Tracking Down Ruins: Anita Desai and the Ethics of Postcolonial Writing

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Menozzi, F

“The Museum of Final Journeys” is the opening novella of Anita Desai’s collection of short fiction, The Artist of Disappearance (2011). The story is about an enigmatic art collection left in a state of ruin and dereliction in an unnamed province of postcolonial India. Yet behind the literary representation of ruins lies a profound meditation on the ethical role of the writer in transmitting the past. Indeed, Desai’s text is an imaginative adaptation of the story of a 19th-century Italian aristocrat, Prince Bardi of Bourbon, and his legendary artistic collection, which is kept today in the Museum of Oriental Art in Venice. By referring to Bardi’s story in transfigured form, Desai addresses the potential of literary works to take care of the past, bring it into the present and preserve it from forgetting and destruction. Desai’s imagery of ruins provides a suggestive exploration of the ethics of postcolonial writing as a form of cultural transmission.
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