This essay argues that tracking Kamala Markandaya's literary career enables us to see, in retrospect, some of the blind spots of the postcolonial literary critical frame within which we have situated novels produced by third-world writers in the twentieth century. Primarily, this essay examines the literary consequences of placing nationhood and nationalism at the very center of the postcolonial literary critical framework that was collaboratively created from the 1980s onward by scholars from/in different parts of the globe to serve as an analytical tool for third-world literatures in the twentieth century. Markandaya's career, with its demonstrably spectacular beginning and dismal end, helps us see the kind of nationalist postures that were tacitly or explicitly expected (by those in the western and the Indian literary, academic, and publishing worlds) of the Indian writer in the second half of the twentieth century. The issue at hand is much more complicated than is usually represented as the chasm between the India-based and the Indian diasporic writer. All through the twentieth century, novels written by writers of Indian origin from either location can and do partake of an “Indianness” that is deemed authentic and powerful as long as they are understood to be committed to the Indian nation and her people from within or from afar. In Markandaya's case, I argue that after the global success of her first novel, Nectar in a Sieve (1954), her refusal to put any kind of national(ist) investment at the heart of her fiction resulted in this writer of formidable talent losing her place in the roster of critically acclaimed Indian writers.

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