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Ways of Being Free: Authenticity and Community in Selected Works of Rushdie, Ondaatje and Okri
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Iconized migrant writers such as Michael Ondaatje, Salman Rushdie and Ben Okri use their fictional worlds to articulate the ways in which existential “nervous conditions,” caused by violent postcolonial history, drive individuals to rework the critical notions of freedom, authenticity and community. This existential thread in their works has been largely ignored or left undeveloped in literary criticism. Although Rushdie has argued that they primarily write back to the imperial centre(s), in their signature novels, The English Patient, Midnight’s Children and The Famished Road, these writers also respond to their conflicting cultural and ethnic heritages. They dramatize characters in traumatic struggles with individual and communal identity, belonging and affiliation. As a way of coping with their identity crises, most characters succumb to the political rhetoric of communalism and evince desires for preservation of their original ethnic and cultural identities. At the same time, the traumatic political and cultural climates induce the central characters to experiment with their singular ways of being free and authentic. To begin with, in response to old and new forces of orthodoxy, these characters are driven to estrangement and a powerful desire for self-sufficiency. Yet, since this individualist desire clashes with their need for communal sharing, they enact a form of creative destruction of their inherited identities, their singular selfhood and communal identity. They give rise to new forms of bonding that transcend ethnic, racial, cultural, geographical and political parameters. They experience a certain plurality of singular selfhood and participate in forms of “inoperative” communities which elicit bonds without ties and coexistence without the necessity of a common work and essence.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of English, Stockholm University , 2010. , 183 p.
Keyword [en]
existential angst, death, freedom, authenticity, individualism, communalism, orthodoxy, heritage, community, inoperative community
National Category
General Literature Studies Specific Languages
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-38224ISBN: 978-91-7447-035-2OAI: diva2:308096
Public defence
2010-05-08, hörsal 7, hus D, Universitetsvägen 10 D, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2010-04-15 Created: 2010-04-05 Last updated: 2010-06-15Bibliographically approved

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Mahmutovic, Adnan
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