Connecting with India: E. M. Forster’s ‘Some Books’ and Louis MacNeice’s ‘India at First Sight’

Abstract

In 1942, in a radio talk broadcast to India on the BBC’s Eastern Service, E. M. Forster noted that, while the time in the London recording studio was ‘quarter to two’, in India, the clock ‘points to some other hour, which prompts in me the fancy that the connection between us is a connection outside time’. Forster broadcast 145 talks on the BBC between 1928 and 1963, embracing radio’s power to move beyond physical borders in order to explore the possibility of a deeper relationship between speaker and listener. While critical studies initially focused on Forster’s broadcasts for British audiences, the publication of a selected edition of his BBC talks in 2008 marked the beginning of a growing interest in his transmissions to India. Most episodes ran under the self-effacing title ‘Some Books’, though they shared recommendations and reviews of a wide range of plays, music, and exhibitions alongside fiction, biographies, and histories. Forster was optimistic about the potential for ‘connection’ between Britain and India, yet his Eastern Service career began in 1941, just six years before the Partition of India and the dissolution of the British Raj. While this period was defined by volatility and political unrest, critics of ‘Some Books’ have tended to disregard the problematic power dynamics inherent in the act of broadcasting from the centre of the empire to a colony under British control.

How to Cite

Kenyon, J., (2024) “Connecting with India: E. M. Forster’s ‘Some Books’ and Louis MacNeice’s ‘India at First Sight’”, Moveable Type 15(1), 77-88. doi: https://doi.org/10.14324/111.444.1755-4527.1776

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Jennifer Kenyon

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