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'Friends from an earlier life': radical possibilities of nostalgic melancholy in poems of the 1947 Indian Partition

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This paper will examine poetic responses to the trauma of Partition, and will consider both poetry written at the time and since. I will examine works in Bengali, Urdu and English, by such poets as Agha Shahid Ali, Jibanananda Das, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and Achintya Kumar Sengupta. I will examine how poets deal with the memory of the violence and the resulting legacy of dislocation and alienation. I will examine the possibilities of poetic melancholy as a tool in order to respond to and negotiate the enforced and violent change in identities that Partition precipitated. In the process, I will make a case for the radical potential of what might be called nostalgic melancholy. I argue that in these cases poetic melancholy can be read as a corrective to the imperialist act of Partition, as well as a gesture which defies the nationalist appropriation of history by the independent, postcolonial states. I will analyse how poets from both countries have tried, through their writing, to question the very legitimacy of the border that divides them.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-136
Number of pages16
JournalRevista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2018

    Research areas

  • A. Ali, J. Das, F. A. Faiz, Melancholy, Partition, Poetry, A. Sengupta

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