South Asian Science-Fiction writer Anil Menon will give a special guest lecture on “Rendevous with Rama: The Rāmāyaṇa as Speculative Fiction” in Rita Banerjee’s course Modernity and the South Asian Imaginaire. The lecture will take place on Wednesday June 17 from 12-2 pm at the Institute for Indology and Tibetology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München in Seminar Room 427 (Ludwigstr. 31, Munich). The lecture is part of the course Modernity and the South Asian Imaginaire at LMU. Anyone interested in Modern South Asian literature, history, or art house film is welcomed to join Menon’s special guest lecture.
Rendezvous With Rama: The Rāmāyaṇa as Speculative Fiction
In speculative fiction, a story’s context is also a part of the story, and when writing speculative fiction, an author can play with many other contexts as well: political, psychological, social, anthropological, historical, ethical, and so on. Speculative fiction is thus a literature of ambiguity, interpretation, and surprise. In this talk, we’ll examine the Rāmāyaṇa (mainly, Valmiki’s version) and see if it can be characterized as speculative fiction. As Naiyar Masud’s story “Sheesha Ghat” illustrates, it can be tricky to make these decisions. At the other end of the spectrum, we have “The Jaguar’s Wife,” a narrative with rather improbable events, but which insists on being read as a realist tale. Between the stuttered speech of Masud’s child protagonist and the multitude of voices in “The Jaguar’s Wife,” may be positioned the silent lonely figure of Lord Rama, the man devoted to moral action. I’ll argue that it is in playing with the contextual assumption that Text (words, laws, rules,…) can represent the actual world, that the Rāmāyaṇa becomes a work of speculative fiction.
Anil Menon’s short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies including Albedo One, Interzone, Interfictions, Jaggery Lit Review, LCRW, Sybil’s Garage, and Strange Horizons. His stories have been translated into Chinese, French, German, Hebrew and Romanian. His debut novel The Beast With Nine Billion Feet (Zubaan Books, 2010) was short-listed for the 2010 Vodafone-Crossword award and the Carl Brandon Society’s 2011 Parallax Award. Along with Vandana Singh, he co-edited Breaking the Bow (Zubaan Books 2012), an anthology of speculative fiction stories inspired by the Ramayana. He has a forthcoming novel Half Of What I Say (Bloomsbury, 2015). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.