The notion of thinking as an outsider, and the critical distance which this entails, is key to an understanding of Desai as writer, and a recurrent theme in the discussions of her novels and short stories in this book. It informs her authorial perspectives on India, its places, scenes, and people, and her creative engagement with those who, through a combination of accident and choice, find themselves marginalised, displaced, and dispossessed. The search for other alternative worlds outside of the social and cultural mainstream defines the self-identity of many of Desai's characters, and underlines their problematic identification with the communities in which they are located. Through detailed discussions of a number of short stories and novels, and references to other works by Indo-English writers, this book shows how Desai maps her India, and opens up ways of reading India for the reader as outsider.
Elaine Ho is Associate Professor of English at the University of Hong Kong where she teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses on post-colonial literature and theory. She has written extensively on literature for several post-colonial journals and contributed a study of Timothy Mo to the Contemporary World Writer Series (2000).