ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gurdial Singh, Voice ofthe Voiceless

In novel after novel, Gurdial Singh (1933–2016) created sensitive and memorable vignettes of how multiple forms of oppression worked through our social structures, often crippling those who remain trapped within. He won the Jnanpith award for Parsa, the second Punjabi after Amrita Pritam to win the prestigious award. Singh’s work is arguably among the best of world literature.

When Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak wrote her essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?” she probably had no idea of who Gurdial Singh was. And I wonder if she had read any of his works then, or has read them even now. Anyway that is not important. For, in her essay, she was mainly preoccupied with a fundamental theoretical question: whether the subaltern should speak in his own voice or be spoken of by another?

In the case of Singh, it is not an either/or situation. He was, at once, a subaltern, and not a subaltern, one who has spoken for himself as well as others less privileged than him, in a voice that is, at once, gentle and persuasive, nuanced and subtle, radical and compassionate. It is a voice that speaks of the subalterns in a way they would have, perhaps, liked to be spoken of, a voice that gives them a sense of selfhood, an agency, an identity, and, of course, a definite place in the cultural imaginary, too.

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Updated On : 16th Jan, 2017


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