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Saturday, Oct 23, 2021
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Gap In History

While many historical fictions make only tenuous references to real history, the present one doesn't. That's precisely my problem with it: the facts.

Gap In History
Gap In History
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
For historians, historical fiction is bunk. History’s gripping enough, so I can’t understand why writers would want to fictionalise it. I rarely read fiction myself, and historical fiction, never. But having read Amita Kanekar’s novel about Emperor Ashoka and Buddhist monk Upali, I must admit it successfully captures the stress and strains of monastic life, and brings alive the centuries following the death of the Buddha, a period when his teachings were taking the form of a canonical corpus. While many historical fictions make only tenuous references to real history, the present one doesn’t. That’s precisely my problem with it: the facts. It’s true Ashoka had an important role in systematising and interpreting the Canon, but his commissioning a monk to put down his life and teachings is not borne out by historical evidence.

Nor was Upali, who systematised Buddhist ideas on monastic rules and discipline, a Kalingan contemporary of Ashoka, as Kanekar makes him out to be. He was born three centuries earlier, one of the chief disciples of the Enlightened One. In other...

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