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Rotten English

By Rohan Kamicheril

Amitava Kumar and Michael Ryan edit the Rotten English issue of Politics and Culture. The issue takes its cue from Dohra Ahmad's book Rotten English: A Literary Anthology. The title of the book comes from Ken Saro-Wiwa's Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English. What are Saro-Wiwa and Ahmad getting at? Mandakini Debey takes it apart for us in her essay and casts some light on the considered use of non-standard English as a literary medium. A quote from Ahmad's book puts the growing trend into sharp perspective:

What would once have been pejoratively termed ídialect literatureë has recently and decisively come into its own. Half of the novels that won the Man Booker prize over the past twelve years are in a non-standard English: the British Commonwealth's most prestigious award honors passages like íIt ain't like your regular sort of dayë (the opening line of Graham Swift's Last Orders) and íWhat kind of fucken life is this?ë (the persistent refrain of DBC Pierre's Vernon God Little).

An intriguing and well-reasoned look at the changing face of Anglophone literature.

Also in the same issue are Evelyn Chi'en and David Golumbia on Ch'ien's Weird English.

Published Feb 28, 2008   Copyright 2008 Rohan Kamicheril

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