Vikram Seth has emerged as one of the most significant authors of Indian fiction in English. He is also the most versatile – he is a poet, travel writer, playwright and novelist – and has won major awards in each category. He has a cosmopolitan identity having lived in England, California and China as a student.
Two phenomena have char¬acterized the Indian rural scene since the ’70s—peasant militancy and violence against Harijans. The Delhi University Political Science Association felt the urgency of the need to evolve a new Political Economy to meet the challenge posed by the failure of existing social science theory, both Marxist as well as non-Marxist, to satisfactorily explain the twin phenomena.
Another reviewer, Profes¬sor A.H. Wilson, has predicted that this work ‘of seasoned scholarship’ by K.M. de Silva, whom he has dubbed ‘the wizard of Peradeniya’, ‘will for many years to come be the last word on the subject’, and hoped that ‘there will be more detailed interpretation of men and affairs from so magisterial a pen’. The term has doubtless not been used in a pejorative sense, but wizardry has no place in a work of seasoned scholarship or in the repertoire of a serious historian. Sancti¬fying myth is another matter.
C.D. Narasimhaiah is more of an institu- tion than anything else. It is not easy to come across ‘a mere village shopkeeper’s son’ (p.11) going on in the 1940s for an English Tripos at Cambridge, finding F. R. Leavis as his Tutor there, getting nominated by him for a Rockefeller Fellowship to Princeton, making acquaintances with R. P. Blackmur,
There is no better way in which a reviewer can introduce this book than by quoting Indira Gandhi’s observation in the foreword: ‘Subhas Kashyap’s book gives the non-specialist reader easy access to the original material and Jawaharlal Nehru’s ideas and words’. As to giving easy access to Nehru’s words, Indira Gandhi is dead right: out of 397 pages, 288 pages contain excerpts from Nehru’s writings and speeches. About providing access to Nehru’s ideas, the author is not serious at all. The 107 page introduction devotes 50 pages to Nehru’s views about the constituent as¬sembly, 24 to the framing and fundamentals of the Constitu¬tion and about two pages to Nehru’s views on the Constitu¬tion as an instrument of social change.
If the history of science and technology in India has yet to produce a work of the stature of Joseph Needham’s writings on China, there have nevertheless been a number of recent publications, each taking re¬search on the theme a step forward: P.K. Gode’s three volumes on Studies in Indian Cultural History, published between 1961 and 1969, the Indian National Science Aca¬demy’s A Concise History of Science and India (New Delhi, 1971), M.G. Dikshit’s History of Indian Glass, (Bombay, 1968), and somewhat more re¬cently, Claude Alvares’ Homo Faber: Technology and Culture in India, China and the West, 1500-1972 (New Delhi, 1979), to name only a few.
The theme of this book is essentially a discussion of what is often referred to as the second urbanization of India, the first being the rise of the cities of the Indus valley and its environs in the third millennium B.C. Thakur’s study is substantially that of the Ganges valley and covers a period of about a thousand years, from the mid-first millennium B.C. to the latter half of the first millen¬nium A.D. There is little of substance on the contemporary cities of the far north or of the south of the subcontinent.
I heard someone at a party remark of this book, ‘It is superb as long as Mulk keeps himself out of it.’ On reading it, I find I don’t agree at all: Dr. Anand has nothing to add to, and no fresh insights to bring to our considerable knowledge of the Bloomsbury Group, gleaned from their voluminous diaries, journals, letters and biographies; there is probably no other period in the history of English litera¬ture so thoroughly documented or so well served by its biogra¬phers and editors.
Some years ago, I had reviewed a different translation of Durgeshnandini for TBR. To revisit the same novel now via this new translation is to be reminded again of the durability of Bankim in our collective literary imagination. When Durgeshnandini first appeared, it had taken the Bengali literary world by storm, as a landmark in the emergence of a new genre. Today, in view of current controversies surrounding creative interpretations of history, it is worth asking why our writers, translators, publishers and readers compulsively return to the past in their search for inspiration. Does this re-invocation of the past act as a distancing device, a form of escapism, or a veiled engagement with the contemporary via an apparent engagement with a different era? Why a new translation now, when several English versions are already available? Such questions encompass issues concerning readership, changing approaches to translation, relationships between ‘vernacular’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ texts, and the dynamics of the literary marketplace.
Travel writing, in the Bengali literary tradition, has an extraordinary appeal. From first-hand accounts of perilous/adventurous journeys to faraway lands to more comfortable ones nearer home, Bengalis love them all. They also love completely fictional narratives as long as they offer the ‘real’ feel of travel. It is not surprising, therefore, to find an overwhelming number of Bengali writers engaging in such writing. A quick survey of published travelogues suggests that their quality vary substantially; some are wonderful pieces of literature, while others, often like the Lonely Planet ones, are typically touristy and dull.
In today’s globalized world, the role, focus and worth of translation as the contemporary lingua franca can hardly be overstated. As such, it comes as no wonder that, it is through the translation of his selected works (in English and in some regional languages as well) that Mahabaleshwar Sail, renowned for his fiction across the Konkani literary world, has ventured beyond the boundaries of his language, State and the country. His major translated works are, Kali Ganga (1998), The Kiln (1910), The Forest Saga (2016) and Age of Frenzy (2017), and interestingly all have been translated into English by Vidya Pai.
The Odia word, bheda, the title of both the Odia novel and its English version, translates into social difference. It has a subsidiary meaning as well, penetration of a target, which reinforces the baneful effects of difference. The novel brings out the evil of social difference. Now what kind of social difference? For it is seen to be neither of the two familiar forms of it, the difference of rank and the difference in nature.