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A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
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A Passage to India (original 1924; edition 1999)

by E. M. Forster

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,10089394 (3.78)415
Member:NAcker24
Title:A Passage to India
Authors:E. M. Forster
Info:Amereon Ltd (1999), Hardcover
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:**
Tags:Classics, British Lit, College

Work details

A Passage to India by E. M. Forster (1924)

  1. 50
    The Raj Quartet: The Jewel in the Crown, The Day of the Scorpion (Everyman's Library) by Paul Scott (FemmeNoiresque)
    FemmeNoiresque: Scott's The Raj Quartet, and particularly the relationship between Daphne Manners and Hari Kumar in the first novel, The Jewel In The Crown, is a revisioning of the charge of rape made by Adela Quested to Dr Aziz. Race, class and empire are explored in the aftermath of this event, in WWII India.… (more)
  2. 50
    Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M. Forster (li33ieg)
    li33ieg: Same author, different setting, same core themes
  3. 41
    Maurice by E. M. Forster (li33ieg)
    li33ieg: The man is brilliant! One should read all of his books!
  4. 20
    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (lucyknows)
    lucyknows: You could use the theme of colonialism to pair The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver with Passage to India by E. M. Forster.
  5. 21
    The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: These two novels bear close relationship in setting and circumstance.
  6. 10
    Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (Booksloth)
  7. 00
    The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (WildMaggie)
  8. 00
    Staying On by Paul Scott (KayCliff)
  9. 00
    Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (kiwiflowa)
  10. 00
    Slowly Down the Ganges by Eric Newby (John_Vaughan)
  11. 00
    Hindoo Holiday: An Indian Journal by J. R. Ackerley (SomeGuyInVirginia)
  12. 23
    The jewel in the crown : the complete series ; contains 14 episodes over 4 discs by Christopher Morahan (li33ieg)
    li33ieg: Similar period and themes
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Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
On the positive side, E.M. Forster's A Passage to India is populated by many complex and realistic characters. Not just main characters like Fielding, Mrs Moore, Miss Quested, and Dr. Aziz, but even rather minor characters like Godbole are fleshed out and given depth. Dr. Aziz especially is made into a fully realized character by Forster, as he not only has his virtues and vices, but numerous misfortunes and failings spring from them both so that he makes an interesting focal point for the narrative. The second half of the book would have been rendered both less entertaining and less effective if Dr. Aziz was a purely virtuous character, but fortunately for readers the narrative doesn't make Aziz anything close to an angel. It does succeed in making him feel like a real person. This realistic feel is also one of A Passage to India's main strengths. While the events that occur at around the halfway point of the book relies on an improbable series of events and coincidences, Forster still manages to write it in a way that doesn't feel artificial. Writing obviously manufactured situations that don't feel artificial is an impressive accomplishment.

On the negative side, Forster's writing is frequently boring. Even when he's writing about exciting events like a car crash or a parade or a riot he somehow manages to create a passage that is utterly without energy or tension. This is a short book, but the writing did so little to engage me that it felt like a substantial tome. Another negative is that, while I complimented the book's cast of multidimensional characters, that multidimensionalness doesn't extend to many of the British occupiers of India. Most of them are just racist buffoons, even the marginally less shallow Mr. Turton has his perspective and the reasoning behind it explained in a single sentence. Ronny is the pro-occupation character given the most development, and even he feels like a half-baked sketch. He delivers weak arguments and oscillated between "bland" and "jerk" as the story required.

On the stranger side, two things: the first is that I found it to be a strange choice for Forster to include as a plot point caves that seemingly mess with British people's brains. One cave basically turns someone into a nihilist within ten minutes when previously they seemed pretty well adjusted, another cave causes an echo to plague someone's mind for months. Strange stuff. Another thing on the stranger side to note is that while Forster was obviously trying to promote tolerance and denounce the British occupation of India with this book, it's not clear how similar he thinks European and Indian people are: Forster identifies "suspicion" as some sort of inborn quality for "orientals" and it isn't clear if he thinks that there can be true understanding between people from such different cultures.

While A Passage to India draws into question whether understanding across different cultures is possible without putting forth an answer, Forster ends the book with a clear statement that friendship between people of different cultures is possible (although such friendship may be plagued with misunderstandings). To reach true friendship, though, the occupier-occupied relationship would have to end. A good message, though I could have done without Forster spelling it out for me so bluntly. For a book that also explores understanding of different cultures but which is far more engaging I recommend The Other City by Michal Ajvaz. A Passage to India is a bit dull in comparison, though not a bad book by any means- you just have to be able to deal with the bog of Forster's prose. ( )
  BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
A disturbing novel that challenges prejudices you may not realize that you possess. A crime is committed - that is for sure - but what crime? A fraud perpetrated upon an innocent man or an attempted rape? You never read which was committed but reach your own conclusion. An engaging novel, well written - India becomes a character in the book and Imperial Britain the antagonist. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
SPOILERS BELOW

Forster’s novel details the conflict between the colonizers and the colonized, England and India respectively, with narrow brushstrokes. We learn about how this tension infects through personal relationships between men and women, men and men, English and Indians, Muslims and Hindus. We also are made to contemplate if this conflict can be overcome even on a personal level, much less a diplomatic one. The short answer to both is a hesitant denial.

The relationships in the book rest on uneven ground. The adoration and admiration between Aziz and Mrs. Moore or later Aziz and Fielding are thrown into doubt when muddled by the conflict and suspicion birthed by Aziz’s trial. The remainder of the book seeps with uneasiness and doubt regarding the validity and sincerity of Fielding and Aziz’s bond, with Aziz erroneously believing Fielding is to marry Adela. The first half of the book builds on Adela’s uncertainty in marrying Ronny, her state of mind eventually leading to Aziz’s trial when she falsely accuses him of assault.

Alison Sainsbury asserts that the impossibility of of a bond between England and India hinges on the sentiment of the book’s final line: “‘they said in their hundred voices, No, not yet, and the sky said ‘not there’” (362). Sainsbury notes that Forster “illustrates how imperial rule distorts human relations”. This is evident in Aziz’s and FIelding’s last conversation where they sportingly debate about colonization, each espousing a distaste for the other’s country and its inhabitants. Fielding thinks, “Aziz was a memento, a trophy, they were proud of each other, yet they must inevitably part” (358). These two examples highlight how relations between the two countries and peoples have been constructed by imperialism, and how to divert from that specific mentality is to create a psychic disturbance whereby any bonds of friendship are inherently distorted and personal communication poisoned by historical prejudice. It is almost impossible for Aziz and Fielding to not see each other as specifically tied to the historicism of English and Indian, respectively, once other voices such as Ronny Heaslop or Hamidullah intervene and reassert the the venom of historical conflict. To say that this conflict can be overcome by individual friendships, or even that such friendships can thrive, is to assert the possibility that such venom will fade, and even though nearly a century has passed since Forster’s novel was published, tensions linger and such a reality is questionable. ( )
  poetontheone | Apr 27, 2014 |
I liked but did not love this book. I’m slightly disappointed; I’ve been meaning to read it for years after hearing repeatedly that it is one of the greatest (relatively) modern novels in literature. I am constantly confusing Forster with Maugham, both being British males who wrote around the same time, and whose novels and short stories occasionally featured British people traveling and being embarrassed and confused by the passionately emotional natives.

In a nutshell: Two naïve English women, newly arrived to India, are taken on a tour by their equally naïve Indian friend to see the Marabar Caves in an attempt to explore the “real India”. Needless to say, this trip backfires tremendously.

Forster certainly takes his sweet time developing the action, and it is incredibly slow-going at times, but his depictions of the landscape and the climate are evocative and his nuanced depictions of both British and Indian characters was remarkable, considering it was written in the 1920s, quite some time before India became independent. There are stereotypes to be sure, but most of the main characters are complicated, multi-dimensional people. Both Dr. Aziz and Miss Quested have good intentions, but their mutual naiveté and cultural misunderstandings lead to disastrous results.

I’m not sure exactly why I didn’t love it. I don’t mind slow-paced plots, but I just found this a bit of a struggle to get through. Occasionally, while reading, I thought maybe it just wasn’t the right time for me to fully appreciate the story, but I am glad to have read it. ( )
  amy_marie26 | Apr 23, 2014 |
This book is slow. Lots of description very little action. There is a deeper social commentary or race and religion. I listened to it on audio... I'm not sure I would have made it through just reading it. ( )
  steadfastreader | Mar 18, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (71 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Forster, E. M.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Magadini, ChristopherIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sanders, Scott RussellAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stallybrass, OliverEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
To Syed Ross Masood and to the seventeen years of our friendship
First words
Except for the Marabar caves--and they are twenty miles off--the city of Chrandrapore presents nothing extraordinary.
Quotations
"We must exclude someone from our gathering, or we shall be left with nothing."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
A mysterious incident at the Marabar caves, involving Adela Quested, newly arrived from England, and the presumed guilt of charming and mercurial Dr. Aziz, are at the centre of Forster's magnificent novel of India during the Raj. Topical now, as in 1924, in its evocation of the dangers and ambivalences inherent in colonialism, as Forster said, it is 'about something wider than politics, about the search of the human race for a more lasting home, about the universe as embodied in the Indian earth and the Indian sky, about the horror lurking in the Marabar caves...'
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In this hard-hitting novel, first published in 1924, the murky personal relationship between an Englishwoman and an Indian doctor mirrors the troubled politics of colonialism. Adela Quested and her fellow British travelers, eager to experience the "real" India, develop a friendship with the urbane Dr. Aziz. While on a group outing, Adela and Dr. Aziz visit the Marabar caves together. As they emerge, Adela accuses the doctor of assaulting her. While Adela never actually claims she was raped, the decisions she makes ostracize her from both her countrymen and the natives, setting off a complex chain of events that forever changes the lives of all involved. This intense and moving story asks the listener serious questions about preconceptions regarding race, sex, religion, and truth. A political and philosophical masterpiece.… (more)

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2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014144116X, 0143566385

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