Brit-author Dalrymple in controversy over "Raj", "racist" claims

Written by: Ani
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London, Jan 17 (ANI): Award-winning historian William Dalrymple has found himself in the middle of a racist controversy over claims that British authors writing about India are inheritors of "a Raj that still lingers".

According to The Independent, an article in an Indian magazine, Open' accused the Indian elite of being attached to British literary culture and to events such as this week's Jaipur Literature Festival, which Dalrymple organises in the desert state of Rajasthan each year.

"The festival works not because it is a literary enterprise, but because it ties us to the British literary establishment. Getting that literary establishment to take note of India requires making use of a certain romantic association that stretches back to the Raj," the article said while questioning Dalrymple's stand as arbiter of Indian literary quality.

Dalrymple, the internationally acclaimed writer of travel and history books and broadcaster who for over a quarter of a century has been frequently travelling from India to the UK, has slammed the allegations.

He wrote a letter to the magazine, saying that the article was "blatantly racist" and that the festival hosted writers working in a dozen of India's 22 official languages. He added that almost two-thirds of the literary celebrities invited every year were from South Asia.

"My adopted country is in general pretty tolerant of people who choose to come and live here, and I have only once before had to write a letter like this, defending my existence as a writer in the country I love. But I do think there is an important principle at stake here, and to me at least, that piece felt little more than the literary equivalent of pouring shit through an immigrant's letterbox," Dalrymple wrote.

The article in Open, written by political editor Hartosh Singh Bal, focussed on foreign writers based in India, particularly those from Britain, who he says report a specific vision of the country, adding that yet such people are given credit for Indian literary establishments.

Yesterday, Dalrymple said that he regretted making the allegation of racism, and also claimed that he had invited Bal to meet him and attend the festival. (ANI)

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