INTERMEDIATE FORMS

The development of capitalism in agriculture continues to be the subject of controversy in contemporary India, a situa¬tion reminiscent of the 19th century debate in Russia. Various viewpoints that are being propagated range from insistence on the continuing existence of feudal relations in Indian agriculture or the distorted character of capi¬talist development to the rela¬tively liberal attitude that India is well on the road to complete capitalist tranformation. The book under review provides one of the most ex¬haustive documentations of existing literature on these con-troversies.

A SYSTEMS APPROACH

In the light of the 1981 Census return and the ques¬tions it raises about the impact of family planning program¬mes (FP) in India, this book acquires a new significance. The persistent high growth rate of population makes one wonder why the ample funds, the elaborate organization, and the large man-power deployed to implement family planning have delivered so little. This book attempts to look at the question in a com¬prehensive manner by identi¬fying the factors which are responsible for poor imple¬mentation of the programme in rural India, and for the poor response of the people to the programme activities.

STERILE SPECULATIONS

The problems of poverty and development in the Third World have activated neo-Malthusians since the early 1960s into blaming the poor for their poverty and repro-ductive capacity, notwithstand¬ing the loss of credibility of much of what Robert Malthus propounded in 1798 in his famous Essay on the Principle of Population. Neo-Malthusian enterprise has found expres¬sion in a number of sophisti¬cated models, and has been able to raise a sympathetic echo in the family planning establishments of many Third World governments.

POPULAR BOGEY

Seeing the population ‘ex¬plosion’ in the country as the root of all evil is fairly in-grained today among politi¬cians, policy makers and the vocal elite. Every half-baked industrialist can be heard making speeches drawing a link between the country’s population growth and its economic backwardness. And the media are full of articles in which the population bogey is a convenient central point around which are built pom¬pous theories and analyses. It is this section (with its hang¬up about population ‘control’) that needs to read and be enlightened by Professor Pethe’s excellent book.

AMERICAN GRAFFITI

Confronted with this fat book with its not too pre¬possessing title, encased in a glossy Punch-cartoon-style coloured dust-cover depicting, inter alia, President Johnson demonstrating his gall-bladder operation scar to George Washington, who is scrutini-zing it with all the concentra¬ted attention that he reputedly devoted to the study of his field-maps during his War of Independence campaigns against the British; President Truman thumping away on an upright piano with a supreme, almost inane degree of self-satisfaction; Richard Nixon with his famous crooked kris-proboscis extended like an antenna, slyly playing smug¬gled tapes; and President Eisenhower grovelling on the ground in desperate search of an errant golf ball, your reviewer was frankly not enthusiastic about the task entrusted to him.

BLOOD, OIL & SAND

The principal author of this book, David Holden, who was the chief foreign correspondent of the Sunday Times, was shot dead in Cairo in November 1977 when he was barely half¬way through the book. To this day the mystery surround¬ing his murder has not been unravelled. His co-author, who completed the book, feels that this summary departure had nothing to do with his researches into the House of Saud and assures us that Holden was not a part of the paranoid world of intel¬ligence and subterfuge. But the story of the House of Saud as it unfolds contains so much intrigue and violence that one may be forgiven for doubting this.

AMBIGUOUS ENTERPRISE

A student of business history faces one big problem: lack of information on the growth of business houses. This problem is a function of the secrecy surrounding the growth of business houses in India, a sec¬recy deliberately nurtured and propagated by the business houses themselves. The publi¬cation of this book is thus an important event. For the first time, we are provided with data on the origin, growth and expansion of Gujarat’s premier business house, that of Lal¬bhai.

UNFINISHED PORTRAIT

What makes Ardhakathanaka fascinating and important is the fact that it is perhaps the first autobiography in an Indian language. Originally written in 1641 A.D., and in verse, using a colloquial mix¬ture of Brajabhasha and the eastern dialects of Hindi, it is the self-revelation of a Jain merchant-poet, Banarasidas, who lived in the heyday of the Mughal rule. This work, made available for the first time in English translation by Dr. Mukund Lath, has a two-fold significance: as a documentary of character in its own right and as a valuable historical source. Firstly, like any auto¬biography it tells us about a person in the context of his community whose character and experiences are well worth knowing. Secondly, it gives us an insight into the times when Banarasidas lived, from an unusually honest and truthful personal angle.

VOICES OLD AND NEW

The editors of this anthology have stated that their aim was ‘to represent only such (poets) as embody in effective idiom the native sensibility’. One can, indeed, discern in all the poets, from old stalwarts to new voices, the milieu in which Indo-English poetry is being written today. They all reflect, in one way or another, the dilemma of the Indian ethos into which they have been born, and the contemporary Western philosophical influ¬ences, particularly Sartrean Existentialism, to which they are prone.

SILENT SISTERS

Marilyn French is one of a new breed of critics, per¬haps not yet fully accepted in the conventional circles of literary criticism, because of her very specific (and all-pervading) bias. As a feminist critic of literature, she en¬visions part of her function as that of reinterpreting the pil¬lars of Western literature. Shakespeare is of course one of these. Shakespeare created a large stageful of women characters, ranging from fiery Margaret and Lady Macbeth to clever Portia and waif-like Ophelia. The making and un¬making of these women in the male-designed order of Eliza¬bethan society is by itself a fascinating subject for study.

SPIRIT OF HIS TIMES

Alexander Blok was born in 1880 in St. Petersburg and died there in 1921. The dates are as important as the country in which was born. His life spanned the four most tur-bulent and cataclysmic decades in Russian history—the years of terror and sedition let loose by the angry young rebels, the suffocating years when ‘Pobedonostsev over Russia had spread the owl-like wings of doom’, the years of stag¬nation and sepulchral quietude leading to the storm of the First Revolution, the black years of reaction and repres¬sion, the bloody years of the First World War, the glorious year of 1917 followed by the grim, gloomy and hungry years of the immediate post-Revolu-tion period.