took place while she was writing her section of Days and Nights in Calcutta,
a nonfiction account published in 1977 of a year spent in Calcutta with her
Canadian-American husband, Clark Blaise, and their two sons. Although
in May 1979 she still referred to herself as an 'expatriate writer'/2 she had
shifted to the term 'immigrant writer' by 1981, when she said she was 'still
hoping to write the great Canadian novel'.13 That hope was destroyed by
her increasingly bitter perception of Canadian racism, described in her
controversial article 'An Invisible Woman',14 and her liberating immigra
tion to the United States. That immigration resulted in Darkness, in which
for the first time she achieved her ambition to 'break out of mimicry to re
The range of theme and setting achieved in Darkness is the ground of
Mukherjee's subsequent work to date. Middlerru:ln and Other Stories,16 the
book that followed Darkness, implied her willingness to be a 'middleman'
for the stories of Americans and permanent residents of many ethnicities
besides the Indo-Americans who dominate Darkness. The stories in Middle
man are located throughout the United States and in Mexico, Canada, and
Sri Lanka; they depict Americans of varied ethnic backgrounds as well as
Hungarians, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Trinidadians, Afghans, and Asian
Indians of many stripes. Continuing this expansiveness, her latest novel,
Jasmine, takes place in Punjab, Florida, New York City, and rural Iowa.
I wish here to define the connections between Mukherjee's art and her
themes in Darkness, above all the titular theme. I begin by demonstrating
how 'Courtly Vision' serves as summation though not summary of the
book, for the themes of 'Courtly Vision' - art, sex, the encounter between
East and West, spirituality- echo those of the preceding eleven stories. In
attempting such large themes in the frame of a miniature- 'Courtly Vi
sion' occupies a mere five pages, Darkness itself only 199- Mukherjee the
American adopts and adapts the aesthetic of
the Moghul miniature painting with its crazy foreshortening of vanishing point, its
insistence that everything happens simultaneously... In the miniature paintings of
India there are a dozen separate foci, the most complicated of stories can be
rendered on a grain of rice, the comers are as elaborated as the centers. There is a
sense of the interpenetration of all things.17
'Total vision': that is what Mukherjee's Emperor Akbar demands of Basa
wan/8 his leading painter and it is what Mukherjee demands of herself.
'Transport Me ... into the Hearts of Men': Bharati Mukherjee's D_a_rk_ne_ss _ _ __
In 'Courtly Vision', Mukherjee describes a painting such as we've en
countered in earlier stories- a painting such as Nafeesa in 'The Lady from
Lucknow' hangs in rows in her house in Atlanta (p. 30), such as Leela's
husband takes her to see at Sotheby's in New York (p. 129), such as the
cynical Maharaja 'sell[s] off ... for ten thousand dollars' to Americans 'who
understand our things better than we do ourselves' (p. 135), such as Dr.
Manny Patel's American ex-wife, Camille, retains as part of the divorce
settlement. Wayne, Camille's lover, holds her 'against dusty glass, behind
which an emperor in Moghul battledress is leading his army out of the
capital... Wayne has her head in his grasp. Her orange hair tufts out
between his knuckles, and its orange mist covers the bygone emperor and
his soldiers' (p. 154). The violent collocation of red-headed American and
Mughal emperor- the painting may be the very one described in 'Courtly
Vision'- is typical of Mukherjee's work, leaving the reader to tease mean
ing out of the mist.
Mukherjee's extraordinary verbal miniature in 'Courtly Vision' is not
immediately recognizable as a story in the sense that the other pieces in
Darkness are. The opening paragraphs are disorienting:
Jahanara Begum stands behind a marble grille in her palace at Fatehpur-Sikri.
Count Barthelmy, an adventurer from beyond frozen oceans, crouches in a
lust-darkened arbor... The Count is posed full-front... (p. 195)
Gradually, one realizes that some, although not all, of the language is that
of a subliterary genre, the auction-house catalogue, as the concluding
words make plain:
"Emperor on Horseback Leaves Walled City"
Painting on Paper, 24 ems x 25.8 ems
Painter Unknown. No superscription
c. 1584 A.D.
Lot No. SLM 4027-66
Est. Price $750 (p. 199)
As the dollar sign indicates, the painting is being auctioned in the United
States; one remembers ' the Fraser Collection of Islamic miniatures at the
York Avenue galleries' that Leela Lahiri in 'Hindus' visits at Sotheby's
New York auction house (p. 129).19
'Emperor on Horseback Leaves Walled City' is divided into a number of
distinct scenes. The title points to the figure of highest stature, the Em
peror Akbar, who 'occupies the foreground of that agate-colored paper'
(p. 198). In the story, however, we do not hear about his scene until more
than halfway through. Mukherjee's opening paragraph focuses on another
scene, singling out one of Akbar's numerous wives and naming her
Jahanara Begum20 - just as many of these stories place in the center those
who appear marginal in North American society. In contrast to
Mukherjee's stories of the marginal, however, in the painting we see major
figures on the stage of Indian history as well as the slave girls, courtiers,
and other anonymous attendants.
Anyone acquainted with Mughal painting would recognize the 'walled
city' as Akbar's City of Victory, Fatehpur-Sikri, the splendid complex of
buildings that the emperor ordered constructed in 1571 and then aban
doned in 1585, a year after the date of Mukherjee's painting;21 Mukherjee's
visionary Akbar knows that soon 'my new capital will fail, will turn to
dust and these marbled terraces be home to jackals and infidels' (p. 199),
although Fatehpur-Sikri will remain preserved in paintings and in fact
exists today for tourists. In including Basawan in his painting, Mukherjee's
painter is paying tribute to the most phenomenonally gifted of Akbar's
stable of brilliant painters. Basawan and Mukherjee's unknown painter
share the twin purposes of documenting historical events and 'transport
ing' the viewer into the 'hearts of men'.
Mukherjee's painting records a specific moment in history, when Portu
guese Jesuit priests arrived in response to Akbar's warm invitation to visit
and to bring 'the principal books of the Law and the Gospels'?2 Their visit
was documented by Akbar's artists.23 But just as Akbar's painters reached
far beyond merely documenting Fatehpur-Sikri, the verbal art of 'Courtly
Vision' reaches far beyond the confines of a catalogue description; inter
woven with the language of the catalogue is the language of the fiction
writer - interpreting, describing, implying:
[The) simple subservience [of the Begum's slave girl] hints at malevolent dreams
... The Begum is a tall, rigid figure as she stands behind a marble grille...
Oh, beauteous and beguHing Begum, has your slave-girl apprised the Count of the
consequences of a night of bliss? (p. 196)
Mukherjee is playing (seriously) with her reader, melding the genres of
fiction, history, and the auction-house catalogue in order to clarify her
subject. That subject is nothing less than the complexities of mind and feel
ing produced when a person from one highly developed culture travels
to, and then enters into, another such culture.
Besides the lustful (and apparently fictitious) Count Barthelmy, two other
(and historical) European travellers are depicted in Mukherjee's painting.
'Fathers [Rudolph] Aquaviva and [Francis] Henriques, ingenuous Portu
guese priests' who 'have dogged the emperor through inclement scenery'
(p. 197), now sit under the Begum's window. While Barthelmy is trans
ported by lust, the supremely assured Jesuits have come in order to trans
port- that is, to proselytize the people whom they meet- but not to be
transported themselves. Through the letters of the historical Aquaviva and
Henriques rings their anticipation of Akbar's conversion in response to the
Christian texts and paintings that they have brought. Although failing in
its ultimate aim, the Jesuit mission left lasting aesthetic traces, for the
'wondrous paintings' (p. 197) that they brought introduced themes and
techniques of Western art that had an immediate influence on Indian
painting?4 'Courtly Vision' invites us to look back on Darkness to observe
the multiple perspectives of Western and Indian art, to see how Mukherjee
herself has 'accommodate[d] a decidedly Hindu imagination with an
Americanized sense of the craft of fiction'.25 In 'Courtly Vision' she implies
that what appears to be a book of short stories about mostly unconnected
characters26 has a unity analogous to that of a Mughal miniature incorp
orating several related but separate scenes, a unity discoverable by the dis
The structure of 'Emperor on Horseback Leaves Walled City' - and
therefore of 'Courtly Vision' and, ultimately, of Darkness - is distinctly
nonWestern. As Mukherjee leads us through the painting's multiple
scenes, it may seem (to a Western eye) an exquisitely painted hodgepodge,
intolerably overpopulated with innumerable anonymous bit players and
six named major characters (Akbar, Basawan, Fathers Aquaviva and
Henriques, Count Barthelmy, and Jahanara Begum). Yet the painting is
unified by style and by themes that it shares with many of the stories in
Darkness, above all the themes of art and of darkness.
'Courtly Vision' is about a work of art that itself includes two scenes
with a specifically artistic content, the scene in which the Jesuits display
European paintings 'on the arabesques of the rug' (p. 197) and the scene
depicting Akbar's farewell to Basawan; the latter, which concludes the
story, occupies the largest space. Whereas Mukherjee's imagined painting
offers 'life's playful fecundity' (p. 197), the European paintings depicted
within it- monotonously repeating the theme of 'Mother and Child, Child
and Mother' (p. 197)- set 'precarious boundaries' on that fecundity: here
Mukherjee implies a sort of allegory of the relationship she establishes
between the 'precarious boundaries' set by Western rules and the non
Western rules that paradoxically enclose the 'boundaries' as her imagined
painting includes the European art. To the emperor, raised in Islam, the
European paintings seem 'simple and innocuous, not complicated and in
furiating like the Hindu icons hidden in the hills' (p. 197) and implicit in
the imagined painting. When Akbar calls a last command to Basawan, his
'co-wanderer'- 'Give me total vision'- Mukherjee implies that Basawan's
vision will incorporate Western perspectives; even more important, she
implies that Basawan will experience that state of being 'united with the
universe' that she describes as her own feeling when she wrote these
stories (p. 1). This experience, of course, is what used to be called 'inspira
tion,' and it is related to the state of 'grace' to which several of her charac
ters aspire (pp. 10-11, 60, 69, 146) and which may be symbolized by the
light toward which Akbar rides.
Going toward but not yet engaged in battle, Mukherjee's emperor rides
out into the 'grayish gold' of 'late afternoon' into light that 'spills' over the
entire painting, 'charg[ing the scene] with unusual excitement' and 'dis
cover[ing] the immense intimacy of darkness' (p. 198). Akbar's Indian
darkness beckons, intense and sexual, in contrast to the North American
darkness that is a setting for other characters' painful illuminations of their
When, in the story entitled 'Tamurlane', Mounties arrive hunting illegal
immigrants in Toronto, the employees of the Mumtaz Bar B-Q swing into
their defensive routine: 'Mohun and I headed for the basement and since
I was taller, I unscrewed the light bulb on my way down' (p. 123). Into the
tense darkness of the basement one of the Mounties calls, 'Light?' - and
illuminates the basement himself with 'a torch, brighter than a searchlight'
(p. 123). These immigrants bring darkness with them but not their own
light. In North America the energizing interchange of light and dark de
picted in 'Courtly Vision' vanishes; Indian darkness proves untranslatable,
and North American darkness is threatening. Perhaps, having crossed the
taboo Dark Water, the immigrants have forfeited cultural protection. When
Leela Lahiri in 'Hindus' speaks of 'the gathering of the darknesses we
shared' (p. 135), she refers to the literal dark skins of the immigrants but
even more to the shadows they inhabit within American society; she refers
as well to the ghettoes Mukherjee shuns, to self-protective gatherings of
the dark-skinned such as the party hosted by a maharaja in a 'third floor
sublet in Gramercy Park South [in New York] ... where the smell of stale
turmeric hung like yellow fog from the ceiling' (pp. 132-33).
For the most part, the darknesses of Darkness are metaphoric; they affect
the atmosphere of the book subtly, much as the turmeric enters Leela's
nose or the 'winter light ... discovers' the darkness in the Mughal mini
ature (p. 198). In a California darkness inhabited by ancient Hindu deities,
'even a nine-year-old American boy with good grades can confess his fear
of gods and unholy spirits' and beg his Punjabi-speaking grandfather for
a 'new ghost story' to allay his fear of the old (p. 183). In 'A Father', Mr.
Bhowmick wonders how he could 'tell these bright mocking women', his
sceptical wife and daughter,
that in the 5:43 a.m. darkness, he sensed invisible presences: gods and snakes
frolicked in the master bedroom, little white sparks of cosmic static crackled up the
legs of his pajamas. Something was out there in the dark, something that could
invent accidents and coincidences to remind mortals that even in Detroit they were
no more than mortal. (p. 61)
How, indeed, can he speak of quintessential Hindu darkness when his
wife shouts in idiomatic American English, 'Hurry it up with the prayers'
(p. 60), and his engineer daughter, Babli- graduate of Georgia Tech- tells
him: 'Face it, Dad.... You have an affect deficit' (p. 61)? In the pre-dawn
darkness he prays to the image of Kali, 'the patron goddess of his family'
in Ranchi (p. 60). Adorned with her customary 'garland strung together
from sinners' chopped off heads,' Mr. Bhowmick's Kali resides in a 'make
shift wooden shrine' that he himself has made for her in Woodworking
I and II at a nearby recreation center' (p. 60). Detroit seems an appropriate
'Transport Me ... into the Hearts of Men': Bh-ar-ati Mukherjee's Darkness
location for a goddess 'associat[ed] with the periphery of Hindu society'
and 'worshipped ... in uncivilized or wild places'.27 As he chants Sanskrit
prayers, however, Mr. Bhowmick mistakes her expression, imagining her
to look 'warm, cozy, pleased' (p. 60); in Detroit he forgets that Kali is
'glistening black' (p. 60) because she represents destruction and disorder
on a cosmic scale.
At the end of the story, Babli Bhowmick becomes Kali- 'her tongue, thick
and red, squirming behind her row of perfect teeth' - a monstrous echo
of Mr. Bhowmick's image of Kali with her 'scarlet and saucy ... tongue ...
stuck out at the world' in a gesture of defiance familiar to Westerners
(pp. 73, 62).28 Babli and Kali have 'the same terrifying personality, ... the
same independence'.29 Incarnate in an American young woman who con
siders 'this Hindu myth stuff ... like a series of su~er graphics' (p. 65),
such darkness attains a thoroughly Hindu gower. 'Both terrible and
sweet ... alternately destroying and creating', 1 Kali is 'a destroyer of evil
so that the world can be renewed' .32 Like Kali 'without husband, consort
or lover',33 Babli is nonetheless pregnant- by artificial insemination, to her
father's Hindu horror. If her pregnancy is a kind of renewal, it is one
beyond the ken of Mr. Bhowmick, who in the final paragraph brings a
rolling pin 'down hard on the dome of Babli's stomach' (p. 73).34 As the
kind of mother to whom Kali's devotees prayed- 'Mother ... thou art the
spoiler of my fortunes'35 - Babli is indeed like Kali-Mata, to whom her
father prays (p. 71), for she is 'capable of shaking one's comfortable and
naive assumptions about the world' and inviting 'a wider, more mature,
more realistic reflection on where one has come from and where one is
When Mukherjee reveals the defiantly American engineer Babli trans
lated into Kali, she illustrates how Indian immigrants and their children
may be swept up into the darkness of their ancestral past. Those Indians
who, like Leela in 'Hindus', marry white Americans may find themselves
separated from their dark community. Leela has to be dragged by her hus
band to Sotheby's to view an exhibit including paintings such as that
described in 'Courtly Vision': 'It bothered Derek that I knew so little about
my heritage. Islam is nothing more than a marauder's faith to me, but'
and the 'but' is revelatory- 'the Mogul emperors stayed a long time in the
green delta of the Ganges, flattening and reflattening a fort in the village
where I was born, and forcing my priestly ancestors to prove themselves
brave' (p. 129). Similarly forced to acknowledge her complicated heritage,
this would-be American without an accent is in fact keenly aware of her
Brahmin ancestry, and when she speaks 'Hindu' (Hindi) to a fellow
Indian, she admits her inescapable inheritance. Even those of Mukherjee's
characters who have 'wanted all along to exchange [their] native world for
an alien one' (p. 164), who seek to be 'pukka Americans' (p. 170), are
betrayed by their own words; for them, English remains a 'step-mother
In 'Nostalgia', Dr. Manny Patel (M.D., Johns Hopkins) attempts to be a
'pukka American'. But when Mr. Horowitz, a schizophrenic patient, attacks
Dr. Patel physically and abuses him verbally as 'Paki scum' - a phrase
'about as appealing as it is for an Israeli to be called a Syrian'38 - Dr. Patel
'reach[es] automatically for the miracle cures of his Delhi youth', in this
case masala tea (p. 105). 'Shuttl[ing] between the old world and the new'
(p. 105), in the aftermath of Horowitz's attack Dr. Patel instinctively takes
himself 'home'; home, however, is Little India in Manhattan, not his native
land or his 'three-hundred-thousand-dollar house with an atrium in the
dining hall' (p. 98). In his Horowitz-weakened state, Dr. Patel easily trans
forms a venal shopgirl named Padrna into the lotus goddess Padma, men
tally replacing her "'Police" T-shirt and navy cords' with 'a sari of peacock
blue silk' and 'bracelets of 24-carat gold' (p. 101). No lotus goddess,
Padma of Little India turns out to be part of a blackmail scheme. Having
discovered the treachery of nostalgia, Dr. Patel writes 'WHORE' in his
own feces on the hotel mirror and resolves to 'make up for this night with
a second honeymoon' with his American wife (p. 113). But as we learn
from a second story in which he figures, 'Saints,' his marriage is already
wrecked, and soon his 'big house in New Jersey' will be sold (p. 146).
In 'Saints', Dr. Patel's fifteen-year-old son, Shawn, doesn't feel himself
to be a 'real American' (p. 151) despite his American mother. As he scans
the telephone directory looking for some version of his Hindu father, he
comes upon 'Batliwalla, Jamshed S., M.D.'; too ignorant to recognize the
name as Parsi (BaUiwalla is himself a minority in the Indian context), he
walks at midnight to Batliwalla's house. Seeking to 'become somebody
else's son' (p. 156), Shawn identifies with Batliwalla's 'dwarfkid' son,
whom he can see studying energetically as if 'he's the conqueror of [the]
alien' (p. 157), a kind of miniature Akbar translated to the upstate New
York town to which Shawn and his mother have moved. As the story
reaches its climax in the literal dark, we observe Shawn identifying at once
with Ramakrishna- the 'Hindu saint who had visions' (153) about whom
he's read in a book sent by his father- and with the emperor in the mini
ature painting against which Wayne thrusts his mother. Told in the first
person, the story poignantly describes Shawn's fantasy that, like Rama
krishna, he is 'in a trance in the middle of a November night' (p. 158). But
Shawn's trance, unlike Ramakrishna's, fails to relieve him of his daily
Ramakrishna is never named in 'Saints', because for Shawn the name
means nothing. Readers acquainted with the renowned ascetic and vision
ary, however, will identify the Calcutta saint of the gift book as Rama
krishna (1836-86), famous for 'see[ing] the Divine Mother [Kalil in all
things' (p. 153). It is not surprising that a follower of Kali in his trances
'sometimes ... kicks his disciples', who beg him: 'Kick, kick' (p. 153); he
tells his 'young boy followers' that he loves them as he would love 'a
sweetheart' (p. 155).39 When he breaks an arm while entranced by the
'Transport Me ... into the Hearts of M-en': Bharati Mukherjee's Darkness
-~--Ganges, he finds 'no separation' between 'love and pain' (p. 155).40
Mukherjee chooses those aspects of Ramakrishna that would appeal to
Shawn, who resembles the saint because he suffers and 'can't hurt'
(p. 158), aspires to transcendence, dresses like a woman,41 and has a boy
follower (Tran, a Vietnamese refugee). The book Dr. Patel has sent is one
that once gave him, so his inscription reads, 'happiness ... when I was
your age' (p. 153), but there is another connection as well: 'The saint died
of throat cancer and was briefly treated by your great-uncle, the cancer
specialist in Calcutta' (p. 153).42
Whether the teenage Dr. Patel really felt 'happiness' or whether his recol
lection is colored by nostalgia we cannot know. We do know Shawn's
mise:/'; like Ramakrishna, he is 'mentally confused about his own iden
tity'.4 Later in the upstate-New York night, darkness enables him to feel
a momentary surge of identification with his other model, Akbar, the 'po
tentate in battledress' (p. 158). Yet Shawn has conquered nothing, and his
pathetic claim to be a 'visionary' (p. 158) is belied by his mother's shocked
realization that his night-walking is accomplished in her coat, hat, and
thick make-up. One moment a transfigured transvestite, another moment
a breather of adolescent obscene phone calls, Shawn is one moment an
American, another moment an Indian. In his unstable national and cul
tural identities, he is a recurring type of character in Mukherjee's fiction.
The title of Shawn's story, 'Saints', alerts us to another aspect that ties
him to other characters, including Akbar in 'Courtly Vision'. While most
of Mukherjee's characters are resolutely secular, in key stories characters
seek for grace, for light in their spiritual darkness, for grace triumphing
'over all that's shameful in human nature' (p. 17). Dr. Patel believes that
'gods and goddesses ... could leap into your life in myriad, mysterious
ways, as a shopgirl, for instance, or as a withered eggplant, just to test
you' (p. 105), and Mr. Bhowmick senses spiritual presences in the Detroit
pre-dawn. This theme frames Darkness, appearing at the end of the book
in 'Courtly Vision' and at the very beginning in 'Angela', in which the title
character is a Bangladeshi orphan rescued by nuns from the ditch where
she was left for dead at dusk during the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971. Re
named and raised a Catholic, the Muslim-born Angela has been adopted
by a Protestant farming family in Iowa and is now being wooed by Goan
doctor.44 'Only a doctor could love this body', she thinks, aware of her
scars (pp. 19, 11). In America 'for less than two years' (p. 9), Angela has
been 'forced to assimilate' (p. 17): a high-school cheerleader, she speaks of
her newly acquired Iowan 'sisters' and her 'Dad'; she knows how to
soothe grief with Diet Coke (p. 9); and she has learned to enjoy a Sunday
pork roast because 'pigs aren't filthy creatures here as they are back home'
It is 'grace [that] makes my life spin', says Angela (p. 10). As she puzzles
over the meaning of grace, she visualizes it as 'a black, tropical bat, cutting
through dusk on blunt, ugly wings', an image associated with the beauty
and horrors of the Bangladeshi war that took place in 'the lavender dusk
of the tropics' (pp. 11, 19).45 Angela, who seeks grace, is herself an instru
ment conveying grace to others, for the Lord has given her the capacity
to express beauty, a means of transcendence; in the orphanage in Bangla
desh she learned to play the piano, and 'together, pianist and audience,
we have triumphed over sin, rapacity, war' (pp. 16-17), over all that's dark
in human nature. Having endured violence, she has been transfigured by
it; Mukherjee agrees with an interviewer's suggestion that violence is 'ne
cessary to a transformation of character',46 a view apparent in the incidents
of political and domestic violence that figure in nearly every story and in
most of Mukherjee's other work. Believing in miracles, Angela 'wait[s] for
some sign', knowing that 'I've been saved for a purpose' (p. 19). It is
toward such a sense of spiritual purpose that Shawn Patel gropes as he
leafs through the book on Ramakrishna.
Although none of Mukherjee's characters aspire as consciously as Shawn
to be saints in America, most are trying in some way to adjust the dreams
of their prior life to their present condition, and often they have trouble
reading the present; even so, all - in the words of the title character of
Jasmine - seek 'enlightenment ... sensing designs in history's muddles'
(p. 52). In Darkness, often the characters' 'English isn't good enough' (p. 8),
even when it's so fluent that they sound as if they've 'lived here always'
'English', we must recognize, means the entire panoply of cultural signs
that so fascinate Mukherjee, not merely the American dialect of the world
language. In 'Visitors', a recently arrived bride named Vinita understand
ably thinks that a Calcutta-born but United States-raised young man shod
in muddy 'two-tone New Balance running shoes' is 'just another Amer
ican' (pp. 167, 172) or, if not exactly an American, then a 'looter of Amer
ican culture' (p. 172), another modem-day Mughal emperor. Although
Vinita's education as a French major at Loreto College has prepared her
to 'disarm an emaciated Communist pointing a pipe-gun at her pet
chihuahua' in Calcutta (p. 173), she has no idea how to handle 'the mad
passions of a maladjusted failed American' (174). She finds in Rimbaud
the mot juste: 'Oh! quel Reve les a saisies ... un reve inoui: des Asies'
(p. 172). What can a 'dream that has seized them, the unheard-of dream
of Asias' mean in Guttenberg, New Jersey (a suitable setting for newly
invented Indo-Americans)? When the dreamed-about now must do the
dreaming, it is small wonder that they experience some sense of dis
A displaced person at horne nowhere, Ratna in 'The World According
to Hsii' is expert in 'the plate tectonics of emotion' (p. 54). As she sits in
a hotel dining room far from her Montreal house, she feels 'for the
moment at horne in that collection of Indians and Europeans babbling in
['step-mother'] English,' a 'mutually agreed upon second language'
(pp. 56, 54). The half-Indian, half-Czech Ratna demonstrates how
MukherTransport Me ... into the Hearts of Men': Bharati Mukherjee's Darkness
- - - -
jee's vision encompasses those whose misfortune it is to have no vision,
nothing more than a bleak awareness of their dislocation.
'The World According to Hsii', which takes place in an unnamed former
French colony, is the only story in Darkness to be set outside of North
America. Although at first glance 'Courtly Vision' is set in India, the
actual New-York auction-house setting may hint at a kind of cultural bar
gaining that goes on in many of these stories. Many of Mukherjee's char
acters are trying to make 'small trade-offs between new-world reason
ableness and old-world beliefs', like Mr. Bhowmick in 'A Father' (p. 64).
In being 'caught between rules' (p. 72), the Bhowmicks may remind us of
Akbar when he attempted to foster a syncretic religion and admit alien
aesthetics to his artists' visions. In choosing that moment in Mughal
history for 'Courtly Vision', Mukherjee reveals her characters' and her
own dilemma and opportunity. 'Hide nothing from me, my co-wanderer',
Mukherjee's Akbar commands Basawan (p. 199) - and thus Mukherjee
commands herself, traveling into the inner spaces of characters both
settled and homeless. 'Nothing was excluded', Mukherjee comments on
a Hindu temple frieze;47 her remark helps explain the essential Hinduism
of a writer at home everywhere.
Concluding Darkness with a rich allusion to Akbar's deliberate mixing of
East and West, Mukherjee emphasizes the emperor's intellectual curiosity
and spiritual exploration, reminding us of the representatives of different
cultural, religious, and aesthetic traditions whom he invited to his court.
At Mukherjee's command, a similar variety of characters people her stories
- Angela, the Muslim from Dakha turned Catholic by a twist of fate;
Horowitz, the Jewish schizophrenic in a Queens psychiatric hospital;
Batliwalla, the Parsi doctor in upstate New York; the Sikh grandfather in
California who claims to have killed Gandhi in Delhi ('The Imaginary
Assassin' ); innumerable others from Calcutta, Ranchi, Ludhiana, and else
where on the subcontinent; and assorted North Americans ranging from
the Iowa Presbyterians of 'Angela' to Ann Vane of 'Isolated Incidents', a
graduate of 'Miss Edgar's and Miss Cramp's' school in Toronto who stares
at the 'Chinese and Indians and Jamaicans, bent over their snack-packs of
Kentucky Fried Chicken' (pp. 81, 93).
As she sits in 'a Colonel Sanders spot on Bloor' in Toronto, Ann reflects
that 'home was a territory of the mind' (pp. 89, 90). No matter whether in
Toronto or Georgia or New York, any immigrant or immigrant's child
attempting to integrate and still retain fundamental ties with 'home' may
comfort herself by claiming to be 'a traveller ... at home everywhere, be
cause she is never at home anywhere' (p. 31); but more likely he will find
himself, like Dr. Patel, 'a traveller over shifting sands' (p. 112), sometimes
striding onward, sometimes stumbling, sometimes falling. For all their par
ticularity, Mukherjee's characters are part of a world-wide phenomenon;
they struggle to be 'at home' in North America while attempting to avoid
what Rushdie has called 'the largest and most dangerous pitfall' that may
entrap the immigrant, 'the adoption of a ghetto mentality'.48
For these travelers intend to stay, to become settlers, to lay claim to
North America as the Mughals laid claim to India. Although Mukherjee
declares that her fiction is 'about conquests, and not about loss',49 her char
acters do endure the disorientation that is the lot of most immigrants. If
there is a conquest, it is that of Mukherjee the artist as she gives shape to
her characters' experience of fragmentation. Implicit in 'Courtly Vision' is
Mukherjee's wry revision of Akbar's yearning for 'a utopian India' where
all peoples could live in peace.50 Perhaps the best way of penetrating
Darkness is to understand it as another work in the spirit of Akbar, toler
ant of diversity while seeking unity of vision. As Akbar was a conquerer
and a syncretist, hoping to create a new vision out of elements of previous
ideas, so Mukherjee's 'insurrections of language, [her] subversions or
deliberate destructions of sacrosanct literary forms', aim at creating new
vision.51 In Darkness she charts the territory to be conquered, territory
worthy of 'epic' treatment in some future ' maximalist' fiction.52 In closing
Darkness with 'Courtly Vision', Mukherjee may look not only back to the
preceding stories -sad, often violent, sometimes funny - but forward to
some future fiction in which her characters' life, liberty, and pursuit of
happiness come a good deal closer to the goal than they do in Darkness.
In Mukherjee's writing of the 1980s we see the pursuit but no more than
a fleeting achievement of happiness. Yet her reader, like the viewer of a
Mughal miniature, does experience happiness. As he rides into the dark
ness of war, Mukherjee's Akbar demands a kind of light, for he expects
Basawan to describe the future 'in a way that makes me smile' (p. 199).
This suggestion of the delight afforded by Mughal paintings, even when
they describe subjects such as fear and death ('Tell me who to fear and
who to kill'), also applies to Mukherjee's own works of art. Into her 'sim
ple and innocuous' Western narratives s he enfolds the 'complicated and
infuriating' lives of her Hindu characters in North America, striving for
the realistic description, multiple perspectives, and transcendent delight
afforded by Basawan and his colleagues. The final command that she at·
tributes to Akbar sums up Mukherjee's own effort as an artist: 'Transport
me ... into the hearts of men' .53
1. A number of reviewers made this observation, including Peter Nazareth ('Total
Vision', Canadian Literature, no. 110 , p. 190), Patricia Bradbury, and Hope
Cook; for Bradbury and Cook, see excerpts in Contemporary Literary Criticism, VIII.
53 (1989), pp. 266, 267. Subsequently, Mukherjee herself declared: 'My image
artistic structure and a rtistic excellence is the Moghal miniature painting' ('A
Hundred-Year-Old Woman', in The Writer on her Work: New Essays in New
'Transport Me ... into the Hearts of Men': Bharati Mukherjee's Darkness
- -- - - -
'Transport Me ... into the Hearts of Men': Bharati Mukherjee's Dark-nes-s - - -
of her child, nor ... a lover for his sweetheart, as I did for them!' (qtd. Anon., Life
of Sri Ramakrishna, op. cit., p. 196).
40. Christopher Isherwood describes this often-related incident in terms close to
Mukhetjee's (Ramakrishna and His Disciples, 2nd ed. [Hollywood: Vedanta Press,
1980], p. 245).
41. Like Shawn, Ramakrishna began dressing like a woman as a teenager Osherwood,
op. cit., pp. 35-36). Carl Olson devotes a chapter to this and related behavior, said
by some to be insane (The Mysterious Play of .Kali: An Interpretation of Ramakrishna
[Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press, 1990), pp. 49-67). Toward the end of his life,
Ramakrishna's 'sex-role confusion was "gradually" being cured, and he was becom
ing ... more certain of his male sexuality' (Olson, p. 50). Another possibly relevant
aspect of Ramakrishna's thought is the religious eclecticism that he shared with
Akbar. Ramakrishna's vision of Mohammed, in 1866, led him to a period of Islamic
practice; his much more intense Christian experience, in 1874, lifted him 'into a new
state of ecstasy' in which 'Christ possessed his soul' (Solange Lemaitre, Ramakrishna
and the Vitality of Hinduism, trans. Charles Lam Markmann [Woodstock, NY: Over
look Press, 1984], pp. 109-10).
42. The great-uncle is presumably one of the 'well-known physicians of Calcutta' who
examined Ramakrishna in 1885, diagnosed his throat cancer, and declared it incur
(Swami Saradananda, Sri Ramakrishna: The Great Master, trans. Swami Jagada
nanda, 5th ed. rev. [Mylapore and Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1978-79)
, vol. 2,
43. Olson, The Mysterious Play of .Kali, op. cit., p. 49.
44. As a Goan, he is presumably Catholic.
45. This dusk is darker than but still related to the dusk of only other scene set on the
Indian subcontinent, that in 'Courtly Vision'. The image of the bat appears later in
jasmine (p. 162).
46. Qtd. in Connell, Grearson, and Grimes,'An Interview with Bharati Mukherjee', op.
cit., p. 8. This interview develops the theme with particular reference to jasmine, in
which Mukhetjee's preoccupation with violence reaches its fictional apogee. That
preoccupation may have been furthered by the nonfiction book that she wrote with
Clark Blaise, The Sorrow and the Terror: The Haunting Legacy of the Air India Tragedy
(1987; Markham, Ontario: Penguin Books, 1988); 'The Management of Grief' in The
Midddleman, which is narrated by a grief-benumbed woman whose husband and
two sons have gone down in the Air India crash of 23 June 1985.
47. Mukhetjee, Days and Nights in Calcutta, op. cit., p. 171.
48. Rushdie, Imaginary Homel11nds, op. cit., p. 19. Mukhetjee declares that she 1ook[sl
on ghettoization ... as a temptation to be surmounted'('A Four-Hundred-Year-Old
Woman', p. 34).
49. Geoff Hancock, 'An Interview with Bharati Mukhetjee', Canadian Fiction Magazine
59 (1987), p. 37.
50. Welch, The Art of Muglull India, op. cit., p. 11.
51. Mukhetjee, 'Mimicry and Reinvention', op. cit., p. 149.
52. Bharati Mukhetjee, 'Immigrant Writing', op. cit., pp. 1, 28.
53. For their advice regarding an earlier draft, I am indebted to members of the West
chester Women Writers group: Eileen Allman, Jayana Clerk (whose knowledge of
Indian culture illuminated my darkness), Phyllis Fahre Edelson, Mary Ellen LeClair,
and Ziva Piltch.
---------------By any measure 1991 and 1992 were crucial years for the literary, dramatic and arts
scene in Singapore. The publication, in 1991, of George Nonis' book, Hello Chok Tong
Goodbye Kuan Yew almost signalled a new mood, a new phase in the cultural and liter
ary ethos of this small nation-state. Nonis commented that it had taken him a long time
to bring his book (a book essentially of cartoons lampooning political life in Singapore
but taking some risks of the sort he thought the new Prime Minister- Goh Chok Tong
- will be more receptive to than the old Prime Minister- Mr Lee Kuan Yew) but that
he finally decided to do so after hearing and reading of Mr Goh Chok Tong and the
'open' style of government.
This 'open' mood also saw the setting up- and subsequent report- of a National Re
view Committee on Censorship. For a long time writers, artists, and film and television
people had been nervous about censorship and several had had their works objected
too. The setting up of a Ministry of the Arts and the Singapore National Arts Council
(this latter body chaired by a very respected Singaporean - Professor Tommy Koh)
meant here was a chance for an overhaul. And the overhaul did begin. Several young
writers and people connected with the arts were appointed to this National Committe
and their recommendations have had a fundamental impact on the production and cir
culation of arts. Of course, the majority of Singaporeans- if we are to believe the Press
and media- were quite uncomfortable with some of the Committee's recommendations
(such as allowing the 'R' rating for films to be aged 18) and wanted a more conservative
dismantling (if at all) of existing censorship rules and procedures. Thus Singapore did
-and does- get films which previously was not possible (The Unbearable Lightness of
Being, Wild at Heart , Basic Instinct...) but there are still strong restrictions and some films,
one guesses, will still never be allowed commercially (i.e. the concept of 'art' cinemas
and 'adult' cinemas is not one which sits comfortably with the conservative population).
It is interesting to note that while some lobbying for a magazine such as Cosmopolitan
took place, the magazine (along with predictable others- e.g. Playboy) remains banned/
But the relaxation is real and not to be frowned upon. Apart from the cinema, its big
impact has been on the fiction produced in Singapore and on the plays performed.
Several controversial plays (with nude/near nude scenes for example) have been
allowed on stage but to audiences eighteen and above ashould state that for films the
'R' rating is for those above twenty-one). While ministerial comment has been to signal
caution lest the relaxed atmosphere becomes promiscuous, the actual productions have
been fairly free- thus plays such as Private Parts and Two Clam One have taken the con
cept of theatre freedom to new heights in Singapore.
The visual art scene has been similarly freed from anxieties of certain censorship; thus
quite explicit nude drawings featuring sometimes portraits of the artists themselves
have made their appearances at places like The Substation and been the subject of discus
sion and debate. Sexuality as a theme is very much in the light as it were as more and
more young Singaporeans begin to express their own perceptions openly and artistic
ally. For the first time in Singapore's art history, artists were now prepared to put their
own private life as artists for public view - a bold, challenging step which prompts
newfound confidence but which also still invites strong resistance.
In 1990 the present writer had publicly stated that 'the next few years will see an in
evitable increase in the production of literary works which, while not being particularly
of a high literary quality, will, nevertheless, be very popular'. The context was the over
whelming success of sensational storybooks, fictions of the supernatural, horror, the
bizarre, the ghostly. Both 1991 and 1992 saw this prediction corning through almost
with a vengeance! Book after book appeared and book after book sold- the entire face
of literary readership seemed to be changing; the macabre, the deviously comic, the
strange and the frightening were hot themes, and among them they captured readers.
Sales of books at the Annual Book Fairs reached unimaginable heights with some titles
selling thousands over a couple of days -a phenomena perhaps not unknown in some
countries but certainly new to the Singapore Literary scene.
Much of the new reader- following can be attributed to two factors: one, a willingness
on the part of writers to venture forth into newer areas of expression (so the comic book
now becomes an accepted part of 'literature') which attempt to make sense of 'taboo'
experiences (hence several books dealt with themes of homosexuality, bizarre sex, trans
vestism) and, two, a more open discussion of various books and issues by the reading
public. It must here be noted that one major breakthrough was achieved by and
through the publication of Excuse Me -1re You a Model by Bonny Hicks. This autobio
graphical book, written by a young twenty-one-year-old model who confessed to having
an English father who wanted nothing to do with her, affairs with several different men
and the trials which invariably awaited a young woman in the modelling industry/
business, made a huge impact on the Singaporean sensibility. Public forums and discus
sions were held where the author was condemned, damned, praised, defended and
where she herseU appeared to give her side of the story. Excuse Me Are You a Modd
took Singapore literature by storm and within a few it had unprecedented sales and the
author became a 'literary' figure overnight! The book is significant; written simply but
with enormous candour, it basically said, 'look at me, I didn't go to University, this is
my story, these are the men I' ve been with, this is my background and this is what it
took me to become a professional model.' It is, in its own way, a moving book, naive
perhaps at times, but on the whole mature, confident, assertive, frank, honest. It was
the brutal honesty which disturbed and offended the moral pundits, chief among them,
ironically a woman who was (and is) involved with women's rights! Bonny Hicks went
on to write a second book, this time a novel, Discuss Disgust, again having as her theme
the untalked-about subject of women who prostituted themselves discreetly in order to
bring up their kids. Written primarily from the point of view of the young heroine (if
that term could be used) the book disturbingly challenges the image of Singapore as a
squeaky clean, morally upright society. Other books which might be mentioned here
include Joash Moo's Sisterhood (again the subject of comment in the Press regarding its
morality since it appeared to endorse and condone those who were transvestites), Gopal
Baratham's Sayang (described by many readers, at leas t verbally, as being almost porno
graphic), Antonio Chan's Lusts from the Underworld (a racy story of gangsters and sex),
Colin Cheong's Poets Priests and Prostitutes (motorcycle gangs, girls and the contradic
tions of evolving identities), Felix Chia's The Lady in Red and her Companion (naughty
stories about naughty women), Johnny Lau's Medium Rilre (a lot of sex and the bizarre,
made into a film), Johann Lee's Peculiar Chris (about a gay), Sumiko Tan's Sisters ill
Crime (culled from the newspapers and police reports about women in crime) and Felix
Soh's Harlots (about sex and its deviant pleasures, withdrawn within weeks of publica
tion on account of its unhealthy morality).
The above should not lead readers to conclude that no serious fiction / poetry was pro
duced (incidentally many of the writers venturing into categories discussed above see
themselves as 'serious'): several were. Gopal Baratham's A Candle or the Sun, Rex
Shelley's The Shrimp People, Simon Tay's Stand Alone, Kelvin Tan's All Broken Up and
Dancing, Catherine Lim's The Women's Book of Superlatives and Alex Soh's Double on the
Rocks are all works of fiction which deserve special attention- in them a certain literary
quality is obvious, as is the treatment of significant themes which transcend simple
grids of time and place. Koh Buck Song's A Brief History of Toa Payoh and Other Poems
should be mentioned as it tries to document, poetically, the radical nature of physical
change in Singapore - a change impinging on the psyche of the sensitive. Boey Kim
Cheng's Another Place, his second volume, continues and expands the obvious strengths
found in his first volume of poems, Somewhere Bound. Boey's is an important poetic
voice and he is a poet to watch.
A survey of this nature will be incomplete if attention was not drawn to the establish
ment of the Singapore Literature Prize- funded by a publisher and administered by the
National Book Development Council. It carries a top prize of $10,000 and several minor
prizes. The Annual National Book Awards has, recently, been challenged to name their
judges- a call which the present writer has been consistently making since their incep
tion many years ago. Anonymity in judging is no longer seen to be excusable and with
controversies surrounding the latest awards (the Award went to Rex Shelley and Gopal
Baratham was awarded a Commendation- Baratham declined the Award insisting that
his novel ought to have won!) the sooner the Book Council announces publicly its
annual judges the better.
On the whole things are really looking up in Singapore; there is heightened scholarly
interest in Singaporean literature (though we still await the first real study of it!) and
creative writing is actively being promoted with several Creative Writing Programmes
in the offing. These programmes allow the bringing in of international writers to Singa
pore to share their experiences and achievements. Doris Lessing was in Singapore in
1991 and it is hoped that Nadine Gordimer will be here in 1993. Publishers are now far
more willing to publish local books and many of the big international publishers are
also moving into the area. Singa continues to publish established and new writers and
public readings of prose and poetry are encouraged and well attended. For the first time
in Singapore's history, there was a series of readings at a pub co-ordinated by Kirpal
Singh- every Sunday for three months the readings continued- unfortunately the for
tunes of the owner of the pub got into complications and the readings ended quite
abruptly! But there is a definite interest and a definite future here!
It is likely that as Singapore matures and as the ruling ethnic demands a more serious
stocktaking, the arts are going to flourish. Moves are currently underway to have all
Singapore schools expose their students to Singaporean writings. There is full support
coming from many different quarters and it will behove the Singaporean writer to real
ise the new emphasis and be ready for delivery!
Notes on Contributors
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
GOROON COLLIER teaches at the University of Giessen.
GEOFFREY DAVIS teaches at the University of Aachen.
JANE DOWNING was born in Australia and was brought up and educated in Aus
tralia, Tanzania, Ireland and Polynesia. She is now living in the Marshall Islands. She
has completed two novels and one collection of short stories.
GEOFF GOODFELLOW -see interview.
STEPHEN GRAY is a South African poet, critic and novelist. Formerly Professor at
Rand Afrikaans University he now freelances. His latest volume of poetry, Season of
Violence, was recently published by Dangaroo Press.
PAUL HETHERINGTON is an Australian poet living in Canberra.
KWAKU LARBI KORANG is Ghanaian and is doing post-graduate work at the Univer
sity of British Columbia.
DAVID LEAHY is a post-graduate student at Concordia University, Quebec, Canada.
MARK MAHEMOFF is an Australian poet living in Sydney. JOHN STEPHEN MARTIN teaches in the Department of English, University of Calgary, Canada.
CAROL SICHERMAN teaches at Lehman College, New York.
KIRPAL SINGH teaches at Nan Yang University, Singapore.
KANCHANA UGBABE was born in India. She received her doctorate from Flinders
University, Australia, and now teaches at the University of Jos, Nigeria. She is married
to a Nigerian. Her writing explores the difference in cultures and the difficulties such
differences sometimes create.
LANDEG WHITE is the head of the Centre for Southern Asian Studies, University of
York. His latest book of poetry, View from the Stockade, received much acclaim. His long
prose poem Bounty will be published by Dangaroo Press in October 1993.
1. To Thomas Archer, Nov 1888 , The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson , ed. Sidney Colvin (London: Methuen , 4 vols ., 1919 ), Vol. In, pp. 78 - 9 .
2. To Sidney Colvin, 22 Aug 1889 , Letters , Vol. Ill, pp. 133 - 38 .
3. To Lady Taylor, 20 Jan 1890 , Letters , Vol. Ill, pp. 148 - 50 .
4. Sidney Colvin , commentary, Letters , Vol. Til, pp. 187 - 90 ; see letter to Colvin, 5 Sep 1891, Letters , Vol. III, pp. 282 - 91 , and Robert Irwin Hillier, The South Seas fiction of Robert Louis Stevenson (New York & Bern: Peter Lang, 1989 ), p. 27 .
5. Hillier, op. cit., p. 28 .
6. Ibid ., pp. 41 - 5 .
7. Ibid ., p. 196 .
8. To Charles Milnes Gaskell, 13 Apr 1890 , The Letters of Henry Adams, ed. J. C. Levenson eta/ (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 3 vols ., 1982 ), Vol. Ill, p. 235 .
9. To Elizabeth Cameron, 17 Oct 1890 , Letters , Vol. III, p. 296 . Elizabeth Cameron was the young wife of an elderly senior Senator from Pennsylvania with whom Adams maintained a somewhat courtly relationship .
10. 2 Mar 1891 , Letters , Vol. III, pp. 430 - 1 . John Hay was one of Adams' most intimate friends and became Secretary of State under Theodore Roosevelt .
II. Ibid ., p. 432 .
12. To Elizabeth Cameron, 16 Oct 1890 , Letters , Vol. TIT, p. 296 . Frances Van de Grift Stevenson was an American of Swedish and Dutch extraction; see Levenson, ibid ., Vol. rn, p. 300 .
13. 16 Oct 1890, Letters , Vol. HI, p. 297 .
14. To Elizabeth Cameron, 15 Dec 1890 , Letters , Vol. In, p. 372 .
15. 20? Dec 1890, Letters , Vol. In, p. 225 .
16. 29 Dec 1890 , Letters , Vol. lll, p. 229 .
17. 4 Jan 1891 , Letters , Vol. Ill, p. 394 .
18. 8 Nov [ 1890 ), Letters, Vol. Til, p. 329 ; 27 Nov 1890 , Letters , Vol. lll, p. 352 .
19. To Elizabeth Cameron, 15 Dec 1890 , Letters , Vol. III, p. 372 .
20. 4 Jan 1891 , Letters , Vol. lll, p . 392 .
21. 16 Oct 1890, Letters , Vol. III, p. 304 .
22. 4 jan 1891 , Letters , Vol. Ill, p. 392 .
23. La Farge also suffered from dyspepsia, as did a young friend, Theodore Dwight, who also had attacks of depression when visiting Adams in Polynesia; see Letters , Vol. lll, pp. 223 - 34 , 228 , 311 , 312 , 331 , 358 , 390 , 581 - 2 .
24. Adams read Melville's Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life on his way to Samoa, and said that it sustained him on the voyage; to Elizabeth Cameron, 13 Sep 1890 , Letters , Vol. III, p. 277 . ' Nukuheva' is the isle on which the Typee valley is located. The term 'old-gold girls' or 'maiads' was the erotic term coined by Adams' intimate friend, the geologist Clarence King, who, on his visit to Hawaii in 1872, gave it to young native women; see Letters , Vol. Til, pp. 277 , 282 , 283 , 291 .
25. jay Levenson, commentary, Letters, op. cit. , Vol. I, pp. 426 , 440 .
26. 3 Mar 1891 , Letters , Vol. lll, p. 442 .
'tl . See also Adams to John Hay, 7 Dec 1890, Letters , Vol. III, pp. 362 - 65 .
28. Aspects of these questions, addressed by Adams, are given in his Letters , Vol. III: on Samoa, pp. 293 , 295 , 301 , 302 , 363 , 364 , 377; on Tahiti, pp. 405 , 412 , 417 , 418 , 429 , 443 - 5 , 455 , 459 , 472; on Fiji, pp. 506 , 509 , 514 . In general, Adams tried to formalize a cycle of civilization among the Polynesians with the order of Samoans, Tahitians, and Fijians; but there were too many inconsistencies, such as, whether a war-culture precedes that of a civilized one, keeping in mind that the Samoans produced their poetry in their earlier war-like era .
29. To Elizabeth Cameron, 8 Mar 1891, Letters , Vol. Ill, pp. 425 - 6 .
ll. Henry Adams , Tahiti: Memoirs of Marau Taaroa, lAst Queen of Tahiti (Paris, 1901 ).
31. To Elizabeth Cameron, 23 Feb 1891 , Letters , Vol. III, pp. 417 - 8 . vol. 2 , ed. Janet Stemburg [NY and London: Norton , 1991 ], p. 38 ). Textual references are to Bharati Mukherjee, Darkness (Markham , Ontario: Penguin Books Canada, 1985 ), p. 195 . All other references are included in the text . Although placed last in Darkness, 'Courtly Vision' was written earlier than most of the stories, while Mukherjee was still living in Canada (Darkness, 'Introduction' , p. 1 ).
2. Michael Riffaterre , 'Textuality: W.H. Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts'" , in Textual Analysis: Some Readers Reading, ed. Mary Ann Caws (NY: Modem Language Association , 1986 ), p. 2 .
3. Salman Rushdie , Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981 -1991 (London: Granta Books, 1991 ), p. 17 .
4. Op. cit.; repeated virtually verbatim in Rushdie's Shame ( 1983 ; NY: Aventura [Vintage], 1984 ), p. 24 .
5. Rushdie, qtd. by Michael Kaufman, ' Author from 3 Countries' , New York Times Book Review, 13 Nov. 1983 , p. 23 .
6. Mukherjee has written approvingly of Rushdie's concept 'that immigration ... is a net gain, a form of levitation, as opposed to Naipaul's loss and mimicry' ('Prophet and Loss: Salman Rushdie's Migration of Souls' , Village Voice Literary Supplement [March 1989 ], p. 12 ).
7. Rejecting Naipaul as a model, Mukherjee asserts: 'Immigration is the opposite of expatriation' ('Immigrant Writing: Give Us Your Maximalists!' , New York Times Book Review [ 28 Aug. 1988 ], p . 28 ) ; see also Alison B . Carb, ' An Interview with Bharati Mukherjee' , Massachusetts Review, 29 , 4 ( 1988 ), p. 650 . The misreading of Mukherjee's Introduction to Darkness by Amin Malak - who thinks she continues to be Naipaul's 'disciple'- typifies the hostile misreading of Mukherjee by Indian intellectual men who have settled in Canada ('Insider/Outsider Views on Belonging: The Short Stories of Bharati Mukherjee and Rohinton Mistry', in Short Fiction in the New Literatures in English: Proceedings ofthe Nice Conference of the Europeiln Association for Commonwealth Literature & Language Studies, ed. jaqueline Bardolph [Nice: Faculte des Lettres et Sciences Humaines de Nice , 1989 ], pp. 189 , 192 ). See also Neil Bissoondath, ' Flaws in the Mosaic' , Books in Canada 14 (Aug . 1985 ), p . 22 .
8. Bharati Mukherjee , jasmine ( 1989 ; NY: Ballantine Books, 1991 ), p. 198 . All other references are included in the text .
9. Bharati Mukherjee and Clark Blaise, Days and Nights in Calcutta (Garden City , NY: Doubleday, 1977 ), p. 200 . All other references are included in the text .
10. Bharati Mukherjee , 'Immigrant Writing', op. cit., p. 29 .
II. Ameena Meer , 'Shorts: Bharati Mukherjee', Bomb 29 ( Fal11989 ), p. 26 . Mukherjee 's most recent and emphatic statement of this idea appears in 'A Four-Hundred-YearOld Woman' , op. cit., p . 34 .
12. Bharati Mukherjee , et al., 'Writers' Panel', in E.M. Forster: Centenary Revaluations, ed. Judith Scherer Herz and Robert K. Martin (London and Basingstoke: Macmillan , 1982 ), p. 291 .
13. ' Mimicry and Reinvention', in The Commonwealth in Ca11ada: Proceedi11gs of the Seco11d Triennial Conferences of CACLALS, Part Two , University of Winnipeg 1-4 October 1981 , ed. Uma Parameswaram (New Delhi: Writers Workshop, 1983 ), p. 147 ; Mukherjee delivered this paper after she had left Canada. Three years later she experienced the 'three-month burst of energy' in Atlanta during which she wrote most of Darkness ('Introduction' , p. 1 ).
14. Mukherjee , ' An Invisible Woman' , Saturday Night (March 1981 ), pp. 36 - 40 .
15. 'Mimicry and Reinvention', op. cit., p . 147 .
16. NY: Grove P , 1988 .
17. Bharati Mukherjee , ' A Four-Hundred-Year-Old Woman ', op. cit., p. 38 .
19. Sotheby 's did indeed auction the Malcolm Fraser collection in 1980 in three lots , in London on july 7-8 and October 13 -14, and in New York on December 9; Leela must have made her visit during the New York public exhibition on Dec. 4-8. The painting depicted in 'Courtly Vision' is not, however, in the New York Sotheby's sale, though one can imagine it in the London sales. The july sale in London included a painting (Lot 84) depicting 'a ruler on horseback leading an army across a battlefield, warriors firing arrows and brandishing swords and maces as a decapitated soldier falls from his horse' (Catalogue of Fin e Oriental Manuscripts, MiniaturtS and Qajar Lacquer ... The Property of Malcolm R. Fraser ...) . Lot 240 in the London October sale is in a class with Mukherjee's painting (Catalogue of Fine Oriental Manuscripts, Miniatures and Qajar Lacquer ... the Property of Malcolm R. Fraser Esq. and Otlrtr Properties) . The Dec . 9 New York sale included a painting somewhat similar to Mukherjee's, lot 10: 'A Procession of Figures Moving to the Right , Mughal, circa 1590 -1600' (Fine Oriental Miniatures, Manuscripts and Islamic Works of Art Including the Fraser Album); its estimated price was $3000-$5000 (it sold for $4600); Mukherjee's eye for detail was clouded when she provided an estimated price of $750.
20. Mukherjee 's Jahanara Begum is apparently a resident of Akbar's harem, which one European visitor claimed housed 'more than 300 wives', another 'as many as a hundred women' (qtd. Brand and Lowry, Fatehpur-Sikri, op . cit. pp. 105 - 06 ). Akbar had a granddaughter named Jahanara, the daughter of his son Shah Jehan and MumtazMahal .
21. See Brand and Lowry, Akbar's India, op . cit., p. 159 . Akbar 's successors continued to use the palace complex occasionally until at least the middle of the seventeenth century and 'a considerable portion of Akbar's haram [sic) remained ... long after 1585' (Brand and Lowry, Fatehpur-Sikri, op . cit. pp. 3 - 4 ).
22. Akbar 's letter , in john Correia-Afonso, ed., Letters from the Mughal Court: The First Jesuit Mission to Akbar ( 1580 - 1583 ), Foreword by S. Guru! Hasan (Bombay: Hens Institute of Indian History and Culture, 1980 ), p. 1 . Fathers Rudolf Aquaviva aoo Francis Henriques arrived at Akbar's court from their base in Goa on 28 Feb. 15m, soon joined by Father Anthony Monserrate; the mission ended in Feb . 1583 ( Correia-Afonso , pp. 9 - 10 , 123 ). The battle for which Akbar is leaving might be one in his 1580-81 war against his half-brother, whom he defeated at Kabul in 1581 (Correia-Afonso , p. 93 ; Brand and Lowry, Akbar's India, op . cit., 'Chronology ci Important Historical and Artistic Events' , pp. 158 - 59 - this chronology is the source for other dates I mention) . Fr . Monserrate was part of Akbar's entourage in the final expedition of this war (Correia-Afonso , pp. 96 - 97 ).
23. See frontispiece in Brand and Lowry, Akbar's India, op . cit.
24. The first painting by a Mughal artist to show the influence of Christian art is dated ca. 1580, the same year that the Jesuits presented Akbar with several examples (Welch, India: Art and Culture, op . cit., p. 164 ). Basawan's painting of the subject is dated 1590-1600; see Brand and Lowry, Akbar's India, op . cit., p. 102 ( plate 66). Akbar's enthusiasm over Christian religious art is a frequent theme of the Jesuits' letters (Correia-Afonso, op . cit., pp. 31 , 33 - 34 , 48 - 49 , 58 - 60 ). As for 'dogg[ing] the emperor', Akbar ordered Fathers Monserrate and Aquaviva to accompany him on military campaigns, an experience made more difficult by illness 'alone in a Muslim country, without physician or medicines' (Aquaviva, letter dated 25 April 1582 , in Correia-Afonso, p. 101 ).
25. Mukherjee , Days and Nights, op. cit., p. 286 .
26. Dr . Patel and his family do , however, appear in two stories, 'Nostalgia' and 'Saints'.
27. David Kinsley, Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986 ), p. 117 .
28. The eponymous heroine of jasmine also becomes Kali when she murders her rapist (p. 106 ). Kinsley notes that later Hinduism modified Kali's terrible aspect to some extent, so that she became 'not only the symbol of death but the symbol of triumph over death' (op . cit., pp. 124 , 118 , 125).
29. Cornelia Dimmitt and J. A. B. van Buitenen, ed. and trans., Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978 ), p. 225 .
30 Kinsley suggests that 'Kali may be one way in which the Hindu tradition has sought to come to terms ... with the built-in shortcomings of its own refined view of the world ... by reminding Hindus that certain aspects of reality are untamable, unpurifiable, unpredictable, and always a threat to society's feeble attempts to order what is essentially disorderly: life itself' (op . cit., p. 129 ).
31. Anon ., Life of Sri Ramakrishna Compiled from Various Authentic Sources , 2nd ed. ( 1928 ; Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1964 ), p. 66 .
32. Mukherjee , qtd. Michael Connell , Jessie Crearson , and Tom Crimes, ' An Interview with Bharati Mukherjee' , Iowa Review 20 , 3 ( 1990 ), p. 21 .
33. James A. Kirk, Stories of the Hindus: An Introduction through Texts and Interpretation (NY: Macmillan, 1972 ), p. 224 . In some traditions, however, Kali is a consort of Shiva (Kinsley, Hindu Goddesses, op . cit., pp. 119 - 22 ).
34. Roshni Rustomji- Kerns notes the tendency of Mukherjee's 'fellow South Asian immigrants', who see themselves as 'successful citizens of America', to dismiss such scenes of violence in Mukherjee's work as 'only well-written South Asian American gothic'; Rustomji-Kerns herself implies that Mukherjee has provided 'a voice to speak of the immigrant experience' ('Expatriates, Immigrants and Literature: Three South Asian Women Writers' , Massachusetts Review 29 , 4 , p. 659 ).
35. Qtd . Kinsley, op. cit., p. 127 .
36. Kinsley , op. cit., p. 130 .
37. Mukherjee used the term to describe her own relation to English in 'Mimicry and Reinvention', op . cit., p. 147 . Soon after, however, she dropped any claim to linguistic alienation (Carb, 'Interview with Bharati Mukherjee', op . cit., p. 649 ).
38. Mukherjee , ' An Invisible Woman', op . cit., p. 38 .
39. Ramakrishna describes himself 'writhing in anguish of heart[,] cry[ing] at the top of my voice, 'Come, my boys! ...' A mother never longs so intensely for the sight