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Penguin Classics Passage To India [Paperback]

Pankaj Mishra , E M Forster , Oliver Stallybrass
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 30 2005 014144116X 978-0141441160
Exploring issues of colonialism, faith and the limits of comprehension, E.M. Forster's "A Passage to India" is edited by Oliver Stallybrass, with an introduction by Pankaj Mishra. When Adela Quested and her elderly companion Mrs Moore arrive in the Indian town of Chandrapore, they quickly feel trapped by its insular and prejudiced 'Anglo-Indian' community. Determined to escape the parochial English enclave and explore the 'real India', they seek the guidance of the charming and mercurial Dr Aziz, a cultivated Indian Muslim. But a mysterious incident occurs while they are exploring the Marabar caves with Aziz, and the well-respected doctor soon finds himself at the centre of a scandal that rouses violent passions among both the British and their Indian subjects. A masterly portrait of a society in the grip of imperialism, "A Passage to India" compellingly depicts the fate of individuals caught between the great political and cultural conflicts of the modern world. In his introduction, Pankaj Mishra outlines Forster's complex engagement with Indian society and culture. This edition reproduces the Abinger text and notes, and also includes four of Forster's essays on India, a chronology and further reading. E. M. Forster (1879-1970) was a noted English author and critic and a member of the Bloomsbury group. His first novel, "Where Angels Fear To Tread" appeared in 1905. "The Longest Journey" appeared in 1907, followed by "A Room With A View" (1908), based partly on the material from extended holidays in Italy with his mother. "Howards End" (1910) was a story that centred on an English country house and dealt with the clash between two families, one interested in art and literature, the other only in business. Maurice was revised several times during his life, and finally published posthumously in 1971. If you enjoyed "A Passage to India", you might like Rudyard Kipling's "Kim", also available in "Penguin Classics". "His great book...masterly in its presence and its lucidity". (Anita Desai).

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What really happened in the Marabar caves? This is the mystery at the heart of E.M. Forster's 1924 novel, A Passage to India, the puzzle that sets in motion events highlighting an even larger question: Can an Englishman and an Indian be friends?

"It is impossible here," an Indian character tells his friend, Dr. Aziz, early in the novel.

"They come out intending to be gentlemen, and are told it will not do.... Why, I remember when Turton came out first. It was in another part of the Province. You fellows will not believe me, but I have driven with Turton in his carriage--Turton! Oh yes, we were once quite intimate. He has shown me his stamp collection.

"He would expect you to steal it now. Turton! But red-nosed boy will be far worse than Turton!

"I do not think so. They all become exactly the same, not worse, not better. I give any Englishman two years, be he Turton or Burton. It is only the difference of a letter. And I give any Englishwoman six months. All are exactly alike."

Written while England was still firmly in control of India, Forster's novel follows the fortunes of three English newcomers to India--Miss Adela Quested, Mrs. Moore, and Cyril Fielding--and the Indian, Dr. Aziz, with whom they cross destinies. The idea of true friendship between the races was a radical one in Forster's time, and he makes it abundantly clear that it was not one that either side welcomed. If Aziz's friend, Hamidullah, believed it impossible, the British representatives of the Raj were equally discouraging.
"Why, the kindest thing one can do to a native is to let him die," said Mrs. Callendar.
"How if he went to heaven?" asked Mrs. Moore, with a gentle but crooked smile.
"He can go where he likes as long as he doesn't come near me. They give me the creeps."
Despite their countrymen's disapproval, Miss Quested, Mrs. Moore, and Mr. Fielding are all eager to meet Indians, and in Dr. Aziz they find a perfect companion: educated, westernized, and open-minded. Slowly, the friendships ripen, especially between Aziz and Fielding. Having created the possibility of esteem based on trust and mutual affection, Forster then subjects it to the crucible of racial hatred: during a visit to the famed Marabar caves, Miss Quested accuses Dr. Aziz of sexually assaulting her, then later recants during the frenzied trial that follows. Under such circumstances, affection proves to be a very fragile commodity indeed.

Arguably Forster's greatest novel, A Passage to India limns a troubling portrait of colonialism at its worst, and is remarkable for the complexity of its characters. Here the personal becomes the political and in the breach between Aziz and his English "friends," Forster foreshadows the eventual end of the Raj. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up-By E.M. Forster. Narrated by Flo Gibson.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Except for the Marabar Caves - and they are twenty miles off - the city of Chandrapore presents nothing extraordinary. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book I've read in ages. Feb. 13 2003
I wasn't particularly looking forward to reading A Passage to India. Forster, in my mind, seemed to suggest implausible romance, pretty scenery, and Helena Bonham Carter, and I'd never actually bothered to read one of his books.
Now I can hardly wait to read another. I absolutely loved this book, without quite knowing why it was so magical. I do know that I found the first chapter absolutely perfect, as it allows the reader to go into a "descriptive section" daze, and then jerks are attention suddenly back to the Marabar caves. And with the exception of one or two patches that dragged a little but were soon over, I found the rest of the book equally magnetic.
I enjoyed Fortster's deftness in portraying all the characters, not so much as individuals, but in terms of how they felt about each other. In particular I loved the relationship between Fielding and Aziz, while understanding completely the dislike each had for aspects of the others character.
The ending is marvelous. So often books that hold your interest like this just peter out, but it's refreshing to find an author like Forster who understands that what makes for an ideal conclusion is to give the readers a taste of what they want, and then hold back the last little bit.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Serendipity Indeed April 3 2002
By A Customer
Forster writes late in the book,"...composed in English to indicate His universality." But does using English really make one belong? In the book, all the primary characters communicate with one another in English but miscomprehension abounds; there is a disconnect. The disconnect is both vertical and horizontal: a disconnect between the English and the Indians but also one among the English and among the Indians. And, here, there, moments of reaching out to the other interrupt the prevailing tension.
This is the first Forster book that I've read completely. I have seen all the movie adaptations of his books (except A Pssage To India) and have enjoyed them thoroughly. But an attempt at reading A Room With A View wasn't at all successful (stopped twice at chapter 3) and I gave up (perhaps a little too hastily) reading any of the books themselves. Recently however, I have become intrigued with Indian authors and books about India and suddenly, A Passage to India popped into my mind and I picked up a copy. Forster's prose reminds me of F. Scott Fitzgerald's in its
nuanced simplicity although the former can at times become somewhat abstract. Forster conveys the complexity of colonial India but the read was spectacularly easy, aided by many humorous points. Halfway through the book, I was so impressed by the book and wondered if it had made it onto the Modern Library's best 100 works of fiction in the 20th century. And it did.
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3.0 out of 5 stars ECHOES OF THE RAJ Feb. 23 2002
By Plume45
E.M. Forster's 320-page novel probes the intimate workings of the human heart and mind, especially when brought into the stark, Victorian contrast of cross-cultural prejudice. Set in India during the Raj (British imperialsim at its height and worst), the story reveals how Anglos strive to maintain a proper distance from the natives they felt destined to rule. The frustrated Indians--themselves fragmented by religion and caste--struggle in various ways to be accepted as fully-accredited persons by the dominant race, who dismiss them categorically as "niggers." Each sub-society seeks to perpetuate its social survival, for self-image is precious to all members of humanity. Still the Anglo community has a long memory of perceived disloyalty, while that of Indians is even longer. Despite decades of uneasy coexistence between the Masters and the Conquered, sparks of rebellion quickly ignite when fanned by the flames of confusion, false accusation, racial bigotry and social polarization.
The two naive Englishwomen who have booked passage to India should have read a manual on social survival skills; it simply will not Do to upset the proven status quo--however it seems tipped in the favor of Western power. The herd instinct must prevail or all is lost; woe to those Anglos who defy experience and tradition in dealing with treacherous, scheming, unreliable or childlike natives. Whom to trust and whom to defend--whom to choose as a loyal ally, a friend or even a life's partner? How can one make these critical decisions in an atmosphere of mutual suspicion,
cultural snobbery and religious extremism?
The normally straightforward British lifestyle is suddenly complicated in a myriad ways as soon as one is transported to the steaming sub- continent.
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By A Customer
I had to read this book as a recommendation by my tenth grade English teacher for an Independent Study project. I was excited about reading it; everyone says it's good and I think India is interesting. However, having read the book thoroughly, even the confusing first half, I am not sure what the focus was supposed to be. Other reviewers said it was a look at the culture of India, my English teacher said it was a portrayal of different kinds of people, some people say it's the mystery of the trial concerned with racism and prejudice... I am not sure what I am supposed to be left feeling at the end of the book.
This was not a "bad" book - I am glad I read it and I would recommend it to others. It doesn't have an exciting plot or particularly likeable characters, but Forster has good insight into society and what makes people make and break friendships. I was left feeling confused on almost every level from this book, but in some ways it was an eye-opener. It should not be read to learn about India, since Forster seems to mention customs and interesting places offhandly and as a matter of course; it should neither be read as an investigation into what makes people tick. If you want to save yourself confusion, don't read it at all.
However, I liked the book because it was puzzling. I had to really think to figure out why there were such problems between Aziz and his English friend Fielding. I finished this book last night, and it has helped me understand something, though I can't yet put my finger on what.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb Portrayal of Cultural Clashes
A chance encounter between Dr. Aziz and two English ladies at a mosque in Chandrapore, India would be uneventful if the elderly Mrs. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Debra Purdy Kong
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic of Epic Proportions!
First published in 1924, over the vast sweeping landscape of India under British rule A Passage to India examines the cultural differences between the Indians and the English. Read more
Published on Nov. 1 2007 by Teddy
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings to life the story of Adela Quested
It's a pleasure to hear E.M. Forster's A Passage To India brought to life under the studied British accent of Sam Dastor: it offers a fine performance which brings to life the... Read more
Published on Oct. 14 2003 by Midwest Book Review
4.0 out of 5 stars India
I think this book was great. It shows the way life was in India during the British control. It was good. It couldnt of been more correctly writen. Read more
Published on March 11 2002 by Devil Rose
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best
E.M. Forster is a masterful writer. This book is my favourite of his novels, although all of them are excellent. Read more
Published on Jan. 18 2002 by Claus Hetting
4.0 out of 5 stars elegent
This is an accomplished novel. Beautifully written and interesting, it portrays a very believable world of people who quite probably no longer exist. Read more
Published on Jan. 13 2002 by asphlex
3.0 out of 5 stars The Kindness and Caring Required to Bridge Cultural Gaps
A Passage to India vividly demonstrates the psychology of how people avoid those who are different than themselves. Read more
Published on Oct. 26 2001 by Donald Mitchell
3.0 out of 5 stars Bad characters, but a good story
Forester portrays India through a few main characters in an Indian city called Chandrapore. He describes an incident concerning an English school teacher, a local Muslim doctor,... Read more
Published on Sept. 19 2001 by sporkdude
5.0 out of 5 stars Forster At His Finest
A Passage to India is the quintessential British novel of the twentieth century. It is E.M. Forster at his finest. Read more
Published on Sept. 19 2001 by Eric
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