"Draupadi" by Mahasveta Devi Translated with a Foreword by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak Translator's Foreword I translated this Bengali short story into English as much for the sake of its villain, Senanayak, as for its title character, Draupadi (or Dopdi). Because in Senanayak I find the closest approximation to the First- World scholar in search of the Third World, I shall speak of him first. On the level of the plot, Senanayak is the army officer who captures and degrades Draupadi. I will not go so far as to suggest that, in practice, the instruments of First-World life and investigation are complicit with such captures and such a degradation.' The approximation I notice relates to the author's careful presentation of Senanayak as a pluralist aesthete. In theory, Senanayak can identify with the enemy. But pluralist aesthetes of the First World are, willy-nilly, participants in the production of an exploitative society. Hence in practice, Senanayak must destroy the enemy, the menacing other. He follows the necessities and contingencies of what he sees as his historical moment. There is a convenient colloquial name for that as well: pragmatism. Thus his emotions at Dopdi's capture are mixed: sorrow (theory) and joy (practice). Correspondingly, we grieve for our Third-World sisters; we grieve and rejoice that they must lose themselves and become as much like us as possible in order to be "free"; we congratulate ourselves on our specialists' knowledge of them. Indeed, like ours, Senanayak's project is interpretive: he 1. For elaborations upon such a suggestion, see Jean-Fran~oisL yotard, La Condition post-moderne: Rappod sur b sauoir (Paris, 1979).
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382 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak "Draupadi"
looks to decipher Draupadi's song. For both sides of the rift within himself, he finds analogies in Western literature: Hochhuth's The Deputy, David Morrell's First Blood. He will shed his...