POSTMODERNISM: A RUPTURE OR CONTINUITY OF MODERNISM?
The lines between the beginning and end of literary Modernism and Postmodernism are blurred thus making it difficult to put them in a fixed time frame. Nonetheless, I intend to provide an estimated period for the two movements and reflect on how postmodernism is really an extension and amplification of certain modernist features and how this is reflected in the three novels that I have chosen to work with. I will be looking at Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Italo Calvino’s and Vishwajyoti Ghosh’s Invisible Cities and graphic novel Delhi Calm respectively, to trace the modern and postmodern traits and show the progression therein.
To start off I will discuss what literary modernism is. The impact of Modernism in English literature is said to have come about roughly from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century wherein the authors have deliberately broken up with conventional literary traditions of their preceding era and the dominance or control that accompanied them. It is said that the earliest “modernist revolt [can be traced] as far back as the 1890s, but most agree that what is called high modernism, marked by an unexampled scope and rapidity of change, came after the first World War” (Abrams 175).
This is perhaps because all the greatest modernist writers such as Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence had come to write after the end of the World War in 1918 when the “catastrophe of the war had shaken their faith in the moral basis, coherence, and durability of Western civilization and raised doubts about the adequacy of traditional literary modes to represent the harsh and dissonant realities of the postwar world” (Abrams 175). Then again Virginia Woolf gives us a more exact date saying that it was perhaps “in or about December, 1910, human character changed” forever because according to her, certain socio-economic changes led to a changed perspective in the world and it was the beginning of modernism for her. Although difficult to determine a fixed date, it can be said that it was in the post World War I era that modernism began to take shape.
Generally speaking, the Modernist writing is associated with much experimentation with not only forms, language and themes, but also the very way in which reality, life and truth are perceived. The approach to life is also different in a modern perspective. There has been a shift from social Realism to personal Realism where the focus is entirely on the inner workings of a character’s psyche. It is not so much the external surroundings or affair of a person that concerns the author, than the internal and unconscious mind. Which is why Virginia Woolf appreciates how modernist writers such as James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, F. Scott Fitzgerald were “concerned at all costs to reveal the flickerings of that innermost flame which flashes its messages through the brain” and not the external irrelevant details (Modern Fiction 247). I will now discuss the various aspects that make a text modern. The first aspect that is bound to grab the attention of the readers of a modern novel is that of a fragmented narration. The manner in which the story is narrated is not the traditional third person narrative, rather innovative narrative techniques are used to portray the modern understanding of life. The techniques are such that the readers are allowed a privileged access in to the character’s mind to better comprehend the characters. The first technique is the stream of consciousness which “was a phrase used by William James in his Principles of Psychology (1890) to describe the unbroken flow of perceptions, memories, thoughts, and feelings, in the waking mind” (Abrams 307). It is an uninterrupted train of reflections by means of which the Georgian authors “sought to avoid the over-insistent authoritarian rhetoric of Edwardian novels” and make the readers experience precisely what the character was experiencing at that precise moment (Childs and Fowler 224). The next technique is that of free indirect discourse which “describes a special type of third-person narration that slips in and out of a character’s consciousness. In other words, a character’s “thoughts, feelings, and words are filtered through the third-person narrator” (Gingerich).
What happens here is that the “narrator temporarily takes a backseat for the sake of better representing the consciousness of the character, though the reader still relies on that third-person middleman to tell the story ” (Gingerich). There is also an omniscient narrator who resembles the traditional third person narrator but cannot be seen anywhere in the novel. The narrator often takes to making social commentary. We could also get a glimpse of the author through the omniscient narrator by means of which the author could insert his or her own knowledge or comment. Due to the stream of consciousness narrative style the character’s thoughts can be seen flitting from one place to another; from one time period to another. This again is a very realistic approach and this refers to the temporal and spatial expansion that takes place wherein the character is left with an “oceanic feeling in which the vastness of time and space [can] dwarf any human individual whatsoever” (Hollington 438). What we have next is the character creation process that allows the readers to understand the characters to their core. Modern writers did not focus much on the external aspects of the character as they did on their internal mechanisms. There are two methods in which a character is given his depth and they are known as extension method and tunneling. In the extension method the characters communicate between themselves about some other character and while doing so we are getting information about the character. On the other hand in tunneling we delve deep into the character’s thoughts and explore their psyche. There are so many techniques for creating a character because for the modern authors “the point of interest, lies very likely in the dark places of psychology” (Modern Fiction 248).
Modern novels also echo the endlessness of experience or the multiplicity of reality coming out of the improbable notions of life being single dimensional and reflecting on the reality of life. It reflects the belief that no experience is complete in life and that just like characters the experiences that come their way are also forever in flux. Unlike pre-modern novels where stories were told in a chronological manner and then nicely closed off with a ‘happily ever after’, a modern novel points out the impracticality of it and resorts to leaving an open ending denoting the unpredictability and uncertainty of life.
It is because of this open ending and multiplicity of meaning that the modern authors expect their readers to be active and not passive. The readers are expected to ponder after having read the novel and not just put it away. The readers are expected to raise questions and get the wheels running in their heads. Also there is no fixed plot, story line, themes of tragedy, romance or comedy, and like I have already said, no fixed ending. Since these are the traditional ways of writing a story the modern authors had broken free of it and indulged in experimentation and like Woolf has said, “everything is the stuff of fiction” allowing them a more expansive field to work in (Modern Fiction 246).
Having discussed the literary modern features in brief I will now move on to the postmodern characteristics and later, I will be following it up with an explanation with reference to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. Moving on, I shall shed some light on what literary postmodernism is. Like modernism, postmodernism had also come into being after a war; “after World War II (1939–45)” to be precise (Abrams 176). Like I had mentioned in my opening paragraph that I believe postmodern is a continuation of modernism, Abrams attests to the fact but adds to it saying that postmodernism is “not only a continuation, sometimes carried to an extreme, of the countertraditional experiments of modernism, but also diverse attempts to break away from the modernist forms which had, inevitably, become in their turn conventional” (Abrams 176). Postmodernist authors, similar to the modernist authors wanted to break free from the previous period and start fresh perhaps to get rid of anything that was in anyway related to the war. Postmodernist writing became increasingly focused on fragmentation, indeterminacy and inconclusiveness; in short it became ever more experimental. The “playful, irreverent liberties taken with language, narrative structure, typology and the reader/text interface by these novelists suggested an exhaustion with the modes of traditional expression and championed an artistic freedom that allowed the celebration of nonliterary media derived particularly from popular culture within the text” (Childs and Fowler 185–186). It also saw the shift from personal Realism to Magic Realism wherein there is a “blending of history and fantasy” (Lewis 115). The postmodern work has become so very independent that the ‘work’ needs to be distinguished from the ‘text’ according to Roland Barthes. According to Barthes “the work is a fragment of substance… the Text is a methodological field… the work can be held in the hand, the text is held in language, only exists in the movement of a discourse” (286). Working with Barthes’ distinction actually makes the study of postmodernist works easier because we are able to understand the multiplicity of the text better. The postmodernist “work itself functions as a general sign and it is normal that it should represent an institutional category of the civilization of the Sign. The Text, on the contrary, practices the infinite deferment of the signified” (Barthes 287). This means that the text has multiple layers of meanings and cannot be assigned any one definition or interpretation thus making the text metonymical. We have seen that modernist writers also believe in the multiplicity of meaning, and on separating the work and the text, we have seen how postmodernism has taken it a step further to drive the point home.
Having made the general comments on what postmodern is we will now look at the characteristics. Firstly we have the fragmented narrative that shows how the postmodern authors “distrusted the wholeness and completion associated with traditional stories, and preferred to deal with other ways of structuring narrative” (Lewis 116). Not only is the narration fragmented in postmodern novels, but also the text is fragmented in ways to allow for multiplicity and dimension to the text. The modern methods such as stream of consciousness, free indirect discourse and the presence of omniscient narrator may be there depending on the author. The multiple endings are the first kind of fragmentation that we may come across in a postmodern novel. This inconclusiveness serves many purposes such as indicating the various layers that make up a character’s life, the uncertainty of any outcome in life, and at the same time ensures the involvement of readers which is also a postmodern trait just as it is a modern trait.
The multiple ending was the method to resist “closure by offering numerous possible outcomes for a plot” (Lewis 116). Another method of fragmentation is “allowing space for the open and inconclusive … to break up the text into short fragments or sections, separated by space, titles, numbers or symbols” (Lewis 116). Thus we see how the text itself would also be fragmented to portray as many facets as possible. This is quite visible in both Invisible Cities and Delhi Calm. The trait that marks a text as postmodern and differentiates between it and a modern text is that of pastiche. It is an amalgamation or collage of texts from various places that “seeks to recreate in a more extreme and accessible form the manner of major writers. It tends to eliminate tensions, to produce a more highly coloured and polished effect, picking out and reiterating favourite stylistic mannerisms, and welding them into a new whole which has a superficial coherence and order” (Childs and Fowler 168). Again this goes to show the postmodern way of thinking; that a single event is neither the result of or results in another single event. A hundred things may have triggered an event and that may in turn set off another hundred parallel worlds. This brings us to a similar trait called intertextuality, where “texts of all sorts (oral, visual, literary, virtual) contain references to other texts that have, in some way, contributed to their production and signification” (Childs and Fowler 121).
Again this serves a similar purpose of giving dimension and volume to the text and hinting subtly at the diversity of life. It is a patchwork of different ways in which to tell a story and it makes the text that much more interesting. Next we have writers “writing about the process of writing”; which is called metafiction or self-reflexivity; to come closer to the reader by showing what is going on in their mind during this creative and productive process (Childs and Fowler 122). However, this does not change the fact that the author has been decentered or lost his authority to the autonomy of the text. The text has become self-explanatory because of the various techniques the author uses to make it life-like with the various dimensions. Since the author does not get to make any direct comment he disguises his opinions in a playful manner so that only those practiced enough to notice the difference will be able to detect the scorn or irony in the text if there is any at all. Postmodern texts also have a combinative process in which elements of high popular culture is infused with low popular culture so as to make the text diverse and leave it up to the readers to deduce what they want. Thus we see how important the role of the readers is as well. Finally, it goes without saying that there is a continued emphasis on the creation of characters that do not lack in depth or dynamics and the utmost attention is paid to the workings of their psyche. What I intend to do now is take a close look at the novel Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf to analyze the modern aspects present in it. Mrs Dalloway, a modernist novel, was written in 1925 and is perhaps one of the first novels to have broken away from the traditional forms and techniques.
Mrs Dalloway is perhaps one of those novels which can easily tick off all the modernist traits with due respect to Woolf’s persistence in coming up with a unique production. Thus without further ado I would like to get into identifying the features in the novel. First off we will look at the unique interiorized narrative techniques that Woolf uses to relate the story to us. Woolf’s most famous technique known as the stream of consciousness is the perfect vehicle for the portrayal of how the human mind works. Below I quote an extract from the novel where we see how a character, Peter Walsh allows his thoughts to run on and into each other without any pause: And that is being young, Peter Walsh though as he passed them. to be having an awful scene — the poor girl looked absolutely desperate — in the middle of the morning.
But what was it about? he wondered; what had the young man in the overcoat being saying to her to make her look like that; what awful fix they had got themselves into, both to look so desperate as that on a fine summer morning? The amusing thing about coming back to England, after five years, was the way it made, anyhow the first days, things stand out as if one had never seen them before; lovers squabbling under the tree; the domestic family life of the parks. Never had he seen London look so enchanting — the softness of the distances; the richness; the greenness; the civilisation, after India, he thought, strolling across the grass (Dalloway 74). This extract from the novel shows us how the readers are given an exclusive trip of the character’s mind. We see how Peter Walsh’s thoughts flutter like a butterfly from one memory and perception to another within seconds. In this method the character “reaches freely backward and forward in time” and gives the readers a background as well without rambling history (Fletcher and Bradbury 397).
Another passage, although equally revealing the psyche of the character follows the free indirect discourse method: Ah, said St Margaret’s, like a hostess who comes into her drawing-room on the very stroke of the hour and finds her guests there already. I am not late. No, it is precisely half-past eleven, she says (Dalloway 51). Here we see how it is actually the narrator who is saying “I am not late. No, it is precisely half-past eleven” but it seems as if it is Clarissa herself saying it. Thus, as it is given in the definition, the free indirect discourse is really a mash-up of a third person narrative and a direct narrative and this method is woven throughout the entire text. This allows us to read exactly what a character is thinking, except that is coming from the mouth of the narrator. Another such passage is: Oh it was a letter from her! This blue envelope; that was her hand. And he would have to read it. here was another of those meetings, bound to be painful! To read her letter needed the devil of an effort. ‘How Heavenly it was to see him. She must tell him that.’ That was all (Dalloway 163). Again, it could easily have been words that were directly coming from Peter Walsh himself, but they have been relayed to us by the narrator. We also get brief glimpses of the omniscient narrator giving us an overview of the entire situation.
Towards the beginning of the novel we see the narrator saying how: …rumours were at once in circulation from the middle of Bond Street to Oxford Street on one side, to Atkinson’s scent shop on the other, passing invisibly, inaudibly, like a cloud, swift, veil-like upon hills, falling indeed with something of a cloud’s sudden sobriety and stillness upon faces which a second before had been utterly disorderly (Dalloway 13). Here we do not see the inside of any character’s head but we do get a general idea of the situation in the story at that point of time. Having thus shown three different types of narratives we see how the novel becomes fragmented. It requires the presence of mind of the readers to keep track of the shifting angles and perspectives. The text becomes even more fragmented when the character creation takes place. When reading certain passages it may seem like any ordinary conversation between characters, but it really is a technique to tell the readers more about the character that is being discussed by the other characters. The extension method in which characters discuss another character reveals to readers many things that they may otherwise have not known; things that are too trivial for the character himself to be thinking, but just good enough to be gossip material. For instance the conversation between Peter Walsh and Sally Seton towards the end of the novel reveals to us what they both really think of Clarissa. Hugh Whitbread it was, strolling past in his white waistcoat, dim, fat, blind, past everything he looked, except self-esteem and comfort. “He’s not going to recognise us,” said Sally, and really she hadn’t the courage — so that was Hugh! the admirable Hugh! “And what does he do?” she asked Peter. He blacked the King’s boots or counted bottles at Windsor, Peter told her. Peter kept his sharp tongue still! But Sally must be frank, Peter said. That kiss now, Hugh’s. … And had he children? “Everybody in the room has six sons at Eton,” Peter told her, except himself.
He, thank God, had none. No sons, no daughters, no wife. Well, he didn’t seem to mind, said Sally. He looked younger, she thought, than any of them … it must be lonely at his age to have no home, nowhere to go to. But he must stay with them for weeks and weeks. Of course he would; he would love to stay with them, and that was how it came out. All these years the Dalloways had never been once. Time after time they had asked them. Clarissa (for it was Clarissa of course) would not come. For, said Sally, Clarissa was at heart a snob- -one had to admit it, a snob. And it was that that was between them, she was convinced. Clarissa thought she had married beneath her, her husband being — she was proud of it- -a miner’s son. Every penny they had he had earned. As a little boy (her voice trembled) he had carried great sacks. … A snob was she? Yes, in many ways. Where was she, all this time? It was getting late (Dalloway 200–202). It is through this conversation that we learn that Sally Seton and Peter Walsh both think that Clarissa is a snob and that it was apparent through the things she said and the way she acted. The readers may perhaps not have arrived at this conclusion in any other way. Another more revealing method is known as tunneling where the author delves deeper and deeper into a character’s mind: The candle was half burnt down and she had read deep in Baron Marbot’s Memoirs.
She had read late at night of the retreat from Moscow. For the House sat so long that Richard insisted, after her illness, that she must sleep undisturbed. And really she preferred to read of the retreat from Moscow. He knew it. So the room was an attic; the bed narrow; and lying there reading, for she slept badly, she could not dispel a virginity preserved through childbirth which clung to her like a sheet. Lovely in girlhood, suddenly there came a moment — for example on the river beneath the woods at Clieveden — when, through some contraction of this cold spirit, she had failed him. And then at Constantinople, and again and again. She could see what she lacked. It was not beauty; it was not mind. It was something central which permeated; something warm which broke up surfaces and rippled the cold contact of man and woman, or of women together. For that she could dimly perceive. She resented it, had a scruple picked up Heaven knows where, or, as she felt, sent by Nature (who is invariably wise); yet she could not resist sometimes yielding to the charm of a woman, not a girl, of a woman confessing, as to her they often did, some scrape, some folly. And whether it was pity, or their beauty, or that she was older, or some accident — like a faint scent, or a violin next door (so strange is the power of sounds at certain moments), she did undoubtedly then feel what men felt. Only for a moment; but it was enough. It was a sudden revelation, a tinge like a blush which one tried to check and then, as it spread, one yielded to its expansion, and rushed to the farthest verge and there quivered and felt the world come closer, swollen with some astonishing significance, some pressure of rapture, which split its thin skin and gushed and poured with an extraordinary alleviation over the cracks and sores! Then, for that moment, she had seen an illumination; a match burning in a crocus; an inner meaning almost expressed. But the close withdrew; the hard softened. It was over — the moment (Dalloway 31–32). Here we see how the emotions of Clarissa Dalloway are rising and falling at a certain cadence and are telling us of her feelings without really spelling it out for the readers. The readers may interpret Clarissa Dalloway’s sporadic feelings as they understand best. This method and the previous method of extension not only give us various ways of comprehending the characters but also mirrors the modern understanding of how the internal workings and expressions of the characters mattered more than what they said. The fact that the book itself also has very little direct conversations shows of how little importance those external conversations were. These fragmented methods of narration and character creation is also depictive of the multiplicity of reality as they project the many ways of viewing one particular aspect. Also since there is no definite interpretation or conclusive ending, the readers are most welcome to perceive it as they wish. This is also aided by the open ended conclusion of the book if it can be called a conclusion at all because all is left to the imagination of the readers. Since importance is imparted upon the internal feelings of the character, the importance of the feminine values has also been prioritized. We see how Clarissa Dalloway although not a working woman, goes about doing her chores with a certain degree of importance. Just the fact that a novel has been written based upon a woman’s arranging her party and the incidents of her life goes to show how important Woolf thought the matter to be. However, there are two ways of seeing this novel. The first being that Clarissa is an independent and autonomous being about which there is no doubt, but the second is that she is not entirely independent. This is because she is not happy with the life she has. Her marriage to Richard Dalloway and all the social conventions she made herself go through were a burden. Clarissa often, could not resist … yielding to the charm of a woman, not a girl, of a woman confessing, as to her they often did, some scrape, some folly. And whether it was pity, or their beauty, or that she was older, or some accident — like a faint scent, or a violin next door (so strange is the power of sounds at certain moments), she did undoubtedly then feel what men felt (Dalloway 32). This shows how she would hide her homosexual feelings because she knew that it was deemed wrong by the society. Also we never see her thinking about these secretive aspects of her life when she is out on the streets or amidst people. She even guards her thoughts and is careful to reveal them only in the seclusion of her attic. Moving onto the postmodernist novels Invisible Cities and Delhi Calm by Italo Calvino and Vishwajyoti Ghosh respectively, I now intend to highlight how the modernist traits are present in the novels but seem to be amplified. The reason I intend to use two novels is because I want to show that postmodern itself is an evolving genre and in less than half a century the postmodern texts themselves seem to have gradually become more experimental. There is no doubt about the use of fragmented narration in the novels by Italo Calvino and Vishwajyoti Ghosh, but they both do so in different ways. The techniques used by Woolf are not present but techniques more difficult to follow are used. Invisible Cities is broken down into 9 parts each beginning and ending with a conversation between the two historical figures, Marco Polo and Kublai Khan. Of the 9 sections the first two are the longest as they have between the two conversations, the description of 10 cities each.
The remaining sections each have the description of 5 cities between the conversations of Polo and Khan. The complications of narration do not stop at that. The 5 cities described under each section do not belong to the subdivisions that the author had made, such as that of ‘Cities & Eyes’, ‘Cities & Names’, ‘Continuous Cities’ and so on. Each such category has extracts to them and these extracts are scattered all throughout the 9 sections. Even if the description was written in a coherent manner the readers are bound to experience the fragmented narration and travel through the maze of cities. It is difficult to keep track of how and in which state a city was left in when we read the description of several other cities in between. For instance, ‘Trading Cities 1’ appears in section 2 and ‘Trading Cities 2’ comes after a few other cities in section 3. Not just so but even the description of the cities often leave the readers wondering what it could mean, if it is supposed to mean anything at all. Here is an extract from the description of ‘Continuous Cities 1’: Nobody wonders where, each day, they carry their load of refuse. Outside the city, surely; but each year the city expands, and the street cleaners have to fall farther back. The bulk of the outflow increases and the piles rise higher, become stratified, extend over a wider perimeter. Besides, the more Leonia’s talent for making new materials excels, the more the rubbish improves in quality, resists time, the elements, fermentations, combustions. A fortress of indestructible leftovers surrounds Leonia, dominating it on every side, like a chain of mountains (Cities 102–103). Most of the descriptions of the cities are like this, fictitious, imaginary and almost outrageous. However, Marco Polo put it in that although he calls each city by a different name, “Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice” (Cities 78). This revelation comes to the readers exactly halfway through the novel and this information changes the perception a lot. This is perhaps the only aspect of the text that has been fixed or designated. Even then the arbitrariness of the cities makes it difficult for the readers to merge all the descriptions together and treat it as only Venice. If we look at the conversations between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan we will find disintegration in their speech as well. Even the two characters fail to understand each other since they seem to be on different planes of understanding. Before I further explain my point here is an extract: … when the young Venetian made his report, a different communication was established between him and the emperor. Newly arrived and totally ignorant of the Levantine languages, Marco Polo could express himself only with gestures, leaps, cries of wonder and of horror, animal barkings or hootings, or with objects he took from his knacksacks — ostrich plumes, peashooters, quartzes — which he arranged in front of him like chessmen… The Great Khan deciphered the signs, but the connection between them and the places visited remained uncertain; he never knew whether Marco wished to enact an adventure that had befallen him on his journey, an exploit of the city’s founder, the prophecy of an astrologer, a rebus or a charade to indicate a name. But, obscure or obvious as it might be, everything Marco displayed had the power of emblems, which, once seen, cannot be forgotten or confused (Cities 18–19).
The conversations themselves lack fixity of meaning which results in the possible multiple endings that can be seen in Kublai Khan’s assumptions and in the reader’s perceptions as well. Such fragmented narrative is also present in Delhi Calm. Since it is a graphic novel the narration is done by means of both the dialogues and illustrations. There are certain documentaries, newspaper cuttings, advertisements, electronic devices and of course the characters themselves through which we get the narrative. The “comics pages have been digitally tinted sepia, to give them (in the artist’s words) a “sada look,” meaning plain or rusticated” which evoke a sense of nostalgia and doom (Holmberg). The blood spatters and bloodstained blades scattered across the pages give the readers a better idea of what may have been the deal during emergency of 1975 and 1976 in India. However, the sepia-tinted pages are interspersed with four sections of black and white narrations which are more like newspaper cuttings and documentaries. These devices also contribute to the narrative disjuncture given that from one narration of three friends, we are suddenly given information about the ruling political family or the party. The illustration on the left side is a newspaper cutting which has been written in a documentary form about the leading politician of India in 1975. This is giving the readers a perspective of what the politically biased newspaper had to say about the ruling party. On the other hand, the picture below shows us the situation of a comman man, Master, and what he thinks of the situation of emergency. Thus without having made any direct comment, the author has managed to relay to the readers what he really thinks of the history. We see how despite being a postmodern text as well, Delhi Calmhas taken fragmentation a step ahead.
We can see in this image how the character’s comments are juxtaposed with that of the newspaper reports, the loudspeaker and the thoughts of the intellectuals of the country. This brings us to the trait of intertextuality where several references are made to literary works. Calvino refers to Marco Polo’s travellogue; which is known as Il MIlione which was published in 1300; to learn of the trips he has made and what his style of writing is. But taking it a step further is Delhi Calm where we see a combinative process which is where the high culture is combined with the low culture.. There is a refernce to the famous Gabbar Singh scene on the mountain questioning his minions from the movie Sholay and a quite a famous song from another movie as well. Both Invisible Cities and Delhi Calm has an important trait of postmodernism that is known as self-reflexivity. Both the authors draw the attention of the readers to the process in which they are creating the text. It is quite evident in Invisble Cities how by means of Marco Polo’s tale telling, Calvino is hinting at his own work. Similarly, when the protaginist, VP, of Delhi Calm introduces himself as a writer and his writing desk is littered with pens, paper and a copy of Delhi Calm itself the reader instantly thinks that perhaps the author is VP1 . We do come to realize that VP is not the author but just a medium to get the readers attention on the process of writing. Although it may seem otherwise but the author in postmodernist texts as we know are decentered. The text is created in such a holistic manner so that it lacks nothing and everything. The text is self-explanatory, but no fixed definition or conclusion is given so that the readers may come to any conclusion which they deem best. There is most scope for this in Invisible Cities with its ambiguous narration and ending. In Invisible Cities when we read the description of cities in each section as it is and not refer back and forth to the other cities, it seems like a collage or pastiche where the text seems to have been assembled on the whim of the author with no thought at all. It seems as if the cities were random thoughts of the author which he wrote down for fear of forgetting them. Even though the stream of consciousness method of Woolf may seem sporaidc, the assemblage of the cities by Calvino and the use of the various mediums by Ghosh out do her method I believe. Mrs Dalloway does not leave its readers as confused as the readers of Invisible Cities is left befudled. However, Woolf’s readers will come out feeling more moribund than Calvino or Ghosh’s readers because the latter writers have a playful approach towards scrutinizing society and its conventions, unlike Woolf who goes headlong into complaiing of the trauma that society gives. Although Calvino too talks about serious matters such as the urbanization of the city and consequently the increased pollution, the overall erratic and experimental approach of the novel may leaves readers thinking it to be not so serious an issue.
Delhi Calm on the other hand beats both Mrs Dalloway and Invisible Cities in its playful approach. This novel talks about a very sensitive issue, that of politics yet assumes an approach which allows readers to laugh the entire matter off. The mockery of the political situations and the politicians themselves do not go unnoticed but the comical approach gives everyone a laugh. Then again we need not necessarily interpret the graphic novel as political because Ghosh says that even when “something [is] not political it gets perceived as political. The moment I [Ghosh] open my mouth, everyone thinks it’s political. But that might not necessarily be the case” (Holmberg). There is one thing however, in which Delhi Calm has not surpassed Invisible Cities in and that is the multiplicity of endings.
Though there is the multiplicity of meanings and interpretations in Ghosh’s novel, he had concluded the novel by telling the reader exactly what and where the characters were at the end of the emergency period. Calvino and Woolf on the other hand have left everything to the readers to find out for themselves. Thus in my conclusion I would like to say that even though the modern and postmodern are usually considered to be much different from each other I beg to differ. There are certain similarities and differences between the tw movements, but there are more similarities than differences. Literay postmodernism is not an entirely different canon from that of literary modernism; it is a hyped up and amplified version of the former. There are perhaps no fixed rules to separate them because even two postmodernist texts Invisible Cities (1972) and Delhi Calm (2010) set only 38 years apart differ from each other in many ways even though they are both the product of extensive experimentation.