Monday, 23 April 2012

Tut - Outside The Whale by Salman Rushdie


Salman Rushdie's "Outside the Whale" is apparently a reaction to George Orwell's essay "Inside the Whale" which advocates the independence of politics and literature, and the attitude of defeatism.In this reading the whale is a metaphor for an escape route or a hiding place.

Living inside the whale means accepting anything and everything that is happening in one's surroundings.It's about comfort, sitting quietly and most people adhere to such a stance.But Rushdie is the one who chooses to mix politics and literature.He argues about the need for literature to be analyzed from a political perspective.According to him "it always matters to label rubbish as rubbish, and to do otherwise is to legitimate it.It is the responsibility of the artists  and writers to make a noise and represent the truth, the reality.For art and literature cannot come into being in a social and a political vacuum, and cannot be separated from politics and history.

Rushdie starts the essay by quoting books,television series,documentaries etc. that has created a popular public perception about the Asian people.Through these examples he is trying to show us the stereotypical western approach towards the asian countries particularly India.He gives an example of a documentary about Subhash Chandra Bose in which he, according to him is represented as a clown.The point Rushdie is trying to put through is that through popular modes of entertainment such as films and literature, the West tries to undermine or even degrade the potentials of the 'other countries'.To further elaborate this point Rushdie also quotes a statement from Edward Said's book called Orientalism in which said argues and i quote "The purpose of such false portraits was to provide moral,cultural and artistic justification for imperialism and the underpinning ideology,that of the racial superiority of the Caucasian over the Asiatic".

Rushdie examines the stand that Orwell takes  on the importance of literature in society.Orwell advocates quietism.He created a so called 'whale' mechanism with the intention of allowing authors to keep out of politics.This approach is one that Rushdie disdains, he argues that there is no whale in which an author can hide.

After 'Inside the Whale' , Orwell wrote an essay called 'Politics and the English Language'.Rushdie quotes a statement from that essay and i quote "In our age there is no such thing as keeping out of politics.All issues are political issues and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia." Rushdie gives a reason of Orwell"s such an attitude towards his political surroundings.Orwell lived in a period where Hitler and Stalin also existed and this basically impacted his political understandings.He turned his talents to the business of constructing and also of justifying an escape route.Hence his notion of the ordinary man as victim, and therefore of passivity a the literary stance closest to that of ordinary man.He is using this type of logic as a means of building a path back to the womb, into the whale and away from the thunder of the war.

The attitude of defeatism and despair is a conservative stance according to Rushdie.He says that passivity always serves the interests of the status quo, of the people already at the top of the heap.If books and films could be made and consumed in the belly of the whale, it might be possible to consider them merely as entertainment or on occasion as art.But in our whale-less world, in this without quiet corners, there can be no easy escape from history, from terrible, unquiet fuss.

As Rushdie says, there is no whale in which an author can hide.He argues that there shouldn't be any whale because staying quiet, accepting everything is not an option in our violent, scary world.There is a need to analyze works of art,entertainment from a political perspective.Those who have been given the responsibility to shape a nation's identity, the nation's writers must not allow politicians to be the sole shaper of world views.His judgement 
is sharply clear - "If writers leave the business of making pictures of the world to politicians, it will be one of history's great and most abject abdications."

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