Leonard Cohen wrote, ‘Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh.’ Gunasekaran’s multiple scars portrayed cleverly in his autobiography are not just proud medals and revealed secrets, they are the history of an individual and a community.
Protest literature poses a problem because quite often it is more protest and not much literature. When a text succeeds as literature then the protest becomes all the more eloquent. Many protest writers walk into the trap and let protest take wing instead of the imagination. G. Kalyana Rao is quite clear in his intentions.
In the Indian ethos, the old occupy a significant place as objects of reverence and respect and as repositories of acquired wisdom. Indian literature too is replete with characters in this age category, representing the preoccupation of the Indian mind with mortality, and the tussle of tradition and modernity.
Not the least remarkable feature of this book is the ‘Translator’s Introduction’ by Rani Ray. Outlining the genesis of Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Aranyer Dinratri, first published in Jalsa, a popular film journal based in Calcutta, Ray locates the novel both in its immediate context within the Bengali literary map and within a larger canvas of textual politics of the 1960s the world over.
The novel Anitya by Mridula Garg is a fascinating story that beautifully weaves the personal and political into one thread. It effectively uses the backdrop of the independence struggle to recount the failings of a nation and also the individuals caught in a web of conflicting ideologies.
The time has come, it seems, for India to read what Bharat has written. The spate of translations over the last few years is welcome for two main reasons: one for introducing the real India to the world and two, for raising the level of translations in this country to a degree that now one actually looks forward to reading them.