Thakura Ghara, the Sahitya Akademi award winning book of 1976, is the fifth and the latest collection of short stories by the author. ‘God’s Apartment’ is the vantage point from which the author surveys the middle class world. Obviously a writer of the traditional school, there is a gentle irony in his delineation of events. The middle class world is devoid of any ideals and there is self-deception in all their actions. The wife embraces during love-making according to ‘Estimate’ and all relationships are without any warmth. The author has very pungently depicted the exhaustion, crisis, disaffection and aversion to ideals in the lives of his characters. He does not depend on sensationalism or close-knit plots for the effect but tries to reveal the inner consciousness of men in sensitive reaction to events and situations. It has been his object to provide tantalizing glimpses of truth rather than comfortable certainties. Irony enlivened with compassion is the dominant tone of his stories, which are expositions of the tinsel middle-class ‘virtues’ which prevent the individual from realizing himself.
Lakshmira Abhisara (The Honeymoon of Lakshmi) by Manoj Das. Jagannath Rath, Cuttack-2, 1975.
Manoj Das is a Sahitya Akademi award winner for Oriya short stories. His book is a small collection of a dozen of his stories. One can hear the boisterous laughter of the writer behind every episode. His capacity for surprising and upsetting our expectations appears in the title story, where Lakshmi is a girl of six years only and her date is with the deity inside the temple whom she wanted to meet for a heart-to-heart talk. She succeeds and her talk reveals her confrontation with the temple priest in the process of making a mockery of all the rituals and the absurdity of the adult world. The other stories also reveal the pretence and absurdity of the contemporary society rather mercilessly. In the process, the writer extols the innocence and simplicity of rustic life and its superiority in spite of the awe the rustics have as illustrated in their attitude to the ‘Sahib’ in the story, ‘The Crocodile Lady’. ‘The Mayor of Madhuban’ is a graphic analysis of the nature of petty politicians.
Manoj Das is a leading young Oriya writer whose fame is not confined to Orissa only. Most of his stories have got good publicity through English translations. This small collection of his stories does not betray his status as a writer with some definite points of view.
Jatrar Prathama Pada (The First Stage of the Journey) by Santanu Kumar Acharya. Grantha Mandir. Cuttack-2, 1976.
Santhanu Kumar Acharya is an avantgarde novelist in Oriya. This is the latest and smallest (78 pages only) work of the author in surrealistic genre. Surrealism, for him, is the depiction of a situation rather than a setting forth of a philosophy. It is a form of protest against modern decadence which is achieved by parading the grotesque, and surprising and outraging our sensibility. In this work as in others, Acharya makes an attempt to unmask the surface gloss and seek the truth.
The novel takes for its backdrop the period immediately before and after freedom and in the rape of its protagonist Mini by the very people she served as a young girl during the freedom movement, we have here the inlaid grotesqueness beyond the niceties. Her prompt recovery and acceptance of the event is part of her growing up. With several such gleanings the novel sharpens our awareness of the contemporary situations.
Sabdalipi (Document of Sounds) by Manoranjan Das. Agraduta, Cuttack-2, 1976.
Manoranjan Das is a Sahitya Akademi award winning playwright in Oriya. Sabdalipi is yet another attempt to articulate the modern experience a la the absurd in an experimental form. However, there is a novelty and freshness in this experiment, the underlying theme being the emptiness of re-enacting a hollow life-cycle. He tries to arrive at a higher truth by blending the social consciousness with the individual concerns.
The ‘Convener’ is a major character in Sabdalipi like the ‘Director’ in Kathaghoda. A modern counterpart of the Greek chorus, he shapes the destiny of the characters and at the same time is subject to its vagaries. He is the ‘Seer’ who sees beyond the immediate events. In the penultimate stage when the heroine Rita has torn the mask off all her benefactors, her godfather Bhaktacharan, her lover Sanjay, her husband Partha and others to prove the hollowness of all relationships, the ‘Convener’ appears to give a fresh turn and reinterpret the events suggesting Rita’s responsibility for the failings of all other characters, ·and she is killed.
But even she is absolved of her share of guilt and the ‘Convener’ brings her back to life with some incantation sounds to present the events as a repetitive meaningless cycle in which the ‘Convener’ destroys and creates for his own pleasure.
Anya Sabu Mrityu (The Other Deaths) by Jagannath Prasad Das. J. Mohapatra & Co., Cuttack-2.
The poet’s first volume of poems Pratham Purush (First Person) published in 1971 had created literary history in Orissa by its freshness of content and style. The poems in The Other Deaths are a continuation of the theme presented in the earlier volume. Das’s poems in First Person had two distinct voices: one of relentless search and profound understanding, and the other of ennui, vacuity and disappointment. In The Other Deaths this loneliness is carried further and every love has turned out to be another death. In poems like At the Stroke of Six, and The Pain of Remembrance, love takes over even as love has started to blossom. In the other poems, it is Time not only as a challenger to love, but to life itself, as in poems like In the Beginning only the Void Days, Many Kinds and Borrowed Moments of Time, where the titles. themselves are suggestive.
The poems are very personal, but by no means confessional. The ‘l’ of the poems never wholly defines the author. Indeed, personality, the poet hints, cannot be defined.
Sakhahina Panchasakha (The Linkless Five-Associates) by Dr. Natabar Samantarai. Vani Bhavan, Bhubaneswar-2, 1975.
The history of Oriya literature has a very complex problem in the concept of Panchasakha. Dr. Samantarai, the most logical literary historian of Orissa, advances a challenging theory in this volume regarding the legendary association of the five saint-poets of Orissa who flourished in 15th-16th century A.D. It is believed traditionally that they were contemporary and were also the companions of Sri Chaitanya. Dr. Samantarai refutes this as unhistorical on the evidence of various scriptures and by reinterpreting the accepted facts. In his opinion, these five saints, namely Balaram, Jagannatha, Achyuta, Ananta and Jasobanta, were neither contemporary nor companions of Sri Chaitanya, but they could be linked up as the five stalwarts of Orissan Vaishnavism with the common objective of upholding the supremacy of Lord Jagannatha and the importance of ‘knowledge’ in the path of devotion.
Dr. Samantarai pronounces in his preface that our views on religious literature should be based on scientific observations devoid of sectarian prejudices. If his stand is taken up sincerely by the critics of the present generation our medieval religious literature can be redeemed of its intricate controversies.
Mahapatra is Head of the Department of Oriya Studies, University of Delhi, Delhi.