Representations of revolutionary violence in recent Indian and South African fiction
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Several recent novels in English by Indian and South African authors explore the theme of violent political resistance to the entrenched injustices of the hierarchical Indian social order and South Africa’s institutionalised system of racial and economic domination, respectively. This article will investigate and compare the ways in which this theme is treated in four novels: Jhumpa Lahiri’s Lowland (2013), Neel Mukherjee’s Lives of Others (2015), Mandla Langa’s The Texture of Shadows (2014) and Nkosinathi Sithole’s Hunger Eats a Man (2015). The first two chart the consequences for their protagonists of their participation in the Naxalite insurrection in the late 1960s. While Langa’s The Texture of Shadows does not question the decision to engage in armed struggle against the apartheid regime, it refuses to evade the bitter consequences of this decision both for individuals and for the country more generally. Nkosinathi Sithole’s Hunger Eats a Man situates the theme of resistance in relation to the extreme poverty and inequality of the contemporary South African countryside. The comparative approach followed in this article reveals continuities in the representation of resistant violence in the Indian and South African texts in terms of its consequences both for individuals and for post-revolutionary society. At the same time, the comparison exposes significant disjunctions relating to national and generational histories, political ideologies and the ways in which race, class, caste and gender intersect with political resistance in the two countries, as these concerns are imagined in fiction.