A Comical Subversion: ENGLISH, AUGUST

  • Rani Unnamalai K


Literary realism attempts to illustrate life in texts without romanticizing ordinary experiences. Upamanyu Chatterjee's work English, August presents the people of rural India. The protagonist of the novel, Agastya, is a civil servant and he encounters the people of Madna. I propose that in the novel’s postcolonial setting of rural India, the nation replicates the imperial power. The bureaucratic system in India poses as a mimicry of the imperialist rule; a masquerade of colonial modernity in India. This paper also examines the impact of colonialism on the individual's psyche. The characters face anxiety over self in various instances as bureaucrats and individuals. This paper seeks to explain the modernist method of writing in critiquing the colonial modernity in India and the objective reality that the realist writings tend to produce. My paper claims that the novel in the style of bildungsroman is a comical subversive critique generated against the narratives of the nation.

Keywords: colonial modernity, postcolonial writing, literary realism, bildungsroman, bureaucratic memoir, nation.


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Author Biography

Rani Unnamalai K

Rani Unnamalai K has completed her Integrated MA (English Studies) from Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras in July 2020. She has cleared UGC NET in English. She was a teaching Assistant for NPTEL Courses (World Literature and Indian Fiction in English) at IIT Madras. Her Masters’ Dissertation discussed the importance of language in the legal discourse.


1. Arnold, David, and Blackburn, Stuart. Telling Lives in India: Biography, Autobiography and Life History. Indiana University Press and Permanent Black, 2004.
2. Chatterjee, Upamanyu. English August: An Indian Story. New Delhi: Rupa & Co., 1989.
3. Dalley, Hamish. The Postcolonial Historical Novel: realism, Allegory, and the Representation of Contested Pasts. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
4. Gordon, Ruth. “Organic Constitution.” Proceedings of the Annual Meeting (American Society of International Law), vol. 92, 1998, pp 93-96.
5. Grewal, Inderpal. “The Masculinities of Post-colonial Governance: bureaucratic memoirs of the Indian Civil Service.” Modern Asian Studies, 2015, pp 1-33. DOI: 10.1017/S0026749X13000772.
6. Grove, Richard. Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Orgins of Environmentalism, 1600–1860. Cambridge University Press, 1995.
7. Joshi, Sanjay. Fractured Modernity: making of a middle Class in Colonial North India. Oxford University Press, 2001.
8. Morris, Pam. Realism. Routledge, 2003.
9. Philip, Kavita. Civilizing Natures: Race, Resources, and Modernity in Colonial South India. Rutgers University Press, 2004.
Further Readings
1. Childs, Peter. Modernism and the Post- Colonial: Literature and Empire 1885-1930. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2007.
2. Kwon, Nayoung A. Intimate Empire: Collaboration and Colonial Modernity in Korea and Japan. Duke University Press, 2015.
3. Scott, David. Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment. Duke University press, 2004.
4. Robinette, Nicholas. Realism, Form and the Postcolonial Novel. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
5. Haque, Shamsul M. “The Paradox of Bureaucratic Accountability in developing nations under a Promarket State”. International Political Science Review, vol. 19, no. 4, 1998, pp 357-372.
6. Slattery, Mary F. “What is Literary Realism?” The journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol 31, no 1, 1972, pp 55-62.
How to Cite
Unnamalai K, R. “A Comical Subversion: ENGLISH, AUGUST”. Contemporary Literary Review India, Vol. 8, no. 4, Nov. 2021, pp. 33-49, https://literaryjournal.in/index.php/clri/article/view/994.
Research Papers