The creative disjunctures of twenty-first century global storytelling: Rana Dasgupta's Tokyo Cancelled

Jason Eng Hun Lee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


This essay argues that Tokyo Cancelled (2005) paradoxically seeks to resist the very forms of world-making totality implied in its narration by rendering the world simultaneously as knowable and unfathomable, flat and uneven. Featuring an ensemble of narratives that are locally-grounded yet part of a wider global network, Tokyo Cancelled activates a series of creative disjunctures via its decentred narrative structure and use of irrealist storytelling techniques. Through its frame narrative, the simulated orality of its thirteen anonymous storytellers resist a master narrative of globality by creating an ambivalent, deterritorialised reading of place, while the novel's irrealist aesthetic serves a double function of depicting the non-objective, disorganised nature of a globalised world, whilst also pointing to the very real issues of global inequality through its asymmetrical portrayal of the economic world-system. As the individual narratives feature marginalised subjects, I explore ways in which Tokyo Cancelled highlights conditions of displacement, empowerment and alienation within a deeply fractured neoliberal economy, and in doing so, how the novel presents one successful example of experimental writing in twenty-first-century works of global fiction by opening up a borderland site for its protagonists to connect in the world-city.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-126
Number of pages20
JournalTextual Practice
Issue number1
Early online date1 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory

User-Defined Keywords

  • disjuncture
  • globalisation
  • irrealism
  • Rana Dasgupta
  • storytelling
  • Tokyo Cancelled
  • Twenty-first century fiction
  • world-systems theory


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