To the adage ‘journalism is literature in a hurry’ Oscar Wilde added that ‘the difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.’ Amitava Kumar’s short novel A Time Outside This Time, all of two hundred odd pages, explores the space between fiction and journalism, trying to turn journalism into literature and making it readable too. Playing on Ezra Pound’s definition of literature as news that stays news, the novelist narrator of A Time Outside This Time conjectures if ‘by bringing news into literature we make sure that daily news doesn’t die a daily death?’ Kumar’s turning the news into literature in the novel has a serious purpose. A self-conscious narrative, it is not difficult to feel in this work the sincerity of the author’s intention and his pain and anger in sketching the sinister and widespread popularity of fake news, deep-rooted prejudices and hatred in our times. ‘In our world, we are surrounded by lies. And worse, bad faith.’Satya, the narrator of the novel, or the implied author, who gets a fellowship and is spending his time in a villa on an island, is a thinly-disguised persona of Amitava Kumar himself in terms of his professional career as a journalist, author and professor in an American college. Amitava Kumar’s own works attributed to Satya leave no doubt in the mind of the reader that A Time Outside This Time’s narrator is Amitava Kumar himself.
January 2022, volume 46, No 1