Diaspora and identity in the fiction of K S Maniam

Article


Wicks, Peter. 2002. "Diaspora and identity in the fiction of K S Maniam." The Atlantic Literary Review. 3 (4), pp. 115-127.
Article Title

Diaspora and identity in the fiction of K S Maniam

ERA Journal ID11524
Article CategoryArticle
Authors
AuthorWicks, Peter
Journal TitleThe Atlantic Literary Review
Journal Citation3 (4), pp. 115-127
Number of Pages20
Year2002
Place of PublicationIndia
ISSN0972-3269
Web Address (URL)http://www.geocities.com/atlanticliteraryreview/
Abstract

[Introduction]: Emmanuel Nelson has truly observed that the “haunting presence of India” lies at the core of
diasporic fiction by writers of Indian descent, together with the “anguish of personal loss”
that an awareness of India engenders. (1) In any consideration of diasporic fiction, terms like exile, alienation, nostalgia, despair, dislocation, abandonment, and disintegration come readily to mind. In the case of distinguished Malaysian Indian writer, K S Maniam, the list can be augmented by reference to a profound sense of futility, and the absence of any personal sense of contemporary national identity. In 1984, Maniam poignantly reflected that the life of his particular community in Malaysia was “a straining towards achievement that does not end in fulfillment.” (2) This human gap between what could be and what is constitutes the actual fate of diaspora in Maniam’s fiction. The prospects for diaspora are, in short, very limited.

This paper treats Maniam’s novels and short stories as documents of cultural knowledge, both of the South Indian community in Malaysia and of nation-building in Malaysia itself. Maniam’s fiction is also assessed in light of V S Naipaul’s concern that diasporic writers should strive to create a self in their own words, to assert their own voice in the country where they live, and so refuse to accept cultural or personal extinction. (3) The paper outlines the consequences of that refusal, especially Maniam’s inability to relate to a particular Malayo-Muslim definition of the nation. The paper also draws out the writer’s preference for a dynamic and multi-faceted Malaysian culture grounded on metaphysical and humanistic assumptions, as well as a post-colonial state graciously informed by its diverse cultural heritage.

KeywordsManiam, Malaysian literature, Malaysia
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020470529. South-East Asian literature (excl. Indonesian)
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Byline AffiliationsSchool of Humanities and Communication
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