Alessia Polatti

Literary engagement and social corruption: Chetan Bhagat’s snapshots from contemporary India

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: postcolonial literature, New India, social/literary engagement, Chetan Bhagat.

Chetan Bhagat’s fiction has often been misrepresented and branded as low literature because of the absence of complexity in its plots and the simple characterisation of the novels’ protagonists. The paper intends to focus on Bhagat’s choices both as a writer and as a public figure by examining his position between literature and politics. After a brief introduction to the current social climate in India, the paper will investigate how Chetan Bhagat’s straightforward style actually hides a literary engagement with a socio-political purpose, that is the genuine narration and denunciation of the socio-economic conditions (and plagues) of Indian society. Bhagat’s early novels highlight the inadequate interest the Indian government takes in young people and their future. In One Night at the Call Centre (2005) the author describes the growth of India as an emerging consumer society, but also a progressive criticism favouring a “New Indiaµ which should be created by students and young workers to contrast a globalised tendency to corruption. The attempt to realise that project is also narrated in his best-seller Revolution 2020 (2009), as well as in his essay What young India wants (2012). These works embody and anticipate both the anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare (2011) and the lure of Narendra Modi’s New India project. The article seeks to explore the links between these various aspects of the Indian political scenario and Bhagat’s works; as a result, the last part of the paper will focus also on his readership and his evolution as a writer, from his initial social engagement to his more recent search for celebrity in the mediatic arena, in order to investigate how those two apparently contradictory goals can coexist in his literary production.

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