Reflections on the Writing Process: Perspectives from Recent Hindi Novels
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Patricia Waugh defined metafiction as ‘fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artefact in order to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality’ . Metafictional works, she suggested, are those which ‘explore a theory of writing fiction through the practice of writing fiction’. They are characterised by a tendency to self-reflexivity or, in other words, by a tendency to call attention to the writing process itself. In actual fact, even in dedicated critical works, it is not easy to find a clear and all-encompassing definition of metafiction. Generally, various types of texts are mentioned under this term: texts recounting their origin and birth, dealing with the history of narrative, recounting stories of writers. Metafiction is generally considered an important feature of postmodern literature. In the postmodern era pure realistic writing is perceived as a limitation and an unsuitable device to render the complexity of the contemporary world. As Baudrillard said, we no longer live in a world made of unequivocal meanings, we live in a world of signs. In this context authors, by reflecting on the writing process, foreground the fictional nature of their narratives. Because of this, the role of metafiction (which obviously cannot be considered as an innovation introduced by postmodernism) has become predominant in the postmodern era. Metafiction can follow different paths to reach its aims: its experimental component can be evident and radical or can be limited to a few pages or lines, without unduly affecting the perception of the story. In some cases, the reader will find no reflections on the structure or on the textual functions of the novel, but on its artistic and intellectual meaning. Within the history of Hindi literature (referring here to Khari Boli Hindi only) probably the most famous example of metafictional novel is Suraj ka Satvan Ghoda (The Sun’s Seventh Horse, 1952) by Dharmavir Bharati. The novel consists of three narratives about three women recounted by Manik Mulla to his friends over seven afternoons, in the style of Hitopadesha or Panchatantra. Later, in the Seventies, Krishna Baldev Vaid published Bimal Urf Jayen to Jayen Kahan. From the earliest pages of the novel, the narrator addresses his readers with provocative monologues. According to the materials consulted in my research, there are not many other examples of self-reflexive novels until the 1990s: from this decade, in fact, the metafictional component seems to gain new importance. The aim of this paper is to exemplify the new role acquired by metafiction in recent Hindi novels and to understand if it can be considered a possible postmodern trace.