Accion y Ideologia by Ignacio Martín-Baró

By Ignacio Martín-Baró

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At the end of The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers the Jew is obligated to ‘return’ the eponymous book to Pablo, who is now its rightful owner, a handover suggestive of the displacement and replacement of the Jew by the Indian. Indeed, Pablo’s grandfather had purchased the book from a Jewish shopkeeper in France years earlier who is oblivious to its true value, both financial and cultural (40). Elsewhere, The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers evokes Jewish history even as it blatantly overwrites it. The text concludes in London, where Pablo wanders and recalls the places he associates with his failed romantic relationship with Bipasha, one of which is “the Pakistani restaurant behind Whitechapel Mosque” (260).

It is Mimi who instructs him in the history of exploitation that positions them both (SV 261). Indeed, Jews tutor other South Asian characters in the intricacies of diasporic subjectivity and assimilation in a number of contemporary, postcolonial texts. In Zadie Smith’s White Teeth (2000), for instance, the Chalfens are enlisted to mentor Millat, whose flirtation with Islamic fundamentalism and poor performance at school earn the approbation of the headmaster (Smith 303). Bapsi Sidhwa’s 38 W r i t i n g I n d i a n s a n d Jew s An American Brat (2006), which tells the story of Feroza, a Pakistani Parsee student in the United States, depicts falling in love with a Jew, David, as tantamount to succumbing to all the dangers and seductions of America itself.

Moraes’s assertion of Jewishness is a coded refusal to participate in his father Abraham’s covert nuclear weapons program, yet the Moor is hardly, at this point, the moral center of the text. After all, he “administers beatings, breaks unions, and enforces sati and caste discipline” (Ball 44). Jill Didur describes the Moor’s declaration as neither “volunteeristic nor a fully rational identification with Jewish identity but in terms of a ‘surprising’ discovery of a previously unconsidered minority identity that he has come to see as hybrid and indeterminate” (554–555; italics in original).

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