Anita Desai: Overview

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Author: Suchitra Mathur
Editor: Pamela Kester-Shelton
Date: 1996
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 920 words

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The term "feminism" occupies a peculiar position in many nations of the so-called "Third World." Its western origins make it suspect from a nationalist perspective, while its seemingly exclusive focus on women (which, for many, implies an anti-male position) is perceived as a divisive factor that endangers third-world solidarity against the forces of global capitalism and neo-colonialism. Consequently, many third-world women writers resist the "feminist" label and, instead, project a new kind of humanism that gives women a voice as historical agents rather than being subsumed under the generic category of "Man." In doing so, these writers challenge any simplistic notion of "women" as a homogenous category and, implicitly, provide alternatives to certain dominant trends in "western feminism."

Anita Desai is perhaps one of the best known and most highly regarded Indian women writers at both the national and international levels. Hailed as a sensitive and poetic writer whose psychological insights take us deep into the closed interior world of her characters, Desai is mainly known for her portrayal of "feminine sensibility" in novels like Cry the Peacock and Clear Light of Day. Not all her novels, however, are concerned with an exploration of female consciousness. Her primary focus in all her novels is on the individual's (both male and female) struggle for self-expression in a socially restrictive atmosphere that is often inimical to personal freedom. Her work, therefore, cannot...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420002215