Supremely disappointing, considering the start it had.
In the first few chapters Ghosh takes ample time with his two main characters. Their histories...moreSupremely disappointing, considering the start it had.
In the first few chapters Ghosh takes ample time with his two main characters. Their histories and inner lives intermingle well. The plot too advances with a decent pace. But then two things overpower his novel
(1) The desire to be inventive (2) Sobering down to elongated, unreal conversations when not being inventive.
Ghosh's inventive side gives us a plethora of side stories, some provided as the journal of a dead man, others as mere myths and mythologies that are articulated during conversations. At most times they tie-in well with the concurrent theme of the novel, but one has to say that they tie in too well. Ghosh has attempted here what would have been called an encyclopedic novel by Orhan Pamuk, but Ghosh's pseudo po-mo diversions do not possess half the power of a Pamuk. One reason is the apparent blandness of whatever he has to say. The other is that his diversions are hesitant , almost as if they don't want to be diversions. They appear too well planned, not fragmentary-in-a-challenging way, as they do in Pamuk.
The other sad thing about the novel is its degeneration into chapters containing one-to-one conversations. There are just two many of these chapters. Each character gets to talk to the other. Sometimes they narrate stories of the kind I have mentioned before. At other times, they bore even more. One gets the irritating feeling that this could have been a super-taut novella and that it would have done better then. At other times, you find yourself bemoaning the superficiality it loads the characters with...suddenly the characters lose their inner lives and are just talking. Talking , talking, and talking.
The highlight of the book is the first part, especially the chapters devoted to Piyali's first interactions with Fokir. Ghosh is at his best here, and it is for these snippets that I am going to give him a second try.(less)
As A K Ramanujan, the translator, says in the Afterword, Samskara is a story where the erumpent individual tears the archetype of the Brahmin. It is p...moreAs A K Ramanujan, the translator, says in the Afterword, Samskara is a story where the erumpent individual tears the archetype of the Brahmin. It is perhaps the best Indian novel in an indigenous language that I have read. One could bemoan the fact that the characters, except the central one of Praneshacharya, are two dimensional caricatures, but isn't that the condition of an allegory? The novel is allegorical and it is profound, and was in certain ways meant to be an initiation for the Modern(as against Modernist) Indigenous Indian Novel. The MIIN had to break away from its flatness. And it is perhaps in the third part of this tale, where Praneshacharya questions his past actions, that the Indian novel too acquires a form, a three-dimensionality that it had struggled with earlier.(less)
Disclaimer: This review was written before discovering Shrilal Shukl, and is basically a venting out of some frustation, one that came from reading a...moreDisclaimer: This review was written before discovering Shrilal Shukl, and is basically a venting out of some frustation, one that came from reading a total dud that many tout as a masterpiece. Hindi literature is not as devastated as I seem to say here. The review has been transported here because two versions of the book seem to be doing the rounds on GR.
Central Idea: A man does not do a saintly act, nor does he commit sin; a man just does what he has to do.
Plot: Two students, keen to understand the true nature of 'sin', are commissioned on a project by their Guru. One is sent to a rich young man enjoying all the pleasures of life, while the other is sent to a Yogi, who has abnegated all that is worldly for the spiritual. The students are required to serve these masters for one year and then revert with an answer to their question.
Pathetic Novel! But this terrible novel does one good thing: it reveals the truism that stylization, restraint and contextual relevance are necessary components of all fiction, even one -- in fact especially one -- whose purported aim is philosophy. With this thought, 'Chitralekha' may not even be regarded a novel, for it is a brutal failure on all these aspects. Its characters -- or rather types -- are so deplorably tied to the inescapable, shrill voice of the author, that it reads not as a subtle display of his intelligence -- as it could have -- but as a loud, over-the-top honking of it. Verma grossly marginalizes texture, concentrating unceasingly on ill-conceiving events to enable him to engage his characters in debates on philosophical issues. The fake characters exist solely for the delivery of the author's point and counterpoint, and nothing else. A Dostoyevsky reference may be made here, but any comparison is impossible; Verma is too verbose and straightforward to come anywhere close to the Russian (who, incidentally, is not a big hit with me). So pathetic is Verma's desire for control, that at no single page is he able to distance himself from the work and let it flow.
All in all, the plot and the central idea are simplistic yet strong, but their translation into fiction is poor. 'Chitralekha' is paragraph after paragraph of logical conversation (the logic by the way, if it really matters, is solid at times) delivered by characters who are clueless of what they will do next, other than talking, that is. 'Chitralekha' is hurried, as if it was written by a writer restless to provide his soul some deliverance from his own cumbersome intelligence.
But now I'm wondering. Should I deliver the insult? I think I should: Chitralekha, ostensibly a masterpiece of Hindi literature would have never EVER found a decent publisher if it was written in English (Is that the reason why there are no translations in print?) You may call me biased. I have read one more book by Bhagwaticharan Verma -- 'Veh Phir Nahi Aayi' -- and it had the same problems as Chitralekha (though the stentorian philosophizing was absent, which made it passable). I have not yet read 'Bhoole Bisre Chitr', supposedly Verma's best book, and so I will abstain from making an unqualified comment about his writing -- or about Hindi-Urdu-literature-that-is-not-social-realism. But after reading some examples 20th century Hindi novel, I have decided to be a bit skeptical of its claim of being as good as its Western counterpart.(less)
One more Hindi novel goes waste in trying to proselytize, in trying to turn itself into an idealism.
Three young men sleep un...moreFrom Pastoral to Political
One more Hindi novel goes waste in trying to proselytize, in trying to turn itself into an idealism.
Three young men sleep under a hundred year old banyan tree, and the tree manifests as a humanoid in the dream of one. It goes on to enumerate the history of the listener's family, conjoining it with the history of the village. 19th century pastoral life in what is today's northern Bihar, rife with superstitions and calamity, is evoked. Feudalism is bashed. Even Hindu tradition is bashed. One likes the novel here, likes its naivete and its simple execution. A passage from the novel will exemplify this:
मनुष्यों की बलि चाहनेवाले यक्ष-गन्धर्व, देव-देवियाँ और ब्रह्म अब बाहर नहीं रह गए -- मोती जिल्दोंवाले पुराने पोथों की बारीक पंक्तियों के अन्दर आज वे नज़रबंद हैं। राजाओं, पुरोहितों, सामंतों और तीर्थकरों की बातों का बढ़ा-चढ़ाकर बखान करनेवाले बहुत सारे विद्वान सुदूर अतीत की उन क्रूर घटनाओं पर अब भी पर्दा डाले हुए हैं; वह उन लोगों के लिए सतयुग है, स्वर्णयुग है ! साधारण जनता का स्वर्णयुग तो अब आने वाला है बेटा !
But then the novels takes a historical turn - it zooms out of the village and acquires a nationalistic tone. India's struggle for independence is given as a crash course. One wonders why one is reading a compression like this one - till one realizes that Nagarjun's desire is to move the entire discussion toward a political ideology. Suddenly the novel becomes disingenuous; it loses its earlier qualities.
Ultimately the political aim becomes clear. The banyan tree falls in an area that can be understood as a commonly owned area. With the fall of the old-Zamindari system, such lands are also up for grabs in the market. What was public property is on course to become private. The novel thus proposes, as a counter to this post-feudal effect, Socialism through its tool of Socialist Realism. The establishment of pseudo-communist Kisaan Sabhas is posited as a synonym for progress. While there is no real problem in this per se, one has to evaluate it considering the effect it has on the novel - for Nagarjun chose the medium of the novel and not of the essay to say what he had to say. The novel fails, because it wants to do too much. It remains simple throughout, but that innocence that it needed to strengthen its simplicity with, is shed somewhere in the middle. And when that happens, the novel just becomes silly. In the end, the idea of the old banyan tree dying and a new one planted in its place, while meant as a sign of progress, falls flat as bad propaganda.(less)
श्रीलाल शुक्ल के उपन्यास में कई विषयों को छुया गया है। सोशलिज्म की यलगार माँगती सोच, कभी न जाने वाली जाति से उगता उत्पीड़न, एक विभाजित समाज में विवाह क...moreश्रीलाल शुक्ल के उपन्यास में कई विषयों को छुया गया है। सोशलिज्म की यलगार माँगती सोच, कभी न जाने वाली जाति से उगता उत्पीड़न, एक विभाजित समाज में विवाह की जटिलता, सच्ची मित्रता की कटाक्ष करती जिह्वा -- इन सभी पर इस लघु उपन्यास ने प्रकाश डाला है।
अज्ञातवास को अंग्रेजी में क्या कह कर समझाएं। शायद यह अंग्रेजी का शब्द ओब्लिविओन है। शायद यह अंडरग्राउंड होने की बात करता है। यहाँ, इस उपन्यास में, मुख्य पात्र रजनीकांत का अज्ञातवास है उनकी आत्मीयता का वो सच, जो उन्ही से दूर बैठा कहीं छुप गया है। उस धुरी की बिना जो भी व्यवहार में उजागर होता है वो एक रूप मात्र है। रजनीकांत बड़े अफ्सर हैं, सालों से विदुर हैं, एक बेटी के जिम्मेदार पिता हैं, मित्रो के मित्र हैं, परिश्रम के आदि हैं -- इत्यादि। पर क्या इन्ही सब से उनकी व्याख्या हो सकती है? क्या हम इससे इतना भी अनुमान लगा सकते है की यह आदमी काबिल-इ-तारीफ है या दण्डनीय । वो अतीत की पर्चियाँ ही तो हैं जो हमें जवाब दे सकती है, जो हमें बता सकती है की किस समाज से किस समाज तक की दौड़ लगाई रजनीकांत ने, क्या साथ लिए और क्या छूट गया। पर अतीत के घुरमुटों में तो हमारा सच अज्ञातवास पाता है, अतीत में ही तो वो है जिसकी हमारे वर्तमान को समझ नहीं, न ही समझने का माद्दा है।
श्रीलाल शुक्ल अपने चरम पर हैं जब वो चार दोस्तों की व्हिस्की से खनकती शाम का व्याख्यान करते हैं। तब भी जब वो वर्जिनिया वूल्फ की तरह अपने पात्रों की मानसिक उथल-पुथल को स्पष्ट करते हैं। उपन्यास जब तक इन्ही हल्की अटखेलियों से खेलता है, तब तक रचना के उत्कृष्ट पड़ाव पर रहता है। धीरे-धीरे, एक मॉडर्निस्ट इंटरनेशनल उपन्यास से यह कृति एक भारतीय उपन्यास बनने की डगर पर चलती है। समाज घुसता है, जाति घुसती है, शहर और गाँव के बीच का अलगाव घुसता है। कुछ देर लगता है की ये उपन्यास भी सोशल रेअलिस्म की भेंट चढ़ जायेगा। पर लेखक इसे भाच लेते हैं। क्यूंकि वो डरते नहीं। क्यूंकि वो उस बलात्कार के दृश्य से भी नहीं घबराते जो एक समाज दुसरे पर करता है, जो दाम्पत्य में एक हिस्सा दुसरे पर कर सकता है। हाँ, ये सच्चियां अतीत के साथ ओझिल हो जाती हैं, पर अतीत अज्ञातवासी ही हो, तब भी क्या वो झकझोरता नहीं?(less)
Bharti, my friends, has given us in 'Andha Yug' a thought provoking mixture of mythology (tweaked) and dire existentialism of a post World War 2 time....moreBharti, my friends, has given us in 'Andha Yug' a thought provoking mixture of mythology (tweaked) and dire existentialism of a post World War 2 time. Bharti is obviously inspired by Jean-Paul Sartre. In fact, reading 'Andha Yug' evokes memories of Sartre's creations, in which he propunded existentialism through Greek tragedies.
The drama in 'Andha Yug' begins around the known themes of Mahabharata but quickly diverges into more existential themes, ending with the solid supposition that in a world where God is dead, three kinds of men will emerge - the half-animal, the suicide-seeker, and the action-less loafer. This may sound bleak but the attempt here is not to end at hopelessness. As Bharti points out in his introduction, the aim is to define light by portraying the totality of human darkness (this may remind some reader of Camus' "Plague")
An amazing read for fellow Indians. Basic knowledge of the Mahabharata is necessary. A brief one-night affair which will change your morning forever!(less)
Three Stars - as a result of the average rating for these fifteen stories. One extra star for the freshness of the subject matter. The best stories ar...moreThree Stars - as a result of the average rating for these fifteen stories. One extra star for the freshness of the subject matter. The best stories are mindblowing. 'Pornography' and 'Okhla Basti' are the best stories I have read this year.(less)
I couldn't at once decide - in fact, I debated it a lot internally - whether to brand Agastya Sen's story as a 3-star...more"The mind is restless, O Krishna"
I couldn't at once decide - in fact, I debated it a lot internally - whether to brand Agastya Sen's story as a 3-star serio-comedy or a 4-star piece of literature. I've finally decided on the latter. There is much variability in the criticism that this book has received. My reasons for placing it where I have are below:
1. It is beautifully written, even after allowing for the fact that it is a first novel. The language is consistently top-class
2. It is an Indian story. Chatterjee mentions this obtusely in the novel: this is not the NRI author pining about India. This is an Indian author writing about the severity of dislocation that we Indians may sometimes feel in our own vast country. The character appear real enough (although the dialogues may sometimes appear to be unreal. But then, so many authors have been excused this.)
3. Although the many sly cultural references appear too cute at times, the main 'literary' ones - Bhagwad Gita and Marcus Aurelius' Meditations - are well used. The ending, with a superbly befitting quote from Marcus Aurelius, can be read many times without losing the pleasure in doing so.
4. Written just seven years after "Midnight's Children", the novel achieves a feat in not trying to ape the stupendous, but language-dependent, humour of Rushdie. Upamanyu has developed his own unique style, a blend of situation and causticity, that may often find the reader clutching his stomach.
5. Although there seem to be many variables floating throughout the novel - Indian bureaucracy, corruption, tribal development, moral turpitude among the ruling, etc. - Upamanyu resists the temptation to get preachy about these. This maturity is particularly appreciable - especially in my personal case - because of how it differs from the senility of Indian writers in Hindi (Case in point is Amritlal Nagar's "Karwat" which was written just three years before this book - and goes on and on about Swami Dayanand and arya Samaj and what not). Upamanyu relates this flotsam of topics to his protagonist's inner world beautifully, and never once does he commit the error of making the making the disillusioned Agastya take a side. Chatterjee classifies himself as an Indian Writer in English here.
But there are also the flaws of the first novel, which I believe a good editor would ahve tighetened a great de inserted only to accentuate the depiction of the dour and dull life of the protagonist. The reader can sometimes have too much of this life, yes. But all in all, the boredom manages not to seep too much, and the ride remains a humorous, enjoyable one.(less)
एक उपन्यास में क्या होना चाहिए? उपन्यास लिखने का औचित्य क्या है?
अमृतलाल नगर का उपन्यास - 'करवट' - मुझे तो उपन्यास प्रतीत नहीं होता. नगर साहब ने इतिहास...moreएक उपन्यास में क्या होना चाहिए? उपन्यास लिखने का औचित्य क्या है?
अमृतलाल नगर का उपन्यास - 'करवट' - मुझे तो उपन्यास प्रतीत नहीं होता. नगर साहब ने इतिहास पुनर्रचन की कोशिश को इतनी शिद्दत से पकड़ा है, कि उनके पात्र भी इतिहास की पोथियो को साहित्य में पिरोने के अलावा कुछ नहीं कर पाते. एक बार फिर एक हिंदी उपन्यासकार वही गलती करता है - मनुष्य के निजी जीवन से हटकर समाज को सुधरने की बकवास कोशिश. अपने हीरो की अंदरूनी समस्याओं से तो नागर साहब का फोकस इतनी आसानी से कई बार हट जाता है, कि पूछिए मत. एक और बात: नगर साहब आर्य समाज का खुलकर समर्थन करते है - जो कि उपन्यास को एक नैतिक शिक्षा पात्र जैसा भी कई बार बना देता है.
नागुइब महफौज़ का उपन्यास 'पैलेस ऑफ़ देसिर' साल कि शुरुयात में पढ़ा था. उसमे में इतिहास की एक कड़ी को पकड़कर जीवन के फिर से रचने की चेष्टा थी. पर वहां परिणाम अति उत्तम हो गया था. क्यूंकि महफौज़ साहब ने इतिहास को सिर्फ एक दर्पण की तरह प्रयोग किया. पात्रों के अंतर्मन को उन्होंने खूब तसल्ली से दर्शाया था. और उस समय की मिस्र की नैतिकता - जो कि परिवर्तन में थी, नागर साहब के लखनऊ की ही तरह - में अपनी, यानि लेखक की कोई जगह न पकड़ी थी.
नागर साहब के पास पूरा मसाला था एक महा-उपन्यास लिखने का. उनकी उस समय की समझ, बोलचाल के लहजे की पकड़, और लेखन पर भी कोई टिपण्णी व्यर्थ होगी - सब लाज़वाब! पर उपन्यास की जगह हमारेलेखाक साहब न जाने क्या लिख बैठे.(less)
A book that is perhaps as challenging to review - and by review I mean judge - as it was to write. Chaudhari's restraint is stifling at times; his min...moreA book that is perhaps as challenging to review - and by review I mean judge - as it was to write. Chaudhari's restraint is stifling at times; his minimalist narrator divulges little; and the reader, while understanding the rationale of the repose of the novel, invariably ends up asking for a little let-go. But apart from the fettering of the narrator, there is something more structural that one may also decipher and unequivocally cede to the writer: the dexterity of design inherent in the inception of this novel. 'A New World', if one looks finely, is a feat of literature, really - one that will not blow you away, but tend to you with sleep-inducing, sultry caresses - like the pre-monsoon weather of the city of Calcutta that it so obliquely yet aptly describes.
Chaudhary reads like a mixture of Joyce and Woolf and, a tad bemusingly, Naipaul. The details, as in the consciousness of Jayojit Chaterjee - the divorcee from America who is spending a vacation at his parents' house in Calcutta with his son, vacation-rights with whom he has recently won in a court battle with his deviant wife - are the meat of the novel. His somnambulant views of the irrelevant and unimportant happening and meetings and objects are pretty much all there is to this book. But there is a blended hint of post-colonialism, of East meets West, of the complexity of filial obligations. And like an undercurrent below all of that, there is the paricular treatment of the content with a linguistic certainty that faintly resembles the wand of the great 19th century novelists - more specifically, their twentieth century embodiment in Naipaul. Chaudhary, while invoking memories of many masters of yore, adroitly avoids getting clubbed with any one in particular. His voice is original, and his subjects, as uninteresting as they are; and his plots, as sub-plot like as they are; are nevertheless a direction for the novel that is - quite surprisingly by the end of the book - very novel indeed. 'A New World' ails from a fuzzy ineptitude in realistically chanelling the content of conversations, but even that passes along, for Chaudhary convinces you with his abstruse development of characters to such degrees, that after a time you understand and accept the fact that his characters - bound by relations of blood as they are - have nothing to say to each other, except sharing the banalities of every day life. In this way, even the deficiencies in Chaudhary's writing seem to work in his favour, which is predominantly due to the choice of plot and setting. There is realism here, but it is a somnambulist realism, which serves the purpose of justifying most of what Chaudhari does in this book.
Many reviewers have blamed Chaudhary of giving us nothing in his novels. But Chaudhary's work, as one intelligent reviewer noted, is not the stuff of novels, but of what might happen between novels. By doing so, it fills a space in modern literature, and questions, knowingly or unknowingly, the Jamesian notion of the 'interesting' requirement being imposed on this art form. A novel - if a definition was to be winnowed from Chaudhari - can be a celebration of language; can be a somnolescent drifting away of life, captured in words; can be an evasion from the heart-wrenching emotions that surround its characters. A novel, certainly, can also be defined by what it is not. And for sensitizing us to this interpretation, Chaudhari deserves an emphatic thumbs-up.(less)