In the case of Peter J. Kalliney’s Commonwealth of Letters, you can tell a good deal from the cover. The top half of the paperback edition is occupied by a photograph taken in a BBC recording studio in 1942. It shows T. S. Eliot, George Orwell, and William Empson in close study of some printed materials with Venu Chitale, M. J. Tambimuttu, Una Marson, Mulk Raj Anand, and V. K. Narayana Menon, among others. The photograph illustrates one of the basic points in this study, that there was an even closer association of modernist writers and critics with postcolonial writers and critics than previous scholarship has suggested. But the intent, shared concentration of this group on the papers before them also illustrates another message. The microphone hanging unobserved above them bears the letters BBC, but if the allegory were more overt,...

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