Categories
Index

Borderless, November, 2021

Autumn: Painting in Acrylic by Sybil Pretious

Editorial

Colours of the Sky…Click here to read.

Interviews

In Conversation with Akbar Barakzai, a Balochi poet in exile who rejected an award from Pakistan Academy of Letters for his principles. Click here to read.

In Conversation with Somdatta Mandal, a translator, scholar and writer who has much to say on the state of Santiniketan, Tagore, women’s writing on travel and more. Click here to read.

Translations

Rebel or ‘Bidrohi’

Nazrul’s signature poem,Bidrohi, translated by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Motorcar

Jibonananda Das‘s poetry translated from Bengali by Rakibul Hasan Khan. Click here to read.

The Beloved City

Poetry of Munir Momin, translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

Rebranding

A poem in Korean, written & translated by Ihlwha Choi. Click here to read.

Perhaps the Last Kiss

A short story by Bhupeen giving a vignette of life in Nepal, translated from Nepali by Ishwor Kandel. Click here to read.

Morichika or Mirage by Tagore

Tagore’s poetry translated by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Poetry

Click on the names to read

Rhys Hughes, Sutputra Radheye, Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, Sheshu Babu, Michael Lee Johnson, Prithvijeet Sinha, George Freek, Sujash Purna,  Ashok Manikoth, Jay Nicholls, Pramod Rastogi, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Vijayalakshmi Harish, Mike Smith, Neetu Ralhan, Michael R Burch

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

A story poem about The Clock Tower of Sir Ticktock Bongg. Click here to read.

Nature’s Musings

Penny Wilkes takes us for a stroll into the avian lives with photographs and poetry in Of Moonshine & Birds. Click here to read.

Stories

Waking Up

Christina Yin takes us on a strange journey in Sarawak, Malaysia. Click here to read.

Rains

A pensive journey mingling rain and childhood memories by Garima Mishra. Click here to read.

Khatme Yunus

Jackie Kabir brings us a strange story from Bangladesh. Click here to read.

First International Conference on Conflict Continuation

Steve Davidson explores an imaginary conference. Click here to read.

The Literary Fictionist

In Fragments of a Strange Journey, Sunil Sharma sets out with Odysseus on a tour of the modern day world. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

Yesterday Once More?

Ratnottama Sengupta recalls her experiences of the Egyptian unrest while covering the 35th Cairo International Film Festival in 2012. Click here to read.

Embroidering Hunger

An account of life of dochgirs (embroiderers) in Balochistan by Tilyan Aslam. Click here to read.

To Daddy — with Love

Gita Viswanath takes us into her father’s world of art and wonder. Click here to read.

Simon Says

Ishita Shukla, a young girl, explores patriarchal mindset. Click here to read.

Welcoming in the dark half of the year

Candice Louisa Daquin takes a relook at the evolution of Halloween historically. Click here to read.

Musings of the Copywriter

In Crematoriums for the Rich, Devraj Singh Kalsi regales his readers with a dark twist of the macabre. Click here to read.

Essays

Renewal

Jayat Joshi, a student of development studies, takes a dig at unplanned urban development. Click here to read.

Once Upon A Time in Burma: Leaving on a Jet Plane

John Herlihy’s last episode in his travels through Burma. Click here to read.

A Legacy of Prejudice, Persecution and Plight

Suvrat Arora muses on the impact of a classic that has been coloured with biases. Click here to read.

The Observant Migrant

In Is Sensitivity a Strength or a Weakness?, Candice Louisa Daquin explores our value systems. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

Arundhathi Subramaniam’s Women Who Wear Only Themselves. Click here to read.

CJ Fentiman’s award winning book, The Cat with Three Passports. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Himadri Lahiri reviews Somdatta Mandal’s ‘Kobi’ and ‘Rani’: Memoirs and Correspondences of Nirmalkumari Mahalanobis and Rabindranath Tagore. Click here to read.

Suzanne Kamata reviews Iain Maloney’s Life is Elsewhere/ Burn Your Flags. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Anita Agnihotri’s Mahanadi –The Tale of a River, translated from Bengali by Nivedita Sen. Click here to read.

Meenakshi Malhotra reviews Turmeric Nation: A Passage Through India’s Tastes, authored by Shylashri Shankar. Click here to read.

Categories
Essay

A Legacy of Prejudice, Persecution and Plight

Suvrat Arora muses on the impact of a classic that seems coloured with biases. On the other hand, it showcases historic prejudices that should have changed with time, learning from the errors of the past… as humankind should have revered many other historic books…

Literature, especially fiction, can inarguably exist without any caveats unless it endeavours to loosen the rudimentary threads of morality and integrity that constitute the society’s fabric. When works of imagination are ingrained with concrete bigotry and unethicality, they slink into reality and contaminate peoples’ opinions to fuel contemporary predicaments.

For the past four hundred years, Shakespeare’s comical play, The Merchant of Venice, has been widely absorbed — in various the formats like academic readings, stage performances or movie adaptations. While stage performances and movie adaptations might mask and mend the ruthlessness against the play’s Jewish ‘villain’, a scrutiny of the original text reveals Shakespeare’s gruesome treatment of his Jewish characters in the play. 

The plot of this classic narrative follows the titular merchant Antonio who, in order to aid his friend Bassanio, takes a loan from a Jewish moneylender, Shylock, with whom he had had an occasional exchange of invectives. They sign a bond that a failure to repay the loan in time will lead to Shylock cutting a pound of Antonio’s flesh. Bassanio, meanwhile, uses the money to participate in the lottery of caskets that Portia’s father had devised for her marriage. While Bassanio smoothly outdid the long queue of Portia’s suitors to marry her, Antonio’s fate refused to favour him. Antonio’s inability to repay the loan leads to the iconic trial scene. When the trial of the case was up in the Venetian court, Portia disguised herself as a male doctor of law and fought Antonio’s hopeless case. While Shylock was all set to cut a pound of the merchant’s flesh and had simply denied all pleas for mercy, Portia’s witty interpretation of the bond turned the tables — the bond clearly spoke of ‘a pound of flesh’ that Shylock shall get upon untimely return of his money, it did not speak of any blood. So, if Shylock would ‘shed one drop of Christian blood’, he would be subjected to punishment. Further, the court charged Shylock with attempts to seek the life of a Venetian citizen, under which his lands and goods were confiscated, and he was forcibly turned into a Christian — after which there’s no mention of Shylock in the play.

This convoluted plot with escalating tensions leading to the intense climax has continued to drive esteem from literary scholars and global audiences. However, all the applause cannot silence the echoes of prejudice and racial intolerance entrapped within the play. “One would have to be blind, deaf and dumb not to recognize that Shakespeare’s grand, equivocal comedy The Merchant of Venice is nevertheless a profoundly anti-Semitic work,” stated the literary critic Harold Bloom in Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. Not only literary brilliances like Bloom but even a naive eye cannot fail to spot these specks of discrimination scattered all over the play.

From the beginning of the play, the characters have perpetually referred Shylock as ‘the jew’, suggesting his religion outdoes his identity or as if he did not belong to a typical class of Venetian citizens. This reference ‘the Jew’ has, at times, been preceded by reproachful modifiers — ‘the currish Jew’, ‘the villain Jew’, ‘the dog Jew’ to name a few. Shylock lending money on interest is another reason he was subjected to hatred as it was considered an ‘unchristian’ way’; this further amplifies the notion of portraying Jews as greedy Christian killers. In the dramatic trial scene, Shylock was gratuitously forced to adopt Christianity. Besides, Shylock’s daughter, during the course of the play, who had eloped with Lorenzo, also turned into a Christian. Two of the significant Jewish characters converting into Christians by the end of the narrative in the guise of a happy ending exclaims out aloud Shakespeare’s religious biases.

The lack of ethical sensibility is not circumscribed to the mistreatment of Jews; it stretches further into other forms of discrimination. When Portia encounters one of her competent suitors, the Prince of Morocco, she bears bitterness towards him owing to his dark complexion. When the Prince of Morocco fails to choose the right casket in the lottery, Portia sighs in relief, saying, ‘Let all of his complexion choose me so’ – clearly symbolizing her disgust for dark colour, which was her mere metric for disregarding the Prince of Morocco.

At this juncture, the flagbearers of sacred Shakespearean literature might defend him, citing that Shakespeare’s intent was to depict the cruelty against the Jew in order to fetch them some sympathy. Yet the lack of explicitness in such depiction and absence of any Pro-Jewish forces combating all the injustice, slaughters to pieces any such counter-argumentation. Although it cannot be denied that the play sheds a dim light on Christian characters’ unjustified deeds, it does not balance out the severe brutalization of the Jews.

Shylock has undoubtedly managed to conquer a sympathetic corner in the hearts of his contemporary readers, but the peculiar language and word choice of the text suggest Shakespeare’s intentions as otherwise. The evident endorsement of prejudice, discrimination constituted upon race and colour, and justification of enforced religious conversion dargs the play’s usage as an academic substance, a mere recreation and even a centre of literary admiration into a huge interrogation — and demands us to contemplate on the complicatedness of the narrative, listening to the howls of its immoralities that reverberate even today. 

Suvrat Arora is a Junior at Thapar University pursuing Computer Engineering. An avid reader and hobbyist critique of literature, he reviews books under the name ‘bookish blurb’ and can frequently be found writing or editing for various society publications within the university.

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