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A Passage to India (Folio Society) by E.M.…

A Passage to India (Folio Society) (original 1924; edition 2005)

by E.M. Forster, Glynn Boyd Harte (Illustrator)

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7,98288407 (3.78)396
Title:A Passage to India (Folio Society)
Authors:E.M. Forster
Other authors:Glynn Boyd Harte (Illustrator)
Info:Folio Society (2008), Hardback with slipcase, 292 pages
Collections:Your library, Favorites, Folio Society
Tags:fiction, India, Raj

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

1001 (59) 1001 books (59) 1920s (50) 20th century (231) British (212) British Empire (46) British fiction (37) British literature (157) classic (234) classic fiction (39) classics (211) colonialism (201) E.M. Forster (44) England (53) English (81) English literature (160) fiction (1,320) Folio Society (36) Forster (37) historical fiction (53) India (651) Kindle (37) literature (265) modernism (44) novel (310) own (46) racism (46) read (99) to-read (137) unread (78)
  1. 50
    Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M. Forster (li33ieg)
    li33ieg: Same author, different setting, same core themes
  2. 40
    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)
  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
    Staying On by Paul Scott (KayCliff)
  8. 00
    The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (WildMaggie)
  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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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 |
This was the March selection of my book club. By some happy accident, the copy I read -- purchased years ago at a Friends of the Library sale -- was marked through, underlined, annotated, etc. for a literature class, which was a little distracting at first, and then helped me to appreciate literary themes and elements (the significance of repeated mentions of snakes, wasps, unity, the divine etc.) that I would otherwise have missed. Funny enough, my last read was Light in August, which I'm glad I read, but didn't particularly enjoy. I was filled with an irritation for the southern characters -- so backward! so racist! so religion-crazed! Lo and behold, another classic novel gripped by racial tension and conflict, this time perpetuated by the enlightened, secular, highly educated rulers of the British Raj of early 20th century India.

The first third of the book was hard to get into -- tedious, even, while the last two-thirds were unputdownable. The author describes misunderstandings, both willful and innocent, between English characters, and the native and English-educated Muslim and Hindu characters, with slights on both sides both immaterial and devastating. The story centers around a muslim doctor, Aziz, who befriends the English educator Cyril Fielding, and makes the acquaintance of two visiting British ladies, Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore. On an sightseeing excursion to the Marabar caves, Dr. Aziz is accused of assaulting Miss Quested in one of the caves. The ensuing uproar, trial, and resolution leave the entire community and all concerned individuals changed forever. I found it beautiful, thought-provoking, and infuriating at times. I wondered a lot about "the real India" -- as Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore did, though the "real" India is an undefinable, enigmatic entity utterly changed by the British and their rule -- and departure.
2 vote AMQS | Mar 15, 2014 |
E. M Forster was born in England in 1879 and died in 1970. As a child, he inherited enough money from his great aunt to travel and live as a writer after attending public school and King's College, Cambridge. His interest in writing was influenced at Cambridge by membership in a discussion society called the Apostles that included a number of intellectuals such as John Maynard Keynes and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Forster maintained a loose association with the group during the early 1910s and 1920s as it added members and became known as the Bloomsbury Group. The Group was composed of a variety of creative individuals including writers of fiction. Virginia Woolf was an active member. After leaving Cambridge, Forster traveled with his mother extensively in Europe where he developed ideas for subsequent novels including: A Room With A View, Where Angels Fear to Tread, and Howards End. For years, he maintained a privacy regarding his homosexual identity and behavior understanding that it would limit his freedom to publish his work.

In the early 1920s, Forster worked in India as the private secretary for a Maharaja during the period of the British Raj. The Raj was a time of occupation of India by British diplomats and soldiers who imposed some controlled structure on the economic and legal system of the largely disparate states within the Eastern country loosely ruled by a monarchy. After returning to London from India, Forster published A Passage to India in 1924 based on his experiences during the period when British influence was waning and an Indian Independence movement was developing.

The novel is an interesting character study involving structure opposed to substance, self-control over impulse, conformity versus individual freedom, restriction of thought rather than tolerance, and arbitrary racial discrimination limiting open enculturation. There are several characters described in stereotypical ways with representatives of the British ruling and middle classes in the Raj and Hindu, "Moslem", and royal leaders within Indian society. These descriptions set the stage for the interaction of four main characters that illustrate the complexity of two cultures seemingly unyielding in their Western versus Eastern world views.

In the novel the reader's attention is focused on the interactions and perceptions of four main characters: Dr. Aziz, Miss Adela Quested, Cyril Fielding, and Mrs. Moor:

Dr. Aziz is an Indian physician who works at a British hospital. He is a Muslim man strongly influenced by his religion but intellectually active in his beliefs and impulsive in his emotions and actions. He is tolerant of differences in cultures within his country and the strained relationship between Indians and the British. The tolerance, however is largely on the surface, and when his religious beliefs and secular freedom are threatened by the actions of the Raj, he is quick to feel strong resentment.

Adela Quested is a young British teacher who has traveled to India to see if she and a British magistrate are compatible for marriage. Like Dr. Aziz, Adela seems outwardly open and tolerant to new experiences. She wants to learn more about the exotic Eastern culture of India. The reader sees that she is actually intolerant and frightened but fancies herself an enlightened woman willing to step beyond the conventions of her British character. Adela regresses to her British comfort zone in a panic when confronted with the mysterious and unstructured life of India.

Cyril Fielding is a teacher at a small British college for Indian citizens. Now in his early middle age, the unmarried administrator has maintained his life of personal intellectual and emotional freedom by keeping a low profile within the British foreign service system and maintaining an open attitude about British and Indian tension during the Raj. He seems to be more willing to understand the cultural differences between West and East than Adela because he has maintained a personal code of ethics largely hidden from both the British and Indian people in the rural district. He is a clever individual who has assumed a role that conforms minimally to the expectations of each culture. He is insightful and aware that his surface behavior is accepted with reservations by both groups and is content to have independence in the deep structure of his personality. Although Fielding is not an avowed homosexual, the reader gains some interesting indications from the character of Forster's private life. Unlike the author, Fielding returns to England, marries a very British woman, and returns to India a more structured man but largely conflicted in his hidden personal identification.

Mrs. Moore is an elderly British widower who has accompanied Adela during the trip from England to India. She is the mother of the British magistrate that the younger woman has come to visit. Mrs. Moore is a lifelong British subject who has reached the endpoint of caring, having lived her life for her children with a feminine stiff upper lip. In somewhat delicate health, the trip has been a major sacrifice for Mrs. Moore, but she has done her escort duty. Because of her end of life situation and active life review, she is open to the spiritual aspect of Indian life that is so different from her British structured religious beliefs. Unlike Adela, Mrs. Moore is willing to open herself to Eastern thoughts and beliefs with a substantial lowering of psychological defenses. She seeks answers to the question, what is the meaning of her life of service to her family that cost of her own freedom and dignity? Specifically, when can she stop taking responsibility for others and come to some meaningful resolution of the doubts about her life decisions? When faced with negative conclusions during her life review, she embraces a delusion of a tolerable, structured life back in her British home.

I highly recommend this novel (Forster's last published work of fiction) for readers who want to examine their own depth of understanding of life and their tolerance of the lives of others in chaotic times. An interesting experience I had reading the novel was an illusive desire to live during the early decades of the 20th Century in India to see how I would react personally to a rapidly changing world perspective. Of course, parallel, dramatic cultural challenges exist in the U. S. today, but perhaps we are too close in time to the effects of them to develop the comprehensive point of view presented in A Passage to India. ( )
1 vote GarySeverance | Mar 10, 2014 |
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Forster, E. M.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stallybrass, OliverEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Syed Ross Masood and to the seventeen years of our friendship
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Except for the Marabar caves--and they are twenty miles off--the city of Chrandrapore presents nothing extraordinary.
"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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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014144116X, 0143566385

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