In the light of critical work that has sought to make connections between the emergence of a literary modernism and imperialism in narrative form and stylistic practice, how should we place a proto-modernist fiction where another and distant world is manifestly present and the disjoined spheres are brought into uneasy proximity, and which also, pace Said, undermines imperial grandiloquence and offers a disenchanted perspective on empire, registers a dispersed consciousness, and by reflecting ironically and critically on its own project, manifests a waning of narrative power? The reputation of A Passage to India1 as conventional in form, language and attested value2 has inhibited discussion on an emergent modernism that is inseparable from the novel’s failure to reach the destination intimated in its title. Said has remarked that for him the most interesting thing about the book is the use of India ‘to represent material that according to the canons of the novel form cannot in fact be represented – vastness, incomprehensible creeds, secret motions, histories and social forms’.3 This judicious comment recognizes that Forster’s innovations were induced by an attempt to render India legible within western fictional modes. It could be extended to observe that in the process A Passage to India construes the subcontinent’s material world, cultural forms and systems of thought as resistant to discursive appropriation by its conquerors: ‘How can the mind take hold of such a country? Generations of invaders have tried, but they remain in exile’ (p. 148). This meditation serves to alienate the Raj’s belligerent claim to discursive power over the subcontinent, and it discloses the inevitable frustration of the novel’s own narrative ambition.