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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Transgressive resistance in R Raj Rao’s One day I Locked My Flat in Soul City- A narratological analysis by Huzaifa Pandit

Transgressive resistance in R Raj Rao’s One day I Locked My Flat in Soul City- A narratological analysis by Huzaifa Pandit

I undertake to examine literature as a self–reflexive ideologue by placing it in the sphere of fiction or more specifically the short stories of a contemporary writer – R Raj Rao – one of the pioneers of queer studies in the contemporary world. My objective is to analyze how the aesthetic formulated in his work signifies a remarkable propensity towards a categorization of truth beyond the ‘epistemological terrain’ and evolving a paradoxical construct of truth. The short story form traces its genesis to the 17th century, and has since then come to trace such a bewildering diversity of issues as defy easy categorization and characterization. A prototypical model features a select cast of characters, grounded in a self-contained incident contracted to evoke a "single effect" or mood. The aim of this paper is to try and trace this diversity by a comparison of two short stories set in two different spatial-temporal, ideological and classifications: a story from the anthology One day I locked my flat in soul city and an another story representative of a genre, era or in any way possessing some distinguishing mark that sets it up as a paradigm-construct. The comparison shall try to examine the differences at the structural level of the stories and thereby try to deduce comparative epistemological or ontological evaluations about the short stories. My analysis shall focus on a comparative perusal of three stories by Rao – ‘One day I locked my flat in Soul City’, ‘Psychoanalysis’ and ‘Landya ko Maro’ compared with three other stories: Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Adventure of the Second Stain’, O Henry’s ‘After Twenty years’ and ‘The Sniper’ by Liam O’ Flaherty.

The genre short story typically refers to a work of prose notable for its brevity yet encompassing within its domain a sufficiently profound analysis of a singular emotion, mood, thought or action. The story is differentiated from the anecdote – an unelaborated narration of an event on account of its structural preciseness. Like the novel it relies on a proper plot constructed of the elements action, thought and dialogue into a desired impression upon the reader. Over the years the grammar of short story writing has evolved considerably especially with the advent of fragmented modernist consciousness. From a simplistic narration for amusement purposes it has evolved into a powerful tool for inheriting and exhibiting powerful world views manifest in short story writers.

The form traces its genesis to the 17th century, and has since then come to trace such a bewildering diversity of issues as defy easy categorization and characterization. However as pointed out at the start a prototypical model features a select cast of characters, grounded in a self-contained incident contracted to evoke a "single effect" or mood. The aim of this paper is to try and trace this diversity by a comparison of two short stories set in two different spatial-temporal, ideological and classifications: a story from the anthology One day I locked my flat in soul city and an another story representative of a genre, era or in any way possessing some distinguishing mark that sets it up as a paradigm-construct. The comparison shall try to examine the differences at the structural level of the stories and thereby try to deduce comparative epistemological or ontological evaluations about the short stories. My analysis shall focus on a comparative perusal of three stories by Rao – ‘One day I locked my flat in Soul City’, ‘Psychoanalysis’ and ‘Landya ko Maro’ compared with three other stories: Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Adventure of the Second Stain’, O Henry’s ‘After Twenty years’ and ‘The Sniper’ by Liam O’ Flaherty.

The notion of narrator is a crucial element in every narrative for it provides vital clues to decipher the pragmatic, epistemological and ontological contours of the narrative. Depending upon the genre and objective of the story, the narrator can embody great diversity and flexibility in its construction, approach and world views. Arguably, the most comprehensive and exhaustive categorization of narratorial functions was provided by Ansgar Nunning (1989). It would not be out of place here to look in some depth at the typology provided by him. The first purpose served by a narrator is the narrative function i.e. (s) he presents the fictional world encompassed in the narration.

The second function of the narrative is to explicate/demarcate the socio-political, socio-religious, socio-cultural and/or socio-economic conditions that frame the narrative in terms of conditioning the motives of the characters and other crucial factors. Usually this function is enacted through a first person narrator or an overt narrator who identifies with the first person pronoun. It must be noted however that the “comments and explanations must refer to the story world. Their main purpose is to arouse the reader’s sympathy or antipathy for certain characters.” This identification is crucial as it informs the normative framework on which the edifice of the story is developed.

The narrator can function as a theorizing instrument employed to articulate “universally valid propositions, especially in the case of sentences in the so-called gnomic present e.g. Boys will be boys”. Such cases present the relation of the narratorial voice as expansive as viewed in relation to the real world that transcends the world of the story. These gnomic statements formulate normative systems that simplify and condition the reader’s response and interactions with the text. The narrator also performs the discursive function that deals with the communicative contours of the narration involved in the address to the naratee or the implied reader.

The notion of implied reader brings us to elaborate on the contours of communicative relations involved in the narrator/naratee relationship. The relation can be quite overt e.g. Wuthering Heights employs Nelly Dean as the narrator and Mr. Lockwood as the naratee. In such a case the narration is addressed to a fictional character, whose intra-textual mooring is well defined and thereof exists as a full-fledged character at the plot level. The communicative situation emergent therein is the confessional modean unmediated expression of the inner thoughts of the narrator conditioned by meaning in textual structures. The unmediated expression however pre-supposes a sympathetic reader who will consent to accept the meanings provided by the author e.g. In Dickens’ Hard Times, the author presupposes a reader who will identify with the symbol of Sleary’s circus being the metaphor for imagination – a metaphor the reader may or may not accept. Thus there arises a basic distinction between an implied reader and an actual reader on the basis of functions they perform. On a similar note the difference between an actual author and an implied author is based on the distinction that the actual author corresponds to who wrote the story while an implied author suggests the image of the author we have in mind as to who wrote the story. It shows in our interpretations as an actual reader when we assume for example that Dickens’ Gradgrind is a confused character when Dickens may not have intended it to be so. 

Analysis: The adventure of the Second Stain v/s One day I locked my flat in the Soul City
Narrator/narrative style:
‘The Adventure of the Second Stain’ (referred to hereafter as The Second Stain) by Arthur Conan Doyle is a detective story revolving around his famous fictional detective character: Sherlock Holmes. It was published in 1904 and is set in the summer of 1888 while ‘One day I locked my flat in Soul City’ is set in the 21st century in an unknown year and on an unknown day. The story is an autobiographical account of an event that occurred on some unknown day in the life of the narrator and can be read as congruent with expression of existential angst in the Nietzschean vein bordering close on the absurdist realm.

‘The Second Stain’ exhibits an intradiegetic style i.e. the story is told by a character present in the story. In addition the story displays a hypodiegetic element as well i.e. the characters of the stories narrate stories to themselves and therefore function as narrators. In the story the following narration modes are embedded:
  • Trawnley Hope to Holmes: Report of stolen letter
  • Watson to Holmes: the newspaper report regarding murder of Eduardo Lucas
  • Lestrade to Holmes: discovery and inquiry of the incongruent stains.
  • Constable to Holmes: sequence of action the previous night
  • Holmes to Watson: solution of the mystery.
  • Lady Hopes to Holmes: sequence of events
The narrator is overt i.e. is immediately discernible for without Watson, Holmes would be lost and none of his exploits will be exposed to the reading public. The style of narration of words is Transposed speech in indirect style that is where the narrator cedes the floor of the narrative to the character in full i.e. Watson does not paraphrase the speech of the characters, but reproduces them as they were spoken. Further the narrator(s) is/are example(s) of Reliable narrator(s) meaning thereby the valid social norms are preserved in word and deed. No narration in the story transcends the causal framework which conditions the legitimate social behaviors.
The story also presents a structure often employed by the detective stories i.e. the usage of framing narrative.

The story presents three cases of narrative framing:
i.      Introductory framing: Watson frames the narrative by describing the characters i.e. Trawnley Hope, The Premier, Holmes and himself, place (Baker Street lodgings) and general mood (perception of regality and immense national importance) of the story that further develops into the main plot). A diagrammatic representation of this framing would be:
[Watson (characters, place of action and mood) +_____________]
ii.    Interpolate framing: Lady Hopes frames the investigation by her dramatic appearance after her husband has left inquiring as to the cause of his vexation. Another instance of the same is the constable’s testimony which establishes the complicity of Lady Hopes and thereby paves the way for the final solution of the mystery and discovery of the letter. A diagrammatic representation of this framing would be:
[____________ [Lady Hopes] _________ [Constable] __________]
iii.  Terminal framing: Inquiry by the Premier and the witty response of Sherlock Holmes that frames the narrative as yet incomplete and tapering further into numerous possibilities.

‘One day I locked my flat in soul city’ (referred to hereafter as The Soul city) on the other hand is told completely from an Intradiegetic also called homodiegetic view point i.e. the story is told by a narrator in the first person who tells his own story of rootlessness and vague existential angst. There is no duality of voice as the narrator is the only character in the story who witnesses and enacts all the action himself. The story presents a unique narratorial ambivalence: on one hand the narrator has a strong degree of presence in the story, being more than a secondary character, witness or observer as he is the vehicle of all action and impressions that derive from it. On the other hand he is an ‘Unreliable Narrator’ as his version of reality appears to be blurred and distorted being obsessed with the idea of the masses walking towards some particular direction. Social convention lays down that a person know his destination and thereby make a concerted effort to fulfill that destination. However in the story neither the narrator makes any such effort nor do the masses whom he joins – they all partake in what appears to be an absurdist rootless movement. Accordingly there is no level of framing that occurs at any point in the story – the narration essentially relying on just two actions: the narrator marching in the same direction as the masses away from his flat and narrator marching in a direction opposite to the masses to reach his flat. Structurally therefore the story is far less complex and plain than the detective fiction. I argue that this plainness is the strength of the story rather than the defect as it complements the subversion of the canonical techniques of artistic production manifest in the Second Stain. However at present I shall restrict myself to this claim as a detailed analysis will follow at the end. It is more profitable now to explore other elements of the stories to arrive at an idea of their differing narrative structures.

Fable vs. Subject
The second distinction lies in the realm of fable and the Subject which are the Formalist’s substitution for what actually happened in real life i.e. the story and the way the author has presented it (plot). While in the case of The Adventure of the Second stain (hereafter referred to as Second Stain) the distinction is clear and distinct, it is ambiguous and blurred in the Case of One day I locked my Flat in Soul City (hereafter referred to as One day). The Second Stain follows the story of the disappearance of an official letter on one level and the murder of a suspected possessor on the other. The sequence of events or the fable follows thus: E= Event, Nt = Normal time)

E1N1 + E2N2 + E3N3+E4N4 +………… E13N13 = Fable
       Where E1 = letter being taken from the dispatch box by Lady Hopes
N1 = Evening
E2 = delivery of letter to Eduardo Lucas
N2 = Night
E3 = Murder of Eduardo Lucas by his jealous wife
N3 = Night
E4 = discovery of Murder
N4 = Night
E5 = Discovery of the disappearance of letter by Tawnley Hopes
N5 = Early morning
E6 = Reporting of matter to Sherlock Holmes
N6= Late morning
E7= Reporting of matter to Sherlock Holmes
N7 = morning
E8= Visit of Lady Hopes
N8 = morning
E9= Investigations by Sherlock Holmes
N9= morning till the morning three days later (morning2)
E10= Discovery of the incongruent stains
E11= Discovery of Lady Hopes’ complicity
N7 = morning2
E12= Confession of Lady Hopes
N12 = Afternoon
E13= Retrieval of letter
N13 = Late Afternoon

However in the Subject the sequence of events is as follows:
E6N6+ E7N7 + E8N8+E4N4+ E8N8 + E9N9 + E10N10+ E11N11+ E12N12 + E13N13 + E1N1+ E2N2+ E3N3 = Subject.

This is strictly in keeping with the convention of the short story more specifically detective fiction which relies on two stories fiction which basically consists of a paradoxical structure. The structure of such a story rests basically on a duality of stories: the first story ends is that details the crime/mysterious event that occurred, which ends before the second begins. The second story traces the investigation and is often narrated by a friend of the detective as is the case here: Doctor Watson narrates the adventures. Often this narrator friend acknowledges he is writing an account of the event. While the first story completely negates the aspect of it being primarily a literary construction (no reader will be engaged if the author explicitly hints that it is fiction), the second story celebrates its reality of being a book, precisely because it is that book. This dichotomy then foregrounds the relative importance of these two stories. While the first one is significant in terms of the framework on which the story rests, it is primarily absent. We must rely on the insignificant second story present to provide a report of the absent. Both the stories are however necessary for continuation of the narrative for the second story that frames the first story uses many literary devices like temporal inversion (As shown earlier in the treatment of the subject) that make the first story imperative to cover for the gaps in the narrative. This element provides the hue of reality to the detective story, because unlike the classic novel, the detective cannot be omniscient, and harbor all knowledge for then all his skill will be redundant.

Having laid the convention of the detective story it is clear how Doyle fulfills the criterion. The story is narrated by Dr. Watson who is not only a close friend of Holmes but also publishes his exploits to be read by the public. To make it appear natural his voice is completely transparent and neutral to the tune that we might be pardoned for forgetting that it is his voice we are reading and not the action as it occurred. As for temporal inversion I have already highlighted it. However the act of temporal inversion is not the only technique that is involved in the story. These elements however shall be discussed later, however.

I now turn to ‘One day’ by R Raj Rao. A superficial analysis will reveal that the story is a linear one – embodying no duality and proceeds in a synchronic manner rather than a diachronic manner. One follows the anonymous narrator who sets out in a moment of absurdist rootlessness and spurned by existential angst to drown his angst amongst a crowd that is apparently moving towards a common destination. As expected he fails to gather any inkling of the crowd’s destination and overcome by an all too familiar desire for comfort and food decides to march back to his flat –accomplishing the return without any dramatic conflict or consequence. The story as we see is completely silent on the issue of time referring to it only as a vague ‘one day’. Besides no action in the traditional sense occurs as the narrator only displays psychological movement rather any dramatic movement – most of the story being an acute dialogic perception. The difference between fable and subject is therefore blurred if not mitigated completely and the structure that ensues can be shown as follows:

E1N∞ + E2N∞ + E3N∞ = fable/subject where ∞ refers to the unknown time at which the events occur.

Time: Both the stories are in the ‘subsequent Time’ i.e. a past time narrative. The second stain relies on an analepses i.e. construction of a narrative subservient (albeit temporarily) to the first narrative i.e. the framing narrative. In the Second Stain as pointed out the real action can unfurl only when a base has been laid by the first framing introduction by Watson. Additionally the story has heterodiegetic analepses i.e. internal recollections by the author to shed reflection on a character recently introduced. In the story the description of Trawnley Hope and Lord Bellinger as men with chequered careers corresponds to the notion. One day on the other hand utilizes only simple analepses.

 Frequency: Frequency entails the extent of repetition between the narrative story and the digesis. In simple words it is the extent to which an act occurs in the narrative whether it happens once or twice or multiple times. Good fiction always avoids needless repetition most of the time, yet repetition might be necessitated to create a layering of text and induce an effect. Let us analyze the Second stain in this light. Following is an account of narrative frequency found in the story:

1N/1S: an event occurs once:
i.                     Theft of letter from the dispatch box of Trawnely Hope by Lady Hope
ii.                   Transporting it to Eduardo Lucas in lieu of a compromising letter she had written when she was young to a lover.
iii.                  Visit of Madame Henri Fournaye w/o Eduado Lucas alias Henri Fournaye
iv.                 Concealing of letter in the cavity of floor
v.                   Murder of Eduardo Lucas
vi.                 Discovery of his murder
vii.                Receipt and publishing of telegram conveying Mst Henri’s arrest on charge of murder
viii.              Note by Lestrade requesting attendance of Holmes to investigate a strange occurrence
ix.                 Establishment of Constable’s complicity
x.                   Interview of Constable revealing Lady Hilda’s complicity
xi.                 Recovery of letter
xii.                Putting it back in the dispatch box to shield Lady Hilda.
xiii.              Discovery of letter in the dispatch box by Trawnley Hope

2N/2S: an event occurs twice:
i.                     Interview of Trawnley Hope and Lord Bellinger in presence of Watson and Holmes.
ii.                   Lady Helda’s interview in presence of Watson and Holmes
iii.                  Searching of the dispatch box: at the time of discovery of theft and at the end to find the letter there.
iv.                 The stained carpet is moved around twice – once by Eduardo Lucas and once by Lady Hilda Hopes
v.                   The discovery of the incongruent blood stains: Once by Lestrade during tidying up and Again by Lestrade to point it out to Holmes
vi.                 Searching of cavity in the floor of Eduardo Lucas’ house: Once by Lady Hilda Hopes and once by Sherlock Holmes.

N/ S: Events occur unknown times
i.                     Investigations by Holmes regarding the murder.
ii.                   Holmes is taciturn, silent, morose and consumes sandwiches at irregular times sometimes playing on his violin for two days

Consider the story ‘One day’ by R Raj Rao now:
1N/1s: all the events in the story seem to occur only once which constitutes a break from the traditional story structure and hence leads to no ostensible complexity.
i.                     Locking of flat in Soul city – Bombay
ii.                   Stepping out into story
iii.                  Noticing of crowd surging in a particular direction
iv.                 Moving along with the crowd
v.                   Reflecting on the motives of the crowd
vi.                 Smelling of sweat and dividing it into sweet and sour sweat
vii.                Observing the peculiar postures of the crowd as holding hands.
viii.              Brushing of arms and legs of the narrator against the arms and legs of crowd
ix.                 Observance of peculiar facial features of the crowd including snoot filled nostrils
x.                   Smelling of the stink of urine and garbage
xi.                 Observing undergarments riddled with holes on the verandahs of houses
xii.                Feeling tired
xiii.              Urge to rest and have some coffee
xiv.              Deciding to make a turn around
xv.               Feeling
xvi.              Smoking
xvii.            Pushing
xviii.           Brushing against the penises, mouths and stomachs of the crowd
xix.              Reaching flat
xx.               Getting into the lift
xxi.              Being greeted by lift man and offered coffee
xxii.            Rejection of his offer
xxiii.           Opening flat
xxiv.          Reflecting the Lift man’s offer
xxv.            Accepting his offer

Focalization refers to one of the central constituents of narrative discourse. External focalization refers to a description of the characters’ external lives i.e. they are viewed from outside and their internal feelings/states remain concealed to the reader. Internal focalization on the other hand focuses on a description of the internal lives i.e. mental states of the characters. An unlimited or zero –focalized view combines both kinds of focalizations. Stenzel expanded this concept by introducing the distinction between narrator mode and reflector mode to be studied in conjunction with external and internal perspective. The mode distinction is ordered on the basis of who mediates the story: if the narrator’s impressions and perceptions mediate the story i.e. at a (homo) diegetic level, focalization is achieved through a reflector mode. So the narrator assumes a reflector figure role. However, if the story is mediated through an omniscient narrator then it is a case of narration at extradiegetic level and thence focalization is carried out through a narrator figure. Perspective defines the type of view afforded by the narrator of the fictional world: if the story presents a view of the outside view of the fictional world then the perspective is external. In contrast, if the view presented is of the internal state i.e. the cognitive impressions of the reflector figure then the perspective is internal. Hence the following model is attained:

Intradiegetic narration
Reflector focalization
Describes only the cognitive states of the narrator
Extradiegetic narration
Narrator focalization
Describes the cognitive states of other characters as well

Having established this distinction it is easy to see now that ‘The Second Stain’ presents a narratorial focalization. The story relies on linguistic approximations of action rather than reportage and therefore fits the conventional technique of mitigating the authorial point of view completely. In contrast ‘Soul City’ embodies reflector focalization since the story is solely based on the impressions of the narrator – we are not made witnesses to the action through flashback but rather rely completely on the narrator who narrates it now in a linear fashion foregrounding the difference of temporal spatiality. Again Rao transgresses conventional art and produces ‘bad art’ that does not conform to the traditional concepts of artistic sublimation at all but resorts to a realistic ‘unartistic’ representation of action in his story.

Analysis: After Twenty Years v/s Psychoanalysis
‘After Twenty Years’ is one of the most well-read short stories of all time, and constitutes a perfect paragon of the classic liberal-humanist model of short story. The story follows the lives of two friends – Jimmy Wells and Bob over a span of twenty years. Bob being more ambitious of the two decides to leave for Europe at the age of 18 to seek his fortune while Jimmy being fond of his birthplace – New York decides to stay put. They agree to meet each other after twenty years at the same place over a dinner at a restaurant. Twenty years pass duly and the two friends seem to be reunited only to face each in the glare of the electric lights of a medical store and for Bob to recognize he has been duped into arrest by the police for his criminal activities. It transpires that Jimmy Wells had come up to fulfill the promise but had backed out after realizing that it was his old friend Bob who had transformed into ‘Silky Bob’ over the years. Unable to enact his arrest, he sends along a plain clothed cop to impersonate him and supplies him with a note to explain his decision to his friend. The story is a classic example of the principle: defeated expectancy that I discussed earlier in the first chapter with its epigrammatic ending.

‘Psychoanalysis’ on the other hand is an interesting story that revolves around a patient in conversation with his voyeuristic counsellor over his homo-erotic propensity, and arousing him without realizing it. The story is a striking deconstruction of the canonical therapist-patient platonic relationship and effectively juxtaposes homo-erotic and heterosexual tendencies in an intriguing manner.

Narrator/narrative style:
After Twenty Years is told in the extradiegetic mode or by an omniscient reliable narrator who follows the characters as they are weaved together in the fabric of the plot. Therefore the narrator is placed outside the margins of narrative and does not directly take part in the action. The story thereof proceeds from a showing rather than telling possessing a covert narrator i.e. one who is not immediately discernible in the narration. In addition the story also contains a hypodiegetic element as follows:
  • Bob to policeman: The account of the promise between the two friends with an explanatory background history.
  • Jimmy to Bob: (through note): the account of fulfillment of behavior and subsequent events.
The story contains the following instances of framing:

The story contains the following instances of framing:
i.      Introductory framing: The omniscient authorial voice describing the characters i.e. well-built policeman, the tall man with an unlighted cigar in his mouth, a deserted street populated mainly by business places that had all been closed earlier- somewhere in America and general mood (sense of suspense by the placing of action on a damp cold night) of the story that further develops into the main plot). A diagrammatic representation of this framing would be:
[Narrator (characters, place of action and mood) +_____________]
ii.    Interpolate framing: The narrator frames the narrative by pointing out the luxuriant dressing of Jimmy coupled with a diamond pin and a diamond watch that hints clearly at wealth in plentitude. When taken in conjunction with the fact that by his own admission he was penniless, the suggestion of some illegal source begins to germinate.
[____________ [Narrator] _________]
iii.      Terminal framing: revelation of the note from Jimmy by the policeman.
__________ (note from Jimmy)]

‘Psychoanalysis’ too is told from an extradiegetic point of view but contains only interpolate framing as under:
i.     [_____________narrator (description of the analyst’s actions: lessening his knot, turning off air-conditioning and chewing the ends of his pen- indicative of arousal) __________]

It is apparent then that ‘Psychoanalysis’ allows for far less authorial intervention than ‘After Twenty Years’. The authorial intervention may be viewed as an authorial attestation of his epistemological and ontological authenticity to induce a maximum suspension of disbelief. Rao however digresses from this technique and lets the actions of the character construe the semic and symbolic codes organized around the character of both the active protagonist (Rajan) and passive protagonist (Analyst). Thereby Rao again transgresses the canonic viewpoint by lessening the omnipotence of the narrator and thereby bringing the textual differance and inter subjectivity into full play.

Fable vs. Subject
‘After Twenty Years’ exhibits a clear fable/subject distinction by the inversion of temporal time in the story that largely relies upon flash back except in the framing narratives. The sequence of events or the fable follows thus: E= Event, Nt = Normal time)

E1N1 + E2N2 + E3N3+E4N4 +………… E13N13 = Fable
E1 = the friends – Bob and Jimmy meet
N1 = twenty years ago
E2 = they have dinner together
N2 = Night twenty years ago
E3 = they promise to meet each other after twenty years
N3 = Night twenty years ago
E4 = Bob leaves for Europe
N4 = Morning the next day after the dinner
E5 = Bob stands in the door step of the hardware store.
N5 = Night twenty years later
E6 = the Beat constable perceives him
N6= Night twenty years later
E7= the constable and Bob share a conversation about the promise
N7 = Night twenty years later
E7 (I) = the constable recognizes him as the man wanted by Chicago
E7 (II) = the constable alerts his colleague and thrusts a short hand written note to be delivered to Bob.
E8= the constable departs
N8 = Night twenty years later
E9= A collared man identifying himself as Jimmy approaches Bob
N9= Night twenty years later
E10= Bob and the man set out together
N10 = Night twenty years later
E11= they stare into each other’s face by the light of the store
N11 = Night twenty years later
E12= the true identity of both the characters in revealed (Bob = criminal, man = policeman impersonating Jimmy)
N12 = Night twenty years later
E13= the policeman hands the note over
N13 = Night twenty years later
E14 = Bob reads the note revealing the beat constable’s identity as the real Jimmy Wells
N14 = Night twenty years later

However in the Subject the sequence of events is as follows:
E5N5+ E6N6 + E7N7+E1N1+ E2N2 + E3N3 + E4N4+ E5N5+ E6N6 + E7N7 + E8N8+ E9N9+ E10N10+ E11N12+ E13N13 + E14N14+ E7 (I) N7+ E7 (II)N11= Subject.

Consider the story ‘Psychoanalysis’ now which follows a comparatively linear time narrative and therefore the difference between subject and object is rather blurred:

E1N1 + E2N2 + E3N3+E4N4 +………… E13N13 = Fable
E1 = Rajan clicks the pictures
N1 = sometime in the past
E2 = Rajan receives the gay magazine with the pictures submitted by him published along with a cheque for hundred dollars
N2 = One year earlier
E3 = He enchases the cheque
N3 = One year earlier
E4 = Rajan buys clothes and clears his debts
N4 = One year earlier
E5 = Rajan scours the streets for fresh subjects to click
N5 = One year earlier
E6 = Rajan makes it his full time job clicking pictures with subjects posing in desired positions
N6 = sometime in the past year
E7 = begins to experience ‘strange’ dreams
N7 = sometime in the past year
E7 = has a homoerotic dream
N7 = the previous week
E8 = converses and smokes with the therapist
N8 = present
E9 = ends conversation
N9 = present

In the Subject the sequence of events is as follows:
E8N8+ E2N2 + E3N3+E4N4+ E5N5 + E6N6+E7N7 + E1N1+E9N9 = Subject.

The story thereof presents a striking resemblance to the traditional form of short story which suits Rao’s purpose fully as this allows for a powerful foregrounding of the sexual tension that powers the fabric of the story. By following a classic prototype Rao is able to transgress and violate the traditional hetero-normative ideal of platonic love and essentialist goodness of human being that was represented in the image of the do-gooder Jimmy Wells who sacrificed friendship at the altar of duty. Conforming to the traditional structure allows the irony of the story strike with a delightful electric force with the image of duty inverted and shown as subservient to basic human instinct of lust and desire. The doctor-patient relationship conforms to the traditional story thereby creating a traditional space where transgression takes place at a more subconscious level and therefore arguably at a more natural level. The voyeuristic pleasure that the therapist derives from an exploitation of a traditional hetero-normative idealist relationship places the therapist in the realm of perfect passivity, and receptivity without any reference to his individuality. The illegitimate pleasure that he derives therefore is founded on legitimate authority which creates a unique dialectic tension in the story. The mimetic conformity is further qualified by a side plot that exists on the margins of the text yet escalates the tension greatly. The therapist’s secretary who is constructed through the eyes of Rajan as wearing heels and a skirt – two semic codes that indicate an erotic receptivity, smiles at Rajan which makes him fumble. The derivation thereof is that the smile is an erotic exchange much like flashing is a manifestation of the same psycho sexual desire which clashes with the homoerotic Rajan who must conform to the heteronormative image that being ostensibly in the closet forces upon him. This moral and cognitive fluidity thereof constitutes an existential inquiry into the heteronormativist structures as derivatives of essentialist ideologues and thereof removed from reality. 

Both ‘After Twenty Years’ and ‘Psychoanalysis’ employ external focalization that powers their emotive power. However ‘After Twenty Years’ employs internal focalization and formulates the hypodiegetic element constituted by the recollection of Jimmy only once. ‘Psychoanalysis’ on the other hand relies on internal focalization completely since barring the framing narratives, the rest of the story is a hypodiegetic narration thereby transgressing from the traditional form which relies on authentic reportage by the narrator rather than the reports of an unreliable character who has internalized societal homophobia.

The Sniper v/s Landiya ko Maro
The purpose of this last section, before I proceed to a concluding analysis, is to compare Rao’s story with another modern writer – Liam O’ Flaherty: a famous Irish story writer. Both the stories are set in the midst of social unrest. The Sniper is placed in the Irish civil war between two warring parties: the Republicans and the Free Staters. Landiya Ko Maro (hereafter referred to as Maro) is set in the India of the early 1990’s in the post Babri Masjid demolition communal riots. The purpose of the comparison is to evaluate how Rao’s story transcends the usual examination of the characters involved – usually intended towards an anti-war and anti-establishment tendency, and evolves a deeper picture of the complex web of cognitive perceptions conditioned by societal realities that in themselves are manifestations of such dynamic entities like religion and in-group- out-group logistics.

‘The Sniper’ revolves around a Republican Sniper who lays watching on a rooftop in Dublin one cloudy night as the civil war rages on. As he risks a smoke after a frugal meal of a sandwich and a draught of whisky after fasting all day, he becomes immediately aware of an enemy sniper who lies waiting on an opposite roof top. The enemy sniper’s shots miss him narrowly as the light generated by the glowing end of the cigarette and the striking of the match betrays his position to the enemy sniper. The narrative soon shifts to the road below where an old woman- an informer, is seen pointing out the Republican sniper’s presence to an enemy soldier who has come in an armored vehicle. However the Sniper manages to shoot both the soldier and the informer woman before any harm can accrue to him. This shooting alerts the enemy sniper who gets a clear idea of where the sniper is located and therefore aims accurately. The shot hits the sniper in the right arm and fractures the bone completely as it lodges itself in his arm. Injured and paralyzed in one arm, the sniper quickly calculates that it is imperative for his survival that he must make his escape before dawn. However his escape is completely covered by the rival sniper and he must be got rid of for the sniper to escape successfully and get medical aid. Thinking quickly on his feet, he tricks the rival sniper into believing that he has been shot dead in the head by an elaborate ruse. As soon as the rival sniper stretches himself, convinced he had shot the sniper dead, the sniper shoots him dead with a pistol shot fired with his left hand. Curious to know the identity of the rival sniper- acknowledging his accuracy and skill, the sniper darts across the road to turn the corpse over only to realize that it was his brother who he had shot dead.

I have already summarized ‘Maro’ in the discussion on it in the first chapter and hence shall not attempt the same here.

‘The Sniper’ is narrated wholly in the extradiegetic mode with external focalization. It does away with the distinction of chronological and literary time as the story is shown as it occurs in the immediate past tense with progressive aspect. This allows for a sense of authenticity too prevail as the haste and stagnancy of war are outlined effectively with great emotive power and meticulous detail. The story makes extensive use of introductory framing and interpolate framing but precludes any terminal framing to heighten the sense of abrupt death of a person as well as a relationship thereby commenting on the futility of war. The sniper therefore could be viewed as an anti-war protest story highlighting how man is metamorphosed into a beastly mechanic creature who is prepared to forsake and murder every sense of kinship, unity and basic humanitarian value to serve his ambition. The framing that occurs is as under:
i.        Introductory framing: The description of the night to set up the mood of gloom and destruction embodied in the metaphor of fleecy clouds dimming the already lusterless moon- usage of pathetic fallacy to convey the sense of impeding danger and destruction. Further framing is provided by a meticulous description of the sniper is quasi – religious terms compared to a focused ascetic blended with the fierce keenness of a student. The framing is as under:
[Narrator omniscient (description of the background and the sniper) ___________]
ii.     Interpolate framing: The reaction of the sniper is presented in great detail. After realizing that he has been hit, the Sniper calmly examines his wound and bends his arm to confirm the extent of fracture though it causes him great pain. Then with meticulous particularity, he pours iodine into the wound to secure it from infection and binds it with field dressing. This establishes him as a focused scheming individual who has a strong sense of self-preservation that is his sole driving force. He does not think twice before shooting the old woman and the soldier nor feels any remorse for the said act. This sets the narrative then for the final act – the shooting of his rival sniper who turns out to be his brother. The framing thereof is as under:
[_____________narrator omniscient (description of sniper’s reaction and deliberation upon the problem of earning escape) ___________]

‘Maro’ presents a unique Narratological problem for it is hard to pinpoint the authentic narrator in the story. Ostensibly, the story is told from an intradiegetic perspective as the narrator – a telecom executive who meets a journalist in a first class compartment of a train bound to Jamshedpur. I have already highlighted the transgressive elements codified in the actions and speeches of the characters in the first chapter and so shall try to compliment that further by undertaking this analysis. The story, as I pointed out, presents quite a complex narrative framework since it combines hypodiegetic elements with extra diegetic elements bound together in a highly complex narrative relationship. The analysis had best be approached, it seems to me by examining the framing narratives first in order to get a clear overview of the narratorial roles. The framework is as under:
i.         Introductory framing: The establishment of relaxed, intimate but transgressive environment in the form of a first class air conditioned train compartment by consumption of drink and formulation of some intimacy which leads to the story:
[Narrator overt (environment portrayal, description of Mr. Ansari) ______________]
ii.   Interpolate framing: the explanation of the background of Saleem’s marriage with Rashmi and their lifestyle, as revealed by Rashmi, who therefore assumes a hypodiegetic role herself. A further framing occurs when the narratorial role shifts back to some omniscient narrator either intradiegetic or extradiegetic but most probably the latter, who witnessed or enacted the fellatio as the background is laid for the act by depiction of the acts inside: removal of Saleem’s trousers and staring at him while making strange movements.
[Mr. Ansari (background) narrator ∞ (background of transgressive sexual act in the kitchen) __________]
iii.   Terminal framing: the Narrator wonders about the authenticity of the story and displays characteristic homophobic leanings and thereof portrays the complex ambivalent reactions of the society towards canonic constructs like religion and sexuality.
[_______________Narrator overt (musing)]

It is clear from the above analysis then that the story does not portray one kind of a narrative voice but rather induces a plurality of voices that constitute diametric opposites and thence resist amalgamation with each other leading to establishment of a narrative with many narratives underneath it as portrayed below:
{Intradiegetic narration: Narrator (story of his meeting with [Mr. Ansari) intradiegetic ]intradiegetic } or Saleem or some extradiegetic narrator ], the narrator intradiegetic }

The focalization accordingly is reflectory unless one presupposes existence of some extradiegetic narrator who leaked the story out. However since the story posits Saleem as having enjoyed the experience, it could be concluded with good reason that Saleem is the narrator of that aspect of the story which was passed on to the woman and therein to the journalist who in turn passes it on to the narrator. However this assumption casts a doubt on the authenticity of the narrative claim since no hetero-sexual male is likely to boast about performing oral sex on a person of his gender since that clashes with his identity of the active participant. A heterosexual man in a typical Maharastrian context is highly unlikely to accept that he enacted the passive role. Thereby the reliability of the whole text is called into question that translates into an inquiry into the narratorial reliability: Can Mr. Ansari be trusted with his narration or did he just carve out a story from his mind?

The unreliability is complimented by the narratorial questioning of the identity and stereotype formations? That is the question the narrator asks is Can a Muslim be trusted since they are already relegated to the margins of a Hindu nationalistic consciousness and thereof can serve as appropriate symbols for appropriating the beast in the closet – the repressed homosexual aspect of man or the denial of homosexuality in one’s community following internalization of homophobia. The fluctuating narrative element thereof transgresses the epistemological and ontological claim of authenticity that a narrative like ‘The Sniper’ entails.

Even the doubtfulness pointed by the narrator may not be genuine. There are hints in the story that the story that the narrator might be queer himself. His yardstick for concluding that Mr. Ansari is a gentleman is that he does not inquire about his matrimonial details – the foundation of the heteronormative world. In his desire to keep silent about this issue which normally constitutes the standpoint of conversations between strangers in the sub-continental context, the narrator seems to indicate the queer preference for not being identified by the heteronormative markers. This might then explain his state of utter emotional chaos indicated by the phrase “head spinning” – a strong representation of an emotional upheaval. Why a heterosexual adult male would be so disturbed by a story is a question that resists any definitive answer.

Then again the narrator defines Mr. Ansari as setting the mood by pulling the curtains and setting the drinks. The word ‘mood’ certainly carries a significant erotic connotation especially with the atmosphere of dark and drink. It could be presumed that it is a Freudian slip that betrays his queer sensibility and thereof fits well as the answer to the above question. Assuming the narrator to be queer, it is easy to see then why he is so disturbed: it is the escalation of psychosexual tension caused by identification – a fulfillment of a queer fantasy much like lesbian sex is the ultimate for a heterosexual male. This also explains then the dream of being molested by Mr. Ansari. Again relying on Freudian interpretation of dreams as projection of the repressed subconscious desires, it would appear that the narrator is desirous of forging a physical relationship with Mr. Ansari who being a male muslim would also cater to the circumcised penis fantasy – a substitution for Salem and the Hindu goon’s role could be appropriated by the narrator. By this account, therefore, then his doubtfulness is itself placed in doubt as his reliability as a narrator comes under scrutiny. We are therefore left with a text that refuses to be classified into one overriding interpretation as the multiple texts resist sublimation.

In other words the story questions the very foundation of the notion that art serves to communicate a meaning – a rhetorical meaning conditioned by some philosophic outlook. The story does not communicate a meaning but rather points out that in life it is very hard to differentiate meaning from context which makes all binaries redundant. The interconnected chain of narration points out that life is a continuum rather than a segmented chain of autonomous units. Society and more specifically human beings are comprised of all kinds of orientations and to deny one or prioritize other is fallacious since the whole chain of unity in individuality collapses with such a preposition.

Pierre Bourdieu in an essay titled: “Production and Reproduction of Legitimate language” posits the idea of legitimate and illegitimate language. Legitimate Language he argues is a socially conscious entity that constitutes the sole acceptable language within specific territorial limits especially in formal situations. Bourdieu argues that this official acceptable language is produced and propagated by authorial voices that are accorded social legitimacy and hence the authority to write, and is fixed and codified by the grammarians or teachers who are entrusted with the responsibility of inculcating its mastery. This legitimate language is the product of a conscious class determination and is inexorably tied to the political state in terms of its genesis as well as social usage. The necessary conditions required for the constitution of a unified linguistic market, that foregrounds the official language as the sole acceptable version, are created through the process of formulation of the state identity. This focus on the official version being the only legitimate concern of a community, that shares a common linguistic code, entails as a natural consequence thereof that this legitimate version constitutes the theoretical normative construct against which all linguistic practice will be measured. It then follows that any deviance from the said code will not be considered acceptable or will be suitably ensconced in the term dialect – a bastard shadow of the original legitimate version, and hence rooted in a particularity which negates any potential of general acceptability. Conforming to the idea of single linguistic community, that appropriates the whole value of the symbolic codes in the linguistic market, is inevitably a political phenomenon more than a sociological one; and derives its power from institutions like schools or literature that can endlessly reproduce such unified system of signs and significations. Such a scenario has long been utilized by colonialists and neo-colonialists to concretize their psychological domination aided greatly by such linguistic superiority. Thus in a diversified linguistic market, English being the official language became the legitimate language while the rest became ‘vernacular’ –vulgar orientalist exotic languages – a linguistic other.

This distinction of legitimate and illegitimate language is a key one in our understanding of the transgressive narrative element in Rao’s short fiction. The hetero-normative class being the dominant class in society enjoys certain legitimacy by the constructs of gender, procreation and religious sanctimony percolated through a linguistic framework. In a socio-linguistic market the husband and wife are two words that entail a significant societal value as being coveted and accepted by the market. In the same vein, queer sexuality and emergent life styles are viewed as dialect derivatives – an inversion and transgression from unified normative values that posit heterosexuality as the single good order for all humanity. It is such a scenario that Rao transgresses by internalization of these illegitimate dialect structures that at once liberates him from this unified social market and on the other hand deconstruct this artificial unity to posit a fragmented plural world contained in Foucault’s insistence of the word being Homosexualities.

Each story I examined revolts against the convention of a legitimate convention by either substituting it with an illegal convention e.g. suspension of the technique of defeated expectancy and eschewing duality and synchronic time movement, or placing the convention in an illegitimate context: placing the platonic doctor-patient relationship as one rooted in sexual tension and triumph of the animalistic self over the ‘cultural self’ – culture as used by Arnold and Leavis. This deconstruction is a direct mirroring of the queer world where inter-subjectivity and fluid spatiality recur over all paradigms possible and thus produce a richly cultured textual culture that is more representative of the dynamic complexity of human existence than a dogmatic unified culture of moralistic judgment. Rao’s structural transgressions are an attempt and a successful one at that to establish and attribute values to transgressive art and by extension lifestyles in a new linguistic socio-cultural market that is totally receptive and completely inclusive in its paradigms of acceptability.

The hetero-normative patriarchal culture that draws on its enunciation by contrived religion and synthetic tradition enjoys the state acceptance which conveniently outlaws transgressive behaviors under the ambit of section 377. The normative framework of ‘order of nature’ is utilized to measure every sexual behavior and transgressions are punishable either in the form of legal penalization or societal shunning. It is this normative framework that needs decentering to evolve a more understanding and accurate understanding of human desire that powers every art. Rao’s stories present one such example of subversion that relies on its power of exploiting paradoxical fissures in heteronormative culture to devalue it and as a corollary increases the value of transgressive artistic and individual temperament in the socio-cultural and psychical structures like the collective consciousness.

  1. Rao R Raj: One Day I locked my Flat in Soul City : HarperColllins Publishers India: 1995.
  2. Dollimore Jonathan: Sexual Dissidence: Oxford University Press: 1991.
  3. Waugh Patricia: Literary Theory and Criticism: Oxford University Press: 2006.
  4. Bloom Harold: Charles Dickens's Hard Times: Chelsea House New York- 1987.
  5. Bloom Harold: Modern Critical Interpretations: Jane Eyre Chelsea House New York-1987.
  6. RL Brett: Reason and Imagination: Study Of Form and Meaning in Four Poems.
  7. Ivanchivoka Alla: Sidewalks of Desire: The invention of Queer space: Journal of Contemporary Thought 2011.
  8. Fludernik Monika: An introduction to narratology: Routledge New York: 2010.
  9. Graham E Jean: “Ay Me – Selfishness and Empathy in Milton’s Lycidas: Journal of Medieval English Essays 2003.

Huzaifa Pandit is pursuing his Masters in English from University of Pune. He writes prose and poetry in English and Urdu. His writing is an attempt to expand the poetic idiom beyond the conventional idiom of modern Kashmiri English literature beyond the conventional realms of bloodshed, coffins and wailing to evolve a voice that speaks more in existentialist tones that embody the conflict of a voice trapped in a situation of psychical conflict - trapped between conservative mores
religious and social ethos and a globalized ethos structured by the consciousness of fresh realignment to a progressive global ideology. Besides writing existential poetry usually in stream of consciousness he also transcreates major poets of the subcontinent particularly Urdu poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Nasir Kazmi, Amjad Islam Amjad and Parveen Shakir. Besides he has also transcreated the likes of Shiv Kumar Batalvi, Ustad Daman, Kabir and Ghulam Rasool Nazki - a famous Kashmiri mystic poet.

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