Crossing the barrier A descriptive and evaluative study of partial fiction

"The relevance of a study of Partition fiction can hardly be over-emphasised. A focussed critical assessment of this fiction becomes necessary given the considerable fictional output that has thematised the Partition - and the paucity of critical attention devoted to it. An assessment of this kind is also relevant because it is likely to usher in a process of self-introspection and self-knowledge, both at the level of the individual and the community. Choosing appropriate narrative strategies, the four writers discussed here - Khushwant Singh, Manohar Malgonkar, Chaman Nahal, and Bapsi Sidhwa - write out of their own experiences ofthe Partition. As ‘participant-authors,’ they view the Partition as a tragic rupture that caused the disintegration of a communally shared cultural history. Despite differences, their incisive reflection indicates a pervasive dissatisfaction with the present, even as their novels aim to reinvent a community that is cohesive and integral to national life. The hard and square look these novels take at the terrible human tragedy of our times holds for all ofus a salutary lesson that is much needed.
In the final analysis, Partition texts call attention to the human dimension of nationalist history. Crossing the barrier of received histories and communal identities, they become important signifiers ofthe continuing quest for a civil society."

Ravishankar Rao
Mangalore University