Witnessing Partition: Memory, History, Fiction, 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Witnessing Partition

Memory, History, Fiction, 2nd Edition

By Tarun K. Saint

Routledge India

280 pages

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This book interrogates representations — fiction, literary motifs and narratives— of the Partition of India. Delving into the writings of Khushwant Singh, Balachandra Rajan, Attia Hosain, Abdullah Hussein, Rahi Masoom Raza and Anita Desai, among many others, it highlights the modes of ‘fictive’ testimony that sought to articulate the inarticulate — the experiences of trauma and violence, of loss and longing, and of diaspora and displacement. The author discusses representational techniques and formal innovations in writing across three generations of twentieth century writers in India and Pakistan, invoking theoretical debates on history, memory, witnessing and trauma.

With a new Afterword, the second edition of this volume draws attention to recent developments in Partition studies and sheds new light as regards ongoing debates about an event that still casts a shadow on contemporary South Asian society and culture. A key text, this is essential reading for scholars, researchers and students of literary criticism, South Asian studies, cultural studies, modern history and the general reader.


"Witnessing Partition, now updated to include recent writing and scholarship on the afterlives of Partition, remains crucial to our understanding of the many ways in which that process continues to structure politics and culture across the subcontinent. Highly recommended."Suvir Kaul, A. M. Rosenthal Professor, Department of English, University of Pennsylvania, USA

"Tarun Saint’s Witnessing Partition: Memory, History, Fiction offers a lucid and scholarly account of novels about the wounds inflicted and traumas suffered by individuals and communities during the partition of 1947. The second edition of his book should again remind us about two contemporary ethical and political concerns: the troubling relation between religious, nationalist and racial politics and genocide; and the urgent need of "courage-teachers" (satyagrahis) who always refuse, under all circumstances, hysterical demands for aggression and revenge. Tarun’s new "Afterword" argues that partition violence still haunts our present social and religious discourse; its scars have still not healed; its melancholy has yet not lifted."Alok Bhalla, author of Stories about the Partition of India (4 volumes) and Partition Dialogues

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Negotiating the Effects of Historical Trauma: Novels of the 1940s and 50s 2. Partition’s Afterlife: Perspectives from the 1960s and 70s 3. Narrativising the ‘Time of Partition’: Writings since 1980 4. Short Stories about the Partition: Towards a Self-Reflexive Mode of Testimony 5. Reinventing Testimonial Fiction in the Wake of the Partition. Afterword

About the Author

Tarun K. Saint taught English literature for many years at Hindu College, Delhi University, India, and is now an independent scholar and writer. His research interests include the literature of the partition and science fiction/speculative literature. He edited Bruised Memories: Communal Violence and the Writer (2002) and co-edited (with Ravikant) Translating Partition (2001). He has co-edited the anthology Looking Back: India’s Partition, 70 Years On (2017), with Rakhshanda Jalil and Debjani Sengupta. Recently, he has edited The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction (2019).

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Asia / General
HISTORY / Asia / India & South Asia
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Colonialism & Post-Colonialism
RELIGION / History
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies