Bombay Modern

E-book – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3275-7

Cloth Text – $99.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3274-0

Paper Text – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3273-3
Publication Date
May 2016
Page Count
320 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Bombay Modern

Arun Kolatkar and Bilingual Literary Culture
Anjali Nerlekar

Anjali Nerlekar's Bombay Modern is a close reading of Arun Kolatkar's canonical poetic works that relocates the genre of poetry to the center of both Indian literary modernist studies and postcolonial Indian studies. Nerlekar shows how a bilingual, materialist reading of Kolatkar's texts uncovers a uniquely resistant sense of the "local" that defies the monolinguistic cultural pressures of the post-1960 years and straddles the boundaries of English and Marathi writing.
Bombay Modern uncovers an alternative and provincial modernism through poetry, a genre that is marginal to postcolonial studies, and through bilingual scholarship across English and Marathi texts, a methodology that is currently peripheral at best to both modernist studies and postcolonial literary criticism in India. Eschewing any attempt to define an overarching or universal modernism, Bombay Modern delimits its sphere of study to "Bombay" and to the "post-1960" (the sathottari period) in an attempt to examine at close range the specific way in which this poetry redeployed the regional, the national, and the international to create a very tangible yet transient local.
About the Author

ANJALI NERLEKAR is an assistant professor of South Asian literatures at Rutgers University.

"Like any of the 'locals' in Mumbai, the teeming trains that barrel through the megapolis, Anjali Nerlekar’s Bombay Modern leads us into the heart of bilingual literary culture in the Maximum City, through an underground world of poems, manifestos, little magazines, dreams, visions, modernisms, and experiments inhabiting the interstices of both English and Marathi. Bombay Modern richly documents the lives, careers, ideas, and works of writers as diverse as Arun Kolatkar, Adil Jussawalla, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Dilip Chitre, Bhalchandra Nemade, R. K. Joshi, and Ashok Shahane, whose impact is far from local, and without whom the story of geomodernisms cannot now be conceived or told."—Vinay Dharwadker, Professor of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies and of Languages and Cultures of Asia, University of Wisconsin–Madison

"...Bombay Modern expands the scholarship on global avant-garde and modernisms in South Asia providing valuable heuristic tools of analysis for multiple literary and historical contexts. This accurate monograph can be recommended not only as a complementary study to the reading of Kolatkar’s poetry in English, but also as an independent work per se that explores the intricate web of material practices of literature, poetic experimentation, protest and resistance in the decades following the independence of India." —Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation Review

"Anjali Nerlekar's book is the first to offer a reading of Arun Kolatkar's work in the two languages he wrote in, English and Marathi. Using privately held archival material that is difficult to locate and impossible to access, she reads the work in the context of Bombay's overlapping literary cultures between 1955 and 1980, as they came to be shaped by little magazines and small presses, typographies and layouts, literary friendships and collaborations. Nerlekar not only fills a gap in our history but marks it with a well-constructed lighthouse. It will for a long time to come be guiding boats to the harbor called Bombay Poets, that of late has begun to look quite busy. " —Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, editor of Collected Poems in English by Arun Kolatkar

"Anjali Nerlekar’s Bombay Modern: Arun Kolatkar and Bilingual Literary Culture focuses on a fascinating and pivotal period, place, and poetics that, if studied carefully, can overturn a good lot of common literary assumptions about language, modernity, nationality, and cosmopolitanism in South Asian literary criticism today. First off, Bombay Modern is worthy of notice for the simple fact that it is one of so few studies to focus on South Asian poetry rather than fiction or history or sociology. Nerlekar’s notable contribution to literary studies is her unique focus on bilingual South Asian poetry as a challenge to the facile pronouncements of an English-dominated global cosmopolitanism on the one hand, and to the parochial Nativism of monolingual writers who also, in the opposite way, fail to account for the polyglot realities of South Asian lives on the other hand. The best thing that can be said about any book of literary criticism may be said of Nerlekar’s book: it makes readers want to go and read the poets for themselves again. Hopefully, Bombay Modern will bring much deserved scholarly attention to the words and legacy of Kolatkar, to the Sathottariperiod, and to the momentous output of South Asia’s bilingual poets so far so unjustly neglected in studies of South Asia." —H-ASIA

"Anjali Nerlekar’s book is an incisive contribution to South Asian and postcolonial literary studies. Analyzing the outstanding bilingual poetry of Arun Kolatkar, Bombay Modern brings lively and sophisticated attention to the interlingual exchanges in postcolonial poetry; to the material circumstances of its publication; to the local environments in which it is written; and to the texts and their social, bibliographic, and political contexts. Vigorously argued, deeply knowledgeable, sharply attentive." —Jahan Ramazani, author of Poetry and Its Others: News, Prayer, Song, and the Dialogue of Genres

"Bombay Modern is a pioneering work of poetic interpretation and critique... Nerlekar succeeds in elegantly and critically balancing her exploration of contexts with her sensitive and nuanced deconstruction of Kolatkar’s poetry. Bombay Modern’s analysis of Kolatkar’s work is comprehensive, rich and insightful... This book is highly recommended to readers interested in India’s modern literatures, poetry, translation practices, the culture of Bombay and, by extension, the multilingual fabric of India’s national, regional and local cultures." —Wasafiri