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Monday, July 07, 2014

A Passage to India (1924) by E.M. Forster

Book Review
A Passage to India (1924)
by E.M. Forster

  Hard not to enjoy an E.M. Forster joint.  This is my third after Where Angels Fear To Tread (1904) and Room With A View (1908.)   Of course, his big hit was Howard's End (1910), and then a gap between that book and this one.  The idea of a trip to India is very much something that was in vogue in pre-World War I Europe.  Forster went after Howard's End was a hit, but A Passage to India wouldn't be published until 1924, and India itself was picking up steam as it moved towards independence. The India that Forster had visited was a more placid locale.  The India depicted in A Passage to India is somewhere between the India Forster knew and the India that actually existed around the time of publication: The British Raj is still in control, but the reins are fraying.

  It's very easy to enjoy A Passage to India as a light, early 20th century Novel about class and colonialism.  Reading it from a more critical perspective- one informed, say, by Edward Said and his landmark book Orientalism, is more problematic.  After all, Forster is a white, English author who has no compunction about using Indian Muslims and Hindus as primary characters in his text. I can see where someone from India might take offense.  On the other hand, you can just read it an relax.  Forster's novels are pleasurable, nuanced and well-written.  Almost every list of "Top 100 English Novels" has either this book or Howard's End included.

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