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.

WHYS AND WHEREFORES

This, the fourth and final volume of a series, presents in English translation a selection of contemporary verse in Assamese (20 poets; 30 poems), Gujarati (28 poets; 29 poems), Malayalam (30 poets; 60 poems), Telugu (17 poets; 23 poems), and Urdu (19 poets: 54 poems). Each section begins with an editorial introduction—by Nabakanta Barua for Assamese, Jhinabhai Desai for Gujarati, Ayyappa Paniker for Malayalam, I. Panduranga Rao for Telugu, and Gopichand Narang for Urdu—and concludes with brief biographical notes on the poets represented.

NEGLECTED ART

For far too long, the trans¬lation into English of Indian literature has been viewed primarily as an act of cross-cultural interpretation, a way of making India’s literary riches accessible to the West. This may well be an accurate assessment of the situation up to 1947: nearly all of the works translated into English were classical ones, mostly Sanskrit, and they were often translated by Western scholars who had Western readers in mind. But the past forty or so years have seen the emergence of a new and still-growing body of works from Indian translators whose aim is no less than the literary discovery of modern India.

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This collection of essays brings together the efforts of twenty-four Indian scholars belonging to a wide spectrum of socio-economic disciplines. They have attempted to ana¬lyse systematically the prob¬lems in the field of urban and regional planning and deve¬lopment. The selections have been carefully made to present a clear picture of emerging urban problems in India. The collection does not claim to be either a new theoretical state¬ment on the subject or a simple description of the problems in urban and regional plann¬ing. The emphasis here is more on ‘immediate policy implications than on pedantic treatment of the subjects’. The subjects thus dealt with have a direct bearing on policies and programmes for¬mulated and implemented over the years.

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A couple of years ago this reviewer read and reviewed Christoph Von Furer-Haimendorf’s book on the Apa Tanis, A Himalayan Tribe—From Cattle to Cash. Another book by him on tribes of the same region following so soon excited one, but the tone of this book is quite different from the earlier one. This work deals with the tribes who surround the Apa Tanis, i.e., the Nishis and Monpas, and forms part of a comprehensive project of anthropological research among Indian tribal populations, as the author explains in the preface.