The Rose and the Lotus
Raja Rao, one of the founding figures of Indian English literature, is re-examined in this comprehensive study of his fiction, which offers a fresh critical investigation into both his short stories and his novels.
Powerfully contradicting the long-held perception of Raja Rao as a mere metaphysical writer and the true bard of quintessential Indianness, projected by many critics of the first Commonwealth generation over three decades, Stefano Mercanti posits Rao’s fiction in terms of its dialogic interaction – the ‘partnership’ – between Western and Eastern cultural traditions and demonstrates how it evolves during the course of his oeuvre on both the philosophical and the political level.
The title, The Rose and the Lotus, signals the discursive terrain for a multicultural and interwoven evolution among different cultures, and points to the need for valuing relations of reciprocity rather than those of domination. Far from conveying univocal configurations and nationalistic stereotypes, Rao’s idea of India is seen as the epicentre of many echoes and dynamic resonances, both Western and Eastern, through which a distinct blend of Indian and European influences is more clearly unravelled.
In this new critical re-appraisal, Mercanti draws on non-binary and inter/multi-disciplinary paradigms, thus signalling the complex transformations and multiple negotiations of a polyglot India caught between the cultural twilight of the modern and the traditional. The study also offers an invaluable linguistic analysis of Rao’s experiment with the English language, supplemented by a detailed glossary.