Sanskrit narrative tradition synthesizes loka (loc-al) and shastra (scholastic or context free forms and expressions). It has been configurational, localized and ever acquiring new hues and semantic fields. Deshi (context bound forms) and margi (context free forms), in fact, have always been seen in continuity and have mutually enriched each other.
Harvest Song, an abridged and translated version of Sabitri Roy’s trilogy, Paka Dhaner Gan (1956, 1957, 1958) has been subtitled in English as a “novel of the Tebhaga movement.” The Tebhaga (sharing by thirds) movement was a militant campaign by sharecroppers, spreading over at least nineteen districts of undivided Bengal, especially the districts of Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri, Jessore, Khulna, Mymensingh and 24 Paraganas during the year 1946-1947.
Jogajog is perhaps Tagore’s least discussed novel, eclipsed by the political rhetoric of Gora and Ghare Baire, the romantic intensity of Chokher Bali and Shesher Kabita, and the philosophical density of Char Adhyay. Two recent translations, however, draw attention to this lacuna in Tagore scholarship: Hiten Bhaya’s translation Nexus, published by Rupa and Co., and the present translation by Supriya Chaudhuri.
One began with the premise, influenced purely by a perusal of the blurb, that this was one more novel about the coming-of-age of a slightly confused exemplar of urban youth today set amidst the ubiquitous urban landscape of contemporary Delhi. One presumed, therefore, that the novel would be about a slightly moony young man, being shunted around from job to job and love to love in search of existential bliss, and would be full of his ramblings in a booze or hash-induced state while walking the streets of the “unreal city”, in this case, Delhi.
The Passarola, or the great bird, was a flying ship that was supposedly a cross between a balloon and a glider, designed by a Brazilian Father Bartolomeu Lourenço in Portugal in 1705. Azhar Abidi takes this piece of information and weaves a tale of historical fiction based on the aviation pioneer and his brother Alexandre.
This is an interesting debut novel, as much for what it does as it what it does not do. Eraly is a historian, and perhaps as such felt the need to look not at the larger picture but the smaller one, at some of the myriad lives that finally write the history of cultures and civilizations. But a history of feeling, a history of individual families and the pulls and pressures within them is best written as fiction, especially if you are a trained historian who cannot betray your method in your academic writing.
This is a book which has been written by someone now safely entrenched in the world of historical fiction. It is Kunal Basu’s third book, the other being The Miniaturist and the Opium Clerk. The cover has the picture of a young black boy, and aesthetically the verdant sense of fronds and the sky imprinted by clouds and exotic rorsach of images makes one wonder what the book is about.
Monika Boehm-Tettelbach, (former Head of the South Asian Institute, Department of Indology, at the University of Heidelberg) speaking of Kiran Nagarkar’s fiction, speaks of its ‘velocity’, its ability to keep the reader’s attention focused, while the narrative moves on at a snappy pace. The ease and speed of the flow suggests that the simple and the literal is what is to be viewed.
In the 13 years since AK Ramanujan died under anesthesia in Chicago in 1993, much of his unpublished writing has trickled down to a waiting readership posthumously. A stray article shows up in a book of essays or as an Introduction, previously scattered writings are pulled together and a volume of collected essays is published and so on. Ramanujan’s death was untimely for many reasons, not least because he left much undone and was clearly in the prime of his writing, scholarly as well as creative.
Keki N. Daruwalla is a poet who has, by his intrepid creativity and vast output, justified to the world the use of Indian English in writing poetry. There isn’t another poet who has creatively used the language to write poetry on such a wide range of themes. Keki’s poetic career is an answer to those who were — and some still to be found, amazingly though! – sceptical about poetry written in the language of the firingis. Keki himself tackles such people in his satirical poem, ‘Invocation’:
Arunabha Sengupta’s novel Labyrinth is set during the years of the computer boom, when hundreds of young Indians found work on the Y2K problem. It gives a vivid picture of their life in a huge software company, interwoven with a tale of young love. In some respects, it parallels Chetan Bhagat’s bestselling novel, Five Point Someone: What not to do at IIT (published last year).
“Trinidad was small , remote and unimportant, and we knew we could not hope to read in books of the life we saw about us”. Replace ‘Trinidad’ with ‘Patna’ in that statement by Naipaul, and that is precisely what we felt a generation ago growing up there. Patna was not all that small or remote – capital of a large state before it was truncated, prominently paced in the railway as well the river map of India.
Jack and Jill/ Went up the hill/ To fetch a pail of water/ Jack fell down/ And broke his crown/ And Jill came tumbling after. As a little girl I always wondered why Jill lost her cool when Jack fell down and broke his crown! Did she tumble down out of mere empathy? She could very well have run after him and nursed his wounds. Why tumble down? Now, of course, I understand that the whole idea of ‘tumbling after’ can be traced back to the other orientedness of girls/women all the world over.
This report on the changing status of women in West Bengal covering a period of thirty years from 1970-2000 is a very commendable effort and worth duplicating for other states. The report has the usual canvas assessing women’s development indicators and the gender gap in health, nutrition, education, economic empowerment, political participation but with additional explorations into law and violence and women’s production of cultural capital.
Archiving of photographs, as well as the importance of the photo archive in the writing of social history has had a late start in India. For feminist scholars of history, the difficulties of finding sources that will enable them to reconstruct aspects of history in a gender sensitive rewriting of the past have been acute, as surviving sources have margina-lized women.
Looking at India since Independence in 1947, we are confronted with a situation of multi-dimensional change involving the restructuring of its polity, economy, and socio-cultural organization. India seems always to be a country in the making. This is how things should be; it is proof of vigour and vitality.
The volume under review is a product of the intense debate on fundamentalism generated by the events of 9/11 in the US. Written by a group of scholars from Canada, its aim is to analyse not only “Islamic fundamentalism” to which much attention has been devoted, but to go beyond and to explore the meaning of fundamentalism so as to give it theoretical precision; and second, to work towards a project for contesting the claims of fundamentalism.
It was in the late 80s and early 90s that acts of terror started drawing global attention. Incidents like bombing the World Trade Center in New York in 2001, the Aum Shinrikyo attack of the Tokyo subway in 1995, bombing the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salam in 1998 brought forth the worldwide dimensions of postmodern terrorism. Emergence of the Al-Qaeda, the Hizbul Muja-hiddeen, the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hammas marked the beginning of global terrorism.
The publication of this slim volume comes at a most appropriate moment of time when the eyes of the world are focused on the dynamic economic growth of India and China, and a Great Debate is underway on the burgeoning economic engagement between them and on their changing political strategic relationship. With it, the author has entered and hopes to influence this debate. China, as is well known, preceded India on this path by a decade and more, embarking on its reform and modernization project as early as 1978.
The book being reviewed is a collection of revised papers by well known China experts presented at an international seminar in New Delhi in November 2000. However, the issues taken up are of a long term historical interest and hence the various papers retain a freshness of insight as well as information and are well worth reading seriously.