Who is a provincial? In this subversive book, Sumana Roy assembles a striking cast of writers, artists, filmmakers, cricketers, tourist guides, English teachers, lovers and letter writers, private tutors and secret-keepers whose lives and work provide varied answers to that question. Combining memoir with the literary, sensory, and emotional history of an ignored people, she challenges the metropolitan’s dominance to reclaim the joyous dignity of provincial life, its tics and taunts, enthusiasms and tragicomedies.
In a wide-ranging series of “postcards” from the peripheries of India, Europe, America, and the Middle East, Roy brings us deep into the imaginative world of those who have carried their provinciality like a birthmark. Ranging from Rabindranath Tagore to William Shakespeare, John Clare to the Bhakti poets, T. S. Eliot to J. M. Coetzee, V. S. Naipaul to the Brontës, and Kishore Kumar to Annie Ernaux, she celebrates the provincials’ humor and hilarity, playfulness and irony, belatedness and instinct for carefree accidents and freedom. Her unprecedented account of provincial life offers an alternative portrait of our modern world.
“Provincials is a playful, innovative, hybrid endeavor. Sumana Roy traverses literary culture and offers us a counter-canonical and vernacular appreciation of people, languages, cultures, traditions, and reading and writing practices.”—R. Radhakrishnan, author of History, the Human, and the World Between
“Provincials is a work of enchanting originality and urgent relevance. Combining criticism, autobiography, and poetry, Sumana Roy reclaims provincialism as a cosmopolitanism rooted in the local and shaped by the embodied experience of place and language.”—Yota Batsaki, Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard University
“Sumana Roy’s wide-ranging intellect and singular style are on full display in this inspired amble through the republic of letters in search of belonging, house and home, and insight into the idea of the provincial. Roy’s inspired sensibility makes this a delightful read!”—Jeff Deutsch, author of In Praise of Good Bookstores