Conceiving Strangeness in British First World War Writing by Claire Buck (auth.)

By Claire Buck (auth.)

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This journey cannot be equated in any simple way with the physical move from India to Europe. Yet the link between the educational journey and the geographical one, so central to the European Grand Tour, is embodied in the central character of Lalu Singh, for whom England, or “Vilayat” as the sepoys call it, is “the glamorous land of his dreams, where the Sahibs came from, where people wore coats and pantaloons and led active, fashionable lives – even, so it was said, the peasants and the poor Sahibs” (9).

The French officers “looked like the Indians with their sallow complexions,” while “[a]n irrational impulse was persuading him to believe that the dirty, squalid outskirts of this town were a replica of the outer fringes of Karachi Harbour” (10, 12). Lalu’s position, as the English-educated colonial subject in Europe, allows Anand to do more than simply invert the European travelogue’s production of absolute difference. Difference may lie in the observer’s imagination, or at least some place else than he imagines.

The events of this journey establish a specific subjectivity for the colonized Indian and raise the issue of difference in and between subjects: the nature and function of the Indian’s difference from the European; Indian differences, for example between Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims, or educated and uneducated; and lastly, the differences between Europeans. In European travelogues the narrator typically looks for and repeatedly “discovers” the differences of non-European from European people, behavior, and landscape.

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