“Wordy-Wallahs”: Partnership Strategies in World Literatures in english

John Thieme

- John Thieme

This essay originally appeared in The Tapestry of the Creative Word in Anglophone Literatures, ed. Antonella Riem Natale, Maria Renata Dolce, Stefano Mercanti and Caterina Colomba, Udine: Forum University Press, 2013: 195-207, having previously been delivered as a keynote address at “The Creative Word: Partnership Studies in New Literature in English Conference”, Università del Salento, May 2013. I am grateful to the editors of The Tapestry of the Creative Word in Anglophone Literatures and the organizers of the conference for permission to republish here. It seems appropriate, since Setu’s mission to bridge cultures has much in common with the work of the Partnership Studies group at the University of Udine (http://all.uniud.it/?page_id=195), who were the moving spirits behind the conference.

What kind of partnership strategies have contemporary writers in english from non-Western societies evolved to open up dialogic models of cultural interaction? Colonial poetics habitually cast non-Western cultures as inferior partners in asymmetrical power relationships, but attempts to challenge Western hegemonies in a supposedly egalitarian post-colonial, globalized world run the risk of perpetuating similarly unequal binary power relationships, if they adopt oppositional strategies. Or to put this more simply, if those whom the West, then and now, constructs as others respond by simply turning the tables, their correctives leave them locked into the same kind of “superior-inferior” model of culture. 
So there is a need for a different kind of discourse, an aesthetic that does not so much contest dominant Western ideologies as move outside the kinds of power hierarchies they embody. This paper focuses on fictional texts to illustrate three forms of partnership poetics that occur in new literary englishes. They are superficially very different from one another, but they all undermine Western notions of Logos, the Word, replacing this with outpourings of words, lexical cascades that sidestep the possibility of hierarchical relationships by inferring, usually unself-consciously, that language is heterogeneous common property. My title is taken from a term used by Amitav Ghosh, a very self-conscious writer, in River of Smoke (2011), the second novel in his Ibis trilogy. There it refers specifically to an approach to language in nineteenth-century Asia, but more generally it can be seen as an apt term for contemporary non-Western workers with words, whose varied and multiple registers explore partnership possibilities that promote intercultural dialogue. Such dialogic practices are not, of course, uniformly successful, nor are they the exclusive prerogative of non-Western writing, but they do constitute an important impulse in contemporary non-Western writing, where they are particularly prevalent.
The three instances of partnership discourse I will be examining are: the polyphonic range of registers to be found in River of Smoke and related texts by Ghosh; the use of Creole english in Olive Senior’s long short story “Ballad” (1986); and the cross-cultural conversations generated by works such as Sunetra Gupta’s novel A Sin of Colour (1999) and Witi Ihimaera’s short-story collection Dear Miss Mansfield (1989), fictions that engage in relationships with twentieth-century Western texts that have been accorded canonical status. Each of these forms unsettles the asymmetrical binary relationships that typify colonial discursive practices, and post-Cartesian thought more generally, in favour of a communal, egalitarian vision of culture. 
Language is a major protagonist – arguably the major protagonist – in the first two parts of Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy: Sea of Poppies (2008) and River of Smoke. Writing about Sea of Poppies in 2010[1], I discussed the range of discourses included in the novel and suggested that Laskari, a lingua franca used on the Indian Ocean in the nineteenth century, was central to this, serving as a kind of metonym for the collection of languages, dialects and registers used in the novel. Sea of Poppies emphasizes the multiple strands that have gone into the making of Laskari, which is not viewed just as a general means of communication for people from varied backgrounds, but as a hybrid language that is bringing a new extra-European community into being. At one point it is referred to as:
that motley tongue, spoken nowhere but on the water, whose words were as varied as the port’s traffic, an anarchic medley of Portuguese calaluzes and Kerala pattimars, Arab booms and Bengal paunchways, Malay proas and Tamil catamarans, Hindusthani pulwars and English snows – yet beneath the surface of this farrago of sound, meaning flowed as freely as the current beneath the crowded press of boats[2].
River of Smoke begins in a similar vein. Set in Mauritius, the first chapter introduces numerous terms from Bhojpuri, a language of North Bihar that has very particular connotations, and Mauritian French Kreol, a tongue that has come into being at the crossroads of cultures. Ghosh repeatedly illustrates the extent of linguistic intersections, as in this passage:
A few more steps and they’d reach the sheltered ledge of rock that formed the shrine’s threshold. This curious natural formation was known to the family as the Chowkey […]. This rocky verandah was […] the perfect place to foregather, and cousins visiting from abroad were often misled into thinking that it was this quality that had earned the Chowkey its name – for was it not a bit of a chowk, where people could assemble? And wasn’t it something of a chokey too, with its enclosing sides? But only a Hindi-speaking etranzer would think in that vein: any islander would know that in Kreol the word “chowkey” refers also to the flat disc on which rotis are rolled (the thing that is known Back There as a “chakki”)[3].
Subsequently the main action is set in and around Canton and the repertory of languages included in the novel becomes ever more extensive, with pidgin assuming a role similar to that accorded to Laskari in Sea of Poppies. The plurality of languages and registers employed suggests that it is impossible to accommodate the experience being depicted in a univocal mode; a polyphonic Babel of voices is needed to portray the range of cultures meeting in nineteenth-century Canton during the period that led up to the Opium Wars. River of Smoke also employs a virtuoso array of technical vocabulary, particularly terms relating to botany, food, dress and painting, to broaden the cultural perspective. The effect can be to move the novel away from standard English, forcing Western readers to acknowledge alternative discursive universes and to become at least partial partners in the ideologies that come with them, but there are problems with this, since the polyphonic medley of voices is enclosed within a standard English that finally takes precedence and in passages such as the following, of which there are many, there seems to be disjunction between the insistence on unfamiliar words and the language that frames them:
George Chinnery […] had earned fabulous sums of money while in Calcutta and his household was as chuck-muck as any in the city, with paltans of nokar-logue doing chukkers in the hallways and syces swarming in the istabbuls, as for the bobachee-connah, why it had been known to spend a hundred sicca rupees on sherberts and syllabubs, in one week[4].
Additionally, Ghosh’s fascination with etymologies, a recurrent concern in all his work[5], repeatedly foregrounds the cross-cultural provenance of words and the novel has a character, 
Neel Rattan Halder, whose interest in lexicography, allows for metalinguistic commentary on the verbal exuberance of the cultures being represented. Neel is a prime example of what Ghosh terms a “wordy-wallah”, the compiler of a so-called Chrestomathy, an anthology of passages that illustrates the cross-cultural pluralism characterizing the language of the period, which has a life of its own outside the text. Ghosh’s Acknowledgements at the end of the novel invite readers to join in a hypertextual partnership by consulting the Chrestomathy on a downloadable website – a website, which, collapsing the distance between author and character (Neel), as the Acknowledgements indicate[6] is available on amitavghosh.com. In the novel Neel’s inspiration for the Chrestomathy is a glossary of pidgin entitled “Devil-Talk”, which has been produced for Chinese use. His initial intention is to produce a Celestial Chrestomathy, a glossary of Chinese pidgin for English speakers, but the Acknowledgements explain this has given way to a more general guide, entitled the Ibis Chrestomathy, that acts as a supplement to the terms used in the first two parts of the Ibis trilogy[7], not Chinese-inflected pidgin. And the guiding principle informing Neel’s (and Ghosh’s?) decision on the suitability of words for admission into his Chrestomathy is whether they are in the Oxford English Dictionary (referred to by Neel as the Oracle). His choice of items for inclusion is confined to “a favoured few” words: “a select number among the many migrants who have sailed from eastern waters towards the chilly shores of the English language. It is, in other words, a chart of the fortunes of a shipload of girmitiyas [indentured labourers]: this perhaps is why Neel named it after the Ibis”[8]. So the Chrestomathy is a testament to the Asian loan words that have been “naturalized” in the English language and abundant examples are offered: “loot”, “punch” and “tatty” among them. In almost every case Neel/Ghosh’s comments on their derivation point our incongruities, for example he says of “punch”: “Strange indeed that the beverage of this name has lost all memory of its parent: Hind. panj (‘five’). In my time we scorned this mixture as an unpalatable economy”[9]
The net effect of Ghosh’s stress on shared linguistic legacies might be seen to suggest a partnership model of language that undermines monocultural assumptions. The problem with this is that the Oracle remains the arbiter of what passes muster. Neel, both within the text of the novel and in the Chrestomathy on amitavghosh.com, is of course no more than a dramatized character, but he is very close to being a Ghosh surrogate, particularly on the website. And tellingly, his decision to make the OED the ultimate authority is analogous to Ghosh’s method in the novel. The welter of words points to the need for polyphony, but a literary English, suitable for global consumption, is finally given pride of place. The novel’s project is clearly revisionist, but the extent to which it involves an egalitarian partnership is questionable.
Olive Senior’s long short story “Ballad” opens with a sentence that immediately draws attention to the discursive splits in late colonial Jamaican society:
Teacher ask me to write composition about The Most Unforgettable Character I Ever Meet and I write three page about Miss Rilla and Teacher tear it up and say that Miss Rilla not fit person to write composition about and right way I feel bad […][10].
Miss Rilla is not a “fit” subject for scribal discourse in the context of the colonial educational curriculum, but Senior’s story, narrated by an ingenuous young girl, Lenora in a form of Jamaican Creole, contests this view by instating her as the subject of the “ballad” it presents itself as being.[11] Lenora does not fully understand the events she describes, but as she tells her tale it becomes clear why Miss Rilla is viewed as being beyond both social and literary pales. She has infringed the sexual taboos of the society; she has had a succession of lovers, some of them younger than herself and one of whom has been killed in a fight over her. However, on a more general level, Miss Rilla can be seen to embody the vibrancy of the oral, folk culture and a joy in life which transgresses the codes of respectable colonial society in a more radically disruptive way. At several points Lenora speculates on whether Miss Rilla will be admitted into Heaven and by the end she decides she probably will be. Earlier Lenora has been encouraged to study hard so that she can go on to high school and perhaps become a teacher, but the story ends with her expressing doubts as to whether she wants to pursue this middle-class vocation and plumping instead for the folk values represented by Miss Rilla.
The story is a linguistic tour de force and the register Senior employs complements the choice Lenora makes at the end; it enacts a similar kind of cultural politics by virtue of being narrated as a ballad, told in a form and register that distances it from the language of the schoolroom. And the use of an ingenuous child narrator generates ironies in much the same way as, say, Mark Twain’s use of Huckleberry Finn points up the shortcomings of his society: Lenora’s failure to understand events demonstrates the extent to which she has been brainwashed into accepting an alien set of values. Elsewhere, though, in Summer Lightning Senior uses what she calls “standard English”[12] and the volume suggests an inclusivist view, in which voices that operate at different points on the Jamaican linguistic continuum are accorded equal status. The overall effect is to replace the monocultural view being inculcated by Lenora’s teacher with a polyvocal approach that takes issue with the Establishment norms of late colonial Jamaican society. Senior refers to it as a refers to it as a “breakthrough story”[13] for her, a work that enabled her to complete other previously unfinished stories, because her absorption in the point of view of the narrator released her to write from her own experience and to mediate between the scribal and the oral in capturing the particular cadences of other characters’ voices. She speaks, too, about her assumption that her “unseen audience” will “bring the story to fulfilment”, drawing a parallel with the “‘call and response’ fashion of African-derived music”[14]. So her use of the “variety of tones”[15] that her characters would employ in real life is accompanied by the implication that narrative involves a partnership between writer and reader akin to the relationship between teller and listener in the oral tradition. Reader response theory suggests that readers are always partners in the process of constructing meaning from a text, but in a story such as “Ballad” the suggested presence of a second-person listener locates the implied dialogue in relation to a New World, neo-African aesthetic.
The very obvious juxtaposition of Lenora’s teacher’s view of what a composition should be and the tale told in Ballad has similarities with the third type of post-colonial partnership discourse that I would like to discuss: works that talk with canonical twentieth-century Western texts. I have written about counter-discourse at some length in a book entitled Postcolonial Con-Texts (2001) and there I argue that non-Western texts that supposedly “write back” to the canon vary enormously in their responses, with some adopting overtly adversarial approaches and others operating in a more complicitous way. That said, all such texts open up a dialogue with their pre-texts, often making it impossible to read those works in quite the same way again; and this is particularly the case with Sunetra Gupta’s A Sin of Colour, which develops an oblique relationship with Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938), and Witi Ihimaera’s Dear Miss Mansfield, a collection of short stories published at the time of the centenary of Kathleen Mansfield’s birth, which responds to New Zealand/Aotearoa’s most famous Modernist writer in various ways.
Sunetra Gupta has said that her novel A Sin of Colour was inspired by a request from The Daily Mail to contribute to a feature they were printing on Susan Hill’s sequel to Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca: Mrs de Winter (1993)[16]. From this Gupta was prompted to write her own response to Rebecca and A Sin of Colour contains various elements that evoke Du Maurier’s novel: a character named Reba, who exerts a strong influence on those who come into contact with her and a decaying Gothic house called Mandalay among them[17]. But, although aspects of A Sin of Colour do shadow Rebecca, it demonstrates little sense of vicarious dependence on its English departure-point and the parallels with Rebecca are invariably skewed. The location of the house Mandalay, whose spelling has been significantly altered from Du Maurier’s Manderley, is in Bengal and the Bengali family at the centre of the novel has bought it from a departing Englishman, who had given it the name Mandalay, because he has made his fortune in Burmese teak. However, Gupta neither takes issue with Du Maurier, nor the aftermath of the British Raj. She simply develops a parallel narrative that relates to the legacy of both Rebecca and the Englishman’s house, but leaves her Gothic-inspired novel free to speak for itself.
The dominant theme of A Sin of Colour is the obsessive force of Romantic love and foremost among its literary intertexts that relate to this are Keats and Tagore, whose songs are quoted on numerous occasions. The action follows two pairs of contrasted love relationships, crosses generations, travels between Bengal and Oxford and employs various focalizers. Unlike the Ghosh novels discussed above, A Sin of Colour is univocal, but it is polyvalent in other aspects, particularly in its deployment of the trope of colour, foregrounded in its title[18]. Colour is central to the narrative structure in an eclectic array of ways. The novel is divided into seven sections, each of which directly or indirectly refers to a colour: Amethyst, Indigo, Azure, Jade, Ochre, Saffron, Crimson. The significance of this colour scheme is not specified, but the seven colours evoked represent the spectrum of the rainbow in reverse and this is an apt trope for what Gupta is doing in the novel: offering a polychromatic range of variations on not just Rebecca, but also Keats, Tagore and other reference-points such as Brecht’s Threepenny Opera. No obvious cultural politics emerge, simply an implicit suggestion that different cultures, people and places belong together in a kind of reversed rainbow coalition. Or, to put this another way, A Sin of Colour stages a partnership model of human interaction on the levels of both form and theme, as it juxtaposes Romantic passion with a more down-to-earth type of relationship, across cultures, periods and places, ultimately preferring the extremes of obsession to pragmatic realism.
The sub-title of Maori writer Witi Ihimaera’s Dear Miss Mansfield is A Tribute to Katherine Mansfield Beauchamp and in a prefatory letter to the collection, Ihimaera speaks of it as a “small homage[19] to Mansfield on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of her birth. He concludes this letter by asking her to accept his “highest regard and gratitude for having been among us and above us all”[20]. Nevertheless, when the book first appeared, it received a mixed reception in Aotearoa/New Zealand, and some reviewers were hostile to Ihimaera’s response to a national icon[21]. So how should one evaluate his engagement with Mansfield?
A close look at some of the stories in Dear Miss Mansfield suggests an ambivalent and varying attitude. In “This Life is Weary”, Ihimaera revisits the action of one of Mansfield’s best-known stories, “The Garden Party”, focalizing this through the eyes of the children of a working-class man who, as in the Mansfield original, has died in an accident. Again as in Mansfield, this tragedy is reported, not part of the main action, and there is an epiphany, which combines sympathy for the victim with a sense that his corpse has achieved a peacefulness in death that transcends the social artificiality of the garden party. That said, in “The Garden Party”, the focus is on the privileged Sheridan family, who live at the top of the hill, and “This Life is Weary” transfers the viewpoint to the “poverty stricken” cottagers at its foot, referred to at one point in “The Garden Party” as “the greatest possible eyesore”, and as having “no right to be in that neighbourhood at all”[22]. So the shift of focalization has the effect of telling the other side of the story. In “The Garden Party” the most sensitive member of the Sheridan family, Laura, goes down the broad road[23] that runs between the two locales and it is through her eyes that the epiphany is seen. In “This Life is Weary”, the children from the family at the foot of the hill go up the road and look on at the doings of the Sheridan family, vicariously enjoying the life of a world from which they are excluded. So the movement in Ihimaera’s story complements the action of Mansfield’s, while suggesting the limitations of its perspective. Read together, the two stories form a partnership that bridges the class divide. And this is typical of many of the stories in Dear Miss Mansfield. Sometimes they work in a straightforwardly derivative way, but more often there is a gentle, never fully developed irony, which suggests that Mansfield’s liberalism and capacity to see beyond surface realities remain blinkered by her upper middle-class, European-oriented upbringing. Ihimaera’s stories do this, not simply by closing the distance between the affluent upper middle classes and the “poverty stricken”, but also by positing partnerships between Maori and Pakeha, women and men, gay and straight and New Zealand/Aotearoan and European cultural perspectives.  
In “His First Ball”, Ihimaera turns a Mansfield story about the excitement felt by a country cousin of the Sheridan family, when she goes to her first ball, into a complex account of Tuta, a young Maori factory worker’s experience, when he is invited to a ball at Government House. When he first receives the invitation, he thinks one of his friends “must be having [him] on”[24]. Once it is clear that it is genuine, he gets teased and there is humour in accounts of his having lessons in etiquette, deportment and dancing and a fitting for formal dress at a tailor’s. Why he has been invited remains unclear until the evening of the ball comes. When it does, Tuta feels like a fish out of water and becomes increasingly embarrassed as he finds himself the centre of attention, it would seem, because he is an exotic other. He only escapes this role when a V.I.P. arrives and takes over the limelight and at this point he comes across a seated young woman, Joyce, a sociology student, whom Ihimaera uses as a mouthpiece for commentary on the colonial stuffiness of the occasion: “‘This could be India under the Raj. All this British imperial graciousness and yet the carpet is being pulled from right beneath their feet’”[25]. Tuta and Joyce strike up an immediate rapport and she tells him, “‘Before you […] it was me’”[26]. He asks her what she means by this and she says she is not Maori, but she has thought it would have been obvious. She rises to her feet and it is. She is at least six feet six tall. Together they waltz around the dance floor, with Tuta’s face against her chest. So she, too, it seems, has been invited to what is her first ball, as a curiosity, because of her otherness. Drawn together by difference, the couple take to the floor a second time, with Tuta deciding he wants to dance “not to the music of the band but to the music in his head”[27]. So in the story’s dénouement the social other assumes centre-stage. “His First Ball” is less concerned with distancing itself from Mansfield’s “Her First Ball” than, again, with promoting an inclusivist view of identity.
Several other stories in Dear Miss Mansfield work in much the same way. Ihimaera reworks Mansfield’s “How Pearl Button was Kidnapped”, in which a small girl goes off with two barefoot, dark-skinned women, into a tale entitled “The Affectionate Kidnappers” that is very explicit about what is implicit in Mansfield’s story: the “kidnappers” are Maori. In Mansfield’s story the women’s warmth attracts the young Pearl away from her middle-class life, but they remain shadowy others, whose motives are unclear. Ihimaera’s continuation shifts the focus to the Maori women, whose warmth and good intentions are unmistakable. They now find themselves in jail, being visited by their rangatira (chief). He chides them for their naivety in not realizing that “Pakehas didn’t like their girls being messed around by Maoris. The idea of a pretty curly-headed white girl being taken away by Maoris brought all sorts of pictures to their minds – of sacrifices to idols, cannibalism, of white girls being captured and scalped by Red Indians […]”[28]. Again, Ihimaera’s story does not take issue with Mansfield’s. It simply expands on the irony of this meeting of cultures being seen as a kidnapping by telling the hitherto silent side.
“The Boy with the Camera” is a retelling of an early, pre-Modernist Mansfield story of abuse and an apparent murder, “The Woman at the Store”[29]. Ihimaera brings it up to date by replacing the store in Mansfield’s story with a motel and drawing with photography. Its most significant modification is that it broadens the gender emphasis by focusing on emerging adolescent masculinity as well as the abuse of women. In “The Washerwomen’s Children”, Ihimaera offers a sequel to “The Doll’s House”, in which the socially stigmatized “Little Else” of Mansfield’s story returns to the primary school where she and her sister were treated as lower-class pariahs half a century before. Now she is the distinguished Mrs Justice Fairfax-Lawson, M.B.E. and she gives a speech in which she remembers the epiphanic moment of Mansfield’s story, the moment when the youngest child of the affluent Burnell family, Kezia, showed her the lamp in her doll’s house, a prized possession that she shares with her more prejudiced sister. Mrs Justice Fairfax-Lawson refers to the lamp as a “‘shining symbol”’ that has been a ‘“constant inspiration to [her] to always reach out – like that girl did – to others’”[30]. So, again Ihimaera’s response works to tell the other side of the story, this time accentuating the point by underscoring the social inversion that has occurred, as the reviled “little Else” has become famous over the years.[31]
Looming largest in the volume is the short novella “Maata”, with which it opens. Although this comes first, perhaps it deserves the last word in any account of Dear Miss Mansfield, since it explicitly deals with Mansfield’s relationship with the Maori woman, Maata Mahupuku, with whom she appears to have had a same-sex relationship and about whom she may have written a novel[32]. Drawing on both known and speculative biographical information about Mansfield’s friendship with Maata, Ihimaera supplements this with a parallel fictional narrative, in which the quest for Maata is pursued by a persona who is researching the possibility that Mansfield may have written a novel about her and whose own story is interwoven with his research. So the novella functions in two ways: as a piece of quasi-biographical research on Mansfield and as another narrative inspired by her fiction. Again its impact is reliant on the dialogic interaction between two elements.
The stories of Dear Miss Mansfield frequently engage with the stereotyping of alterity, making a case for difference and inclusive models of social interaction that cross class, race, gender and other dividing-lines. In so doing, they chart an ambivalent relationship with Katherine Mansfield. If they sometimes seem to suggest limitations in her perspective, they are, after all, responses to a writer who herself challenged the bourgeois conventions of her privileged New Zealand upbringing. Ihimaera’s narratives redirect emphasis, but nevertheless extend a hand of partnership towards Mansfield, not least because his short story technique has affinities with hers. Like her, he frequently concludes his stories with Modernist epiphanies, but he complements her privileged characters’ subjective responses by introducing a broader repertory of characters and a realistic vein of social commentary, largely absent in Mansfield’s work, though it is apparent in some of her early naturalistic stories, such as The Woman at the Store.
There are significant differences in the various texts discussed here, but they all seem to suggest the need for an egalitarian poetics. Is this completely at odds with Western discourse? Well, of course Western discourse is far from monolithic and so perhaps one should say that it is at odds with the dominant post-Enlightenment strain in Western writing, which was influential in the export of European cultures to the “rest of the world”. But among the many Western exceptions that suggest a non-exclusive model of culture one can cite Dante’s turning towards the vernacular, with which poets such as Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott have strongly identified[33]; and Bakhtin’s emphasis on the egalitarianism of Carnival, both as an actual festival and as a discursive tradition that brings the language of the market place into the scribal, a tradition that he finds in pre-Enlightenment writers such as Rabelais and post-Enlightenment novelists such as Sterne and Dostoevsky. This, though, is a subject for another essay, but as a tentative pointer in the direction of where such a paper might go, it is striking to note that the process of carnivalization that Bakhtin describes is very similar to the view of culture in the work of Caribbean novelists such as Sam Selvon and particularly Earl Lovelace, who has devoted much of his career to exploring the discursive possibilities of Trinidad Carnival. Arguably there is a similar transformation occurring in the incorporation of the oral into the scribal in a story like Senior’s “Ballad” and, moving beyond the Caribbean and despite my partial reservations, in the work of a wordy-wallah like Amitav Ghosh.


Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1984. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. Tr.  Caryl Emerson. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
---. 1993. Rabelais and His World. Tr. Hélène Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Boddy, Gillian. 1988. Katherine Mansfield: The Woman and the Writer. Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin.
Du Maurier, Daphne. 2003. Rebecca (1938). London: Virago.
Froude Durix, Carole. 1989. “Point Counterpoint: Both Sides of the Broad Road in Katherine Mansfield’s ‘The Garden Party’ and Witi Ihimaera’s ‘This Life is Weary’”. Paulette Michel and Michel Dupuis ed. The Fine Instrument: Essays on Katherine Mansfield. Sydney and Mundelstrup, Denmark, 175-86.
Fumagalli, Maria Cristina. 2001. The Flight of the Vernacular: Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott and the Impress of Dante. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi.
Ghosh, Amitav. The Ibis Chrestomathy. n.d. http://www.amitavghosh.com/chrestomathy. (consulted on 27-2-2013).
­--- . 2008. River of Smoke. London: John Murray.
--- . 2011. Sea of Poppies. London: John Murray.
Gupta, Sunetra. Novels: A Sin of Colour. n.d. http://www.sunetragupta.com/asinofcolour.asp (consulted on 13-3-2013).
--- . A Sin of Colour. 1999. London: Phoenix House.
Ihimaera, Witi. 1989. Dear Miss Mansfield: A Tribute to Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp. Auckland: Viking.
Lawlor, P.A. 1946. The Mystery of Maata. Wellington: The Beltane Book Bureau.
Mansfield, Katherine. 1962. Bliss and Other Stories (1920). Harmondsworth: Penguin.
--- . 1961. The Garden Party and Other Stories (1922). Harmondsworth: Penguin.
--- . 1911. In A German Pension. London: Stephen Swift.
---.  1924. Something Childish and Other Stories. London: Constable.
Millar, Paul. 1998. Witi Ihimaera. Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie ed. Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature.. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.  http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/writers/ihimaerawiti.html (consulted 11-3-2013).
Senior, Olive. 1986. Summer Lightning and Other Stories. Harlow: Longman.
--- . 2012. “Whirlwinds Coiled at My Heart”: Voice and Vision in a Writers’ Practice.  Diana Brydon and Marta Dvořák ed. Crosstalk: Canadian and Global Imaginaries in Dialogue. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 21-35.
Thieme, John. 1994. “Mixed Worlds: Olive Senior’s Summer Lightning”. Kunapipi 16.2: 90-95.
--- . 2001. Postcolonial Con-Texts: Writing Back to the Canon. London and New York: Continuum.

---. 2011. “Spheres of Possibility”: Transforming Postcolonial Linguistic Spaces. Monica Bottez, Maria-Sabina Draga Alexandru and Bogdan Ştefănescu ed. Postcolonialism/Postcommunism: Intersections and Overlaps. Bucharest: University of Bucharest Press, 21-37.


[1] Thieme, 2011.
[2] Ghosh, 2008: 96
[3] Ghosh, 2011: 5-6. Cf. the entry on “Chokey” in Neel’s Chrestomathy: “+chokey/choker/ choakee/ choky/chowki: ‘If an exchange of words betokens a joining of experience, then it would appear that prisons are the principal hinge between the people of Hind. and Blatty. For if the English gave us their “jail” in its now ubiquitous forms, jel, jel-khana, jel-bot and the like, we for our part have been by no means miserly in our own gifts. Thus as early as the 16th century the Hind. chowki was already on its way across the sea, eventually to effect its entry into English as those very old words chokey, choker, choky, and even sometimes chowki. The parent of these words is of course the Hind. chowk which refers to a square or open place in the centre of a village or town: this was where cells and other places of confinement were customarily located, being presided over by a kotwal and policed by a paltan of darogas and chowkidars. But chokey appears to have gained in grimness as it traveled, for its Hind. avatar is not the equal of its English equivalent in the conjuring of dread: a function that devolves rather to qaid and qaidi – two words which started their travels at almost the same time as chokey, and went on to gain admittance under such guises as quod, quoddie, and quodded, the last having the sense of “jailed”.’” (http://www.amitavghosh.com/chrestomathy.html; bold in original).
[4] Ghosh, 2011: 130: italics in original.
[5] See my discussion of his concern with cross-cultural etymologies in In An Antique Land (1992): Thieme, 2011: 28-30.
[6] Ghosh, 2011: 520
[7] Ghosh puts the matter rather differently on his website, saying Neel’s Chrestomathy is “not so much a key to language as an astrological chart, crafted by a man who was obsessed with the destiny of words” (Ibis Chrestomathy).
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Senior, 1986: 100.
[11] Discussed more fully in Thieme, 1994.
[12] Senior, 2012: 26.
[13] Ibid.: 25.
[14] Ibid.: 28.
[15] Ibid.: 26.
[16] Gupta, “Novels: A Sin of Colour”.
[17] See particularly the opening of the fifth section, “Ochre”, which closely echoes the first sentences of Rebecca:
That night he dreamt that he was at the gates of Mandalay again, but though he shook them hard they would not open for they were hung with a great rusty lock, and all the while the gatekeeper stood watching him, shaking his head, I cannot let you in, I cannot let you in, said the gatekeeper, and it is not just because I threw away the key to that lock a long time ago, but because you are dead […]. (Gupta, 1999: 127)
   Cf. Rebecca:
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited. (Du Maurier, 2003: 1)
[18] This title, mentioned just once in the text (Gupta, 1999: 165) is taken from a phrase in the English writer Howard Barker’s play A Hard Heart (1992).

[19] Ihimaera, 1989: 9; italics in original.
[20] Ibid.: 10.
[21] Millar, 1998.
[22] Mansfield, 1961: 77.
[23] See Froude Durix, 1989. 
[24] Ihimaera, 1989: 126.
[25] Ibid.: 134.
[26] Ibid.: 133.
[27] Ibid.: 135.
[28] Ibid.: 111.
[29] Written in a naturalistic mode, the story is untypical of Mansfield’s later fiction; and in a letter to John Middleton Murry, 8 February 1920, she wrote, “I couldn’t have ‘The Woman at the Store’ reprinted” (quoted in Boddy, 1988: 207).
[30] Ihimaera, 1989: 191.
[31] Other stories in Dear Miss Mansfield that are derivatives of particular Mansfield stories include A Contemporary Kezia (Ihimaera, 1989: 79-88), which responds to the second half of The Child-Who-Was-Tired (Mansfield, 1911: 162-83); and Summons to Alexandra (Ihimaera, 1989: 136-42), which responds to Bliss (Mansfield, 1962: 95-110).
[32] The case for this has been made by Lawlor, 1946, a source that Ihimaera acknowledges.
[33] See particularly Fumagalli, 2001.

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