WOOD OR TREES ?

A lot of noise has been made for quite some time in various quarters on ecological imbala¬nces in general and on forest denudation in particular. But it is only lately that some attention is at last being devot¬ed to the practical questions of the inter-relationship bet¬ween forests and the people. Do people exist for the good of the forests, or the forests for the good of the people? Or is there an intrinsically and mutually beneficial relationship between the two? In any case, who are the ‘people’? And since ‘people’ would be made up of various human com¬munities with different kinds of interests, which of these interests would be ‘national’ and which ‘sectional’?

A PINCH OF SALT

War has always been a fascinating anthropological problem. A culture’s attitude to war determines in a funda¬mental way its construction of the self and its relation to the other. Defeat in war, or even victory, can virtually generate a crisis in the structure of a society’s categories of percep¬tion. For instance, in recent times, two events have called into question the very basis of modern technocracy as a mode of thought.

The first episode was the success of guerilla warfare. The French defeat at Dien Bien Phu marked, in a manner, the end of Orientalism as a stable discourse. The ‘savage-peasant’ and the ‘mandarin’ escaped from the confines of the text to inflict on a modern military force a devastatingly traumatic defeat.

THE GOLDEN WIND

Andrew Harvey’s book, an impossible one to classify, is a record of this experience of the stripping away of the dry foliage of the familiar—its universities and books and studies, its complex relationships and exacting demands—till those condi¬tions are created in which ‘the golden wind’ can be revealed. He had felt that these condi¬tions did not exist in the known and crowded landscape of his life—born in Coimbatore, India,

UPMARKET FARE

It is only very recently that the popular Hindi film has acquired academic respect¬ability as a subject for scholar¬ly attention. Today, one might call it an almost fashion¬able concern. But this mam¬moth effort mounted by Aruna Vasudev and Philippe Lenglet is to be commended as the first serious attempt, on this scale, to grapple with the phenomenon of the Hindi film —truly a supermarket, a some-thing-for-everybody one-stop-shop, that has given to the vocabulary of Indian English that new and evocative cultural adjective, ‘filmi’.

VOICE OF AN AGE

The decision by the Progress Publishing House to take up the translation of major Soviet literary critics is a very wel¬come one. Recently Viktor Shklovsky’s well-known book on L. Tolstoy appeared in the Indian market, and now we have a work by an eminent Pushkin scholar, Blagoy. This move is all the more welcome as interest in Russian and Soviet literature is on the increase.

ROOTED SENSIBILITY

Unlike the social sciences, the study of English Literature in India seems likely to dimi¬nish gradually into a waste¬land. While we produce an increasing number of eminent sociologists, historians and economists, our literary critics—with a few notable but little noticed exceptions—are mostly a demoralized or desic¬cated lot. One reason for the withering of our literary criti¬cal landscape is the difficulty of finding a use for literary studies in a predominantly utilitarian ethos which allows little room for something as ‘useless’ as literature; a second may be the Leavisite refusal to study literary texts as aspects of cultural history rather than as autonomous moral bodies and timeless verbal icons; a third is perhaps a growing recognition of the relative alienness of English literature; a fourth is undoubtedly the abysmal condition of our libraries which makes access to source materials, and in Eng. Lit.

POOR RELATIONS

I have come to the bitter con¬clusion that if Hindi writers are treated like poor relations of English ones, they have only themselves to blame. Why on earth do distinguished Hindi novelists allow their work to be hastily translated into clownish and farcical English? Is it impossible to wait till a reasonable translator comes along? A couple of years ago, Bhisham Sahni’s brilliant novel Tamas was, so to speak, done for in the translation. It is now the turn of Mannu Bhandari’s Aapka Bunty.

THE SELF-CONSUMING LAMP

Mahadevi Varma occu¬pies a unique position in the world of Hindi letters today. She is almost the solve sur¬vivor of the pre-Independence, the ‘heroic’ generation, a relic from a distant, simpler past—a past remembered with increasing nostalgia as we sink deeper into the mud of the present. The grotesque efflorescence of the national movement still lay in the womb of an ironic future; it was, it appeared to be, it appears to have been, a time of innocence and dreams of possibility.

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Professor Sar Desai’s Southeast Asia: Past and Present professes to be ‘a broad survey of trends and currents in the historical panorama of the region’. Southeast Asia, with its area spread over nine modern states, its diverse ethnicity as well as its several centuries’ old history, poses a formidable challenge for a historical study of this scope. The author can¬didly admits that ‘there are bound to be gaps in informa-tion’ in his writing of the indigenous history and interpretation of western influence on the region over the last two centuries.

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The booklet under review comprises the fifth R.C. Dutt Lectures delivered by Professor V.M. Dandekar in Calcutta at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences. Professor Dande¬kar is well known, among other things, for his study on poverty in India and can be said to be one of the foremost proponents of the ‘poverty’ approach to an understanding of Indian social reality, as against the class approach. The booklet seeks to provide a theoretical basis for this ap¬proach.

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Dr Sharma’s book holds as its major thesis that three ‘distinguished theorists and practitioners of the art of fic¬tion,’ E.M. Forster, Somerset Maugham and Joyce Cary, between the years 1927-1958, have given a direction to what he calls ‘the modern-novel theory.’ To put it in his own words, as these writers ‘are neither blindly traditional nor just too pro- or anti-modernity, they offer a rational, balanced poetics of the novel.’