Focusing on eight Hindi novels, Vasudha Dalmia’s new work traces the emergence of a modern urban culture in North India and the changing shapes of its political, aesthetic, and moral concerns. Beginning with Pariksha Guru by Lala Shrinivasdas (1882), the book engages, successively, Premchand’s Sevasadan (1918) and Karmabhumi (1932), Yashpal’s Jhuta Sach (1958, 1960), Agyeya’s Nadi ke Dweep (1948), Dharamvir Bharati’s Gunahom Ka Devata (1949)…
Perhaps it is inevitable that every generation claims newness. It is really the task of scholarship to give validation and depth to such claims in literary grouping such as the Nayi Kahani (the new story) of the nineteen fifties and sixties. The analysis would move from simple claims to a larger exploration of what the distinctive voice or quality of the work is; it would be less interested in newness (is anything ever meaningfully new or old?
The publication of Shekhar: A Life marks a major event in the growing body of Hindi literature available in translation in English. Not only should this be considered an important work from two of the most prominent translators of Hindi and Urdu working in English today, but it also fills a crucial gap in our understanding of Hindi modernism. Originally published in Hindi as Shekhar: Ek Jivani, the book, along with very different works such as Premchand’s Godan…
There are at least two (likely more) common criticisms that are made of translations. The first and perennial one is that translation necessarily betrays the original, that it fails in a fated, deep way to honour the unique problem that meanings created in one language cannot cross the Lakshman Rekha into the alien and threatening universe of another. The second and perhaps equally vexing one is that when dealing with non-European languages, where more than one translation of a text is highly unlikely, a translation that makes a mistake is unforgiveable.
All living literary traditions have not only a present and a future which are yet fully to unfold but equally so a past. A literature which does not continually interrogate, revise and reinscribe its past palimpsestically may not have much of a future to look forward to, for in literature the past never really passes away.
Snowflakes of Time is a collection of about a hundred poems divided into eight sections, presumably to separate them by themes. The author is a former Foreign Secretary of India. The compartments are not watertight. The sadness of ‘Time passed’ and ‘What might have been’ runs through a good number of poems in different sections. Also what the writer calls his communion with nature.
Translation in poetry becomes essential not only for bringing a work to a wider audience but to begin a literary and a cultural discussion. This is where the role of a translator becomes an important one—serving as a bridge between the poet writing in his/her language and a reader who will read it in another language. It is extremely difficult to transport the cultural and the literary baggage of one language and load it onto another.
Short story writing is not everybody’s forte. The author has to do a tightrope walk while trying to say so much in so little. This genre, which is increasingly getting popular along with other extreme variants like flash fiction and micro fiction is undoubtedly a reflection of our busy times. Shuma Raha’s book makes up a fascinating and enjoyable series of 13 short stories about ordinary men and women.
‘The interior is ten paces on each side. At the far end, dimly lit by the hole-ridden roof, is a fiercely beautiful woman. Tall, with midnight skin, she wears a garland of severed heads, a skirt of limbs. Her rolling tongue reaches beyond her chin to point to the vanquished demon she tramples underfoot.
For a historical novel purportedly attempting to tell an intergenerational, transnational tale of the fortunes of a German Jewish family torn apart by the two world wars and the Holocaust, The Silver Music Box by Mina Baites, it must be admitted at the outset, disappoints sorely.
Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s My Father’s Garden, advertised on the jacket as the latest of ‘a major talent of Indian fiction writing at the top of his form’, is supposed to be the biography of a young doctor. It spans half his life, narrating his negotiation of ‘love and sexuality, his need for companionship, and the burden of memory and familial expectation’.
Dreamt Lives by Anirudh Deshpande, a historian of modern South Asian history, represents an attempt by the author to transcend his field of expertise which is based on sources, referencing and corroboration to a space quite the opposite of it: fiction. History and literature as disciplines, historically, have an uneasy relationship as under the postmodernist impulse the former was reduced and ridiculed to be fiction of the historian’s imagination…
Vasanth Kannabiran’s book offers a rich and rewarding reading experience. The writer intended each of the five pieces to be ‘shaped into music and dance’, in order to be performed as ballets in the Bharatanatyam tradition. But they also merit their own rightful place as works of literature.
Kaziranga! The very name spells magic. Deep dark forests, filtered emerald-green sunlight, large acres of open grassland, swamps and wetland, and thousands of animals and birds coexisting in celebration of the splendid glory of nature. Spread across over 400 sq km, Kaziranga is home to several protected species of animals: among them the tiger (its largest concentration in the world is found here), the wild elephants, the water buffalo, the swamp deer, many species of birds, and most famously, two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhino population.
The problem with a multicultural and multilingual nation like India is that most of the time we are alien to the works published in the different bhasha literatures other than our own mother tongue. Thus the link language becomes English and the only way to savour the rich heritage of our regional fiction is through translation.
The Tamil Dalit woman writer Bama has been a phenomenal name in the contemporary Dalit literary terrain. Widely celebrated for her life-writing Karukku (which completed its 25th year of publication in December 2017), her recently published book Just One Word, a compilation of fifteen short stories translated from Tamil into English by Malini Seshadri heralds a new chapter in her literary life.
Ocean Rimmed World by Joe D’Cruz, ably translated by G Geetha, is the story of a way of life. True, it is an insider’s account tracing life as it was lived in a Tamil Catholic fishing community of Parathavars in Uvari, a village near Thoothukudi. But its sweep and depth is a tribute to the way people lived as communities barely a few generations ago.
The arrival of commercial print in the 19th century, across the subcontinent allowed for the emergence of the professional writer, one who could make a living from writing alone. Where professional poets and writers had earlier subsisted on patronage from kings and nobles, the 19th century created opportunities for a writer to make a living from the market.