SAHITYA AKADEMI

When any institution has functioned for a considerable length of time of 30 years, it calls for an examination of its successes and failures. From that point of view, Prof. Umashankar Joshi, the former President of the Sahitya Akademi, was perfect¬ly justified when he stressed on the assessment of 25 years of its existence the need to have ‘a close, even a hard, look’ at the working of the Akademi.

A CZECH NOVEL

To say what the book is about is like trying to capture a conflagration in a glass jar; it escapes farther afield; it displays a new dimension; it teases and is lambently in a number of places at once. It is impossible of definition. The Unbearable Lightness of Being is, at one level, about Czechoslovakia in the sixties, the period during and after the Russian occupation, Czechoslovakia as mirrored the lives of a tiny handful of intellectuals, the suffocation in their abilities, and their final dwindling into non-existence through social disuse and frustration.

BIOGRAPHY OF MANTO

An American scholar, Leslie Fleming, has accomplished what no one among our litter-ateurs could in 40 years: a bio¬graphical assessment and a critical study of Manto’s writings against the backdrop of contemporary literary trends in the Urdu-speaking world. Instead of being inspir¬ed by this effort, Anis Nagi of Lahore has plagiarized the book and published its trans¬lated version in his own name. This is our way of paying tri¬bute to a foreign lady whose lifetime’s labour it was sup¬posed to be.

The Unfailing Nehruvian Touch

Like its forerunners, the fifth volume in the second series of Jawaharlal Nehru’s, selected works makes delightful reading. If, in some ways, it is even more absorb¬ing than some of the preceding volumes, the reason is that it deals with a period closer to our times which also happened to be a crucial, indeed climactic, one. During it the nation suffered the trauma of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination at the hands of a Hindu fanatic, the Kashmir war dragged on, relations with Pakistan hovered on the brink and myriad pro¬blems of national integration and econo¬mic development cried out for attention.

A Classic Re-discovered

The re-issue of Dr. Anand’s classic in a fresh edition is to be welcomed for more than one reason. The format of the book is larger; the typography and lay-out are easy on the eye; and the illustrations in colour and black-and-white fortify the text. The first edition came out half a century ago in 1932, the second in 1957 and now the third. Since this is no glossy coffee-table book, kudos to both the publisher and the author.

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In ‘Cultural Literacy, Hirsch outlines a plan for making cultural literacy our education priority, to define core know¬ledge, put more information in school text books and develop tests of core learning that can help students, measure their progress. An index entitled ‘What literate Americans know’ was compiled by Hirsch and his two colleagues Joseph Kett and James Trefil.

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This is a formidable book, strenuous to read, difficult to grasp, and nearly impos¬sible to review (though many have tried, including an editor of the firm which published the work). We learn from the acknowledgments that it was originally drafted at Cambridge during 1974-77 (presumably as a doctoral thesis), then its chapters got ‘somewhat distended’ no doubt as a result of discussion with the numerous scholars and editors the author has named, and only a ‘fellow Forsterian’ in India has ventured to publish it ten years later. The author assures us, some¬what unasked for, that he did not have to pay for its publication.

A Wide-spectrum Exercise

The ice free Indian Ocean on which 3 continents abut occupies approximately 28 millions square miles which is l/5th of the world sea area and cradles the peri¬pheries of Africa and the Orient in two separate geo-political horse-shoes in which l/4th of the world’s population live and operate at different levels of political consciousness ranging from military dictatorships and monarchies to commu¬nism, tribalism, fundamentalism, and the world’s largest practising democracy.