Author: Mahasweta Devi
Translator: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Publisher: Seagull Books
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8170461766
The wide sweep of this important novel encompasses many layers. It ranges over decades in the life of Chotti in which India moves from colonial rule to independence and then to the unrest of the 1970s.
'I had but that one arrow', says Chotti Munda, the hero of this epic tale. A 'magic' arrow that stood for the pride, the wisdom, the culture, of their society, a society threatened with inevitable disintegration as its traditional structures crumbled under the assault of 'national development'.
The wide sweep of this important novel encompasses many layers. It ranges over decades in the life of Chotti - the central character - in which India moves from colonial rule to independence and then to the unrest of the 1970s. It probes and uncovers the complex web of social and economic exchange based on power relations. It traces the changes, some forced, some welcome, in the daily lives of a marginalized rural community. And at its core, it celebrates Chotti, the legendary archer, wise and farsighted leader, proud role model to his younger brethren.
Written in 1980, this novel is also remarkable for the manner in which it touches on vital issues that have, in subsequent decades, grown into matters of urgent social concern. It raises questions about the place of the tribal on the map of national identity, land rights and human rights, the 'museumization' of ethnic cultures, and the justification of violent resistance as the last resort of a desperate people, amongst others.
This is the first novel where Mahasweta articulates tribal history. After Chotti, the text of tribaility frees itself from the burden of a merely 'Indian' history. Chotti Munda repeatedly dramatizes subaltern solidarity: Munda, Oraon, and the Hindu outcastes must work together. Today such a solidarity has a name: Dalit.
GAYATRI CHAKRAVORTY SPIVAK is the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University and the author of many books, including 'A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Towards a History of the Vanishing Present'.
Telling History - An Interview with Mahasweta Devi
Chotti Munda and His Arrow