Monday, July 31, 2006

Artistry of good writing and editing makes a spiritual statement

grant said...In all honesty bob, your writing style is more of a draw to this reader than the stuff you keep crafting those long sentences, which, to be sure, I hadn't even noticed were of above average length, because so well-crafted. You hone your ability by writing a lengthy blog several times a week, and the practice seems to pay off. There was a single typo in this latest blog entry: "But even when people have bad moral, such is the Islamists..." (it should have been "such as"). This is the only typo I have seen in any of your writing. Quite a feat of editing. The artistry of good writing and editing makes a spiritual statement that trancends even the didatctic or intended content of the prose, I think. It is a "mathematics" of sorts that Heidigger himself might have appreciated. You are a manifestation like any other, and I do like to see a manifestation that exhibits sheer artistry. 11:51 PM

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Instant graphic novel

Touch of Genius Mukul Sharma The Times of India 29 Jul, 2006
Can't wait to see your favourite novel made into a movie? Very soon you probably won't have to. You could simply scan and digitise the whole book and feed it into a computer to get an instant multimedia screen experience. Well, maybe not with your favourite cast and director too. But researchers at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland have created a unique software package that can automatically transform English text into 3D computer animation.
Sort of like getting an instant graphic novel that's also on the move and with real sound. According to Professor Paul McKevitt, who did the main work developing the software, it understands natural-language English input and automatically maps it into 3D multimedia presentations. It can be used in something as simple as bringing a child's story to life or as an educational tool to allow students to view literature from different perspectives.
It could also have applications for teaching languages and creating interactive city maps. Film-makers too could use the technology to produce vivid animated storyboards from screenplays so that directors may experiment with viewing different scenes from different angles in different backgrounds before the actors are even brought on the set.
What is the future for such mind-boggling technology? Take machine translation for instance, with which it shares a conceptual similarity. Today, computers can translate most straightforward text without losing much of the meaning; they don't however do a very good job recreating nuances of meaning from one language to another.
But even that day is not too far off when a software Edward Fitzgerald could be expected to pull off its own Rubaiyat on an original Omar Khayyam and no one would know the difference. In the same vein the Ulster program can at present make only a rudimentary moving rendition of text. But since it utilises techniques from film editing and theatre for narrative montage to perform cuts, pan shots, imagery and even voice-overs, its grammar becomes almost the syntax of normal film-making.
Meaning, when that happens why would we require human film-makers? "For that human touch that can only come from a human brain", some would say. But by that time the human brain would already be having implants to boost memory, process data faster, perhaps even heighten creativity. So what touch are we talking

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Sri Aurobindo Institute of Mass Communication

Monday, June 12, 2006 The best entertainers The Hyderabad Film Club screened 15 films on two days - eight on the first day and the remaining on the second. Here are the synopses of some of the movies that got a good response from the viewers:
  • SLICE OF LIFE: A young cobbler gets a gift from a couple when he returns them their bag they forget at his shop. He eagerly closes the business for the day to give the gift to his young sister at home. Just at the moment as he and his sister open the pack and eat the cookies, their elder brother bullies the boy for leaving work. He thinks the boy spent his day’s earnings on the cookies. The sweetness of the movie lies at the end when the boy opens his fist to give a battered cookie to his sister even after being severely assaulted by his elder brother. The 10 min 40 sec-movie in Malayalam was directed by Sagir Krishnan, who graduated from Chetana Media Institute in 2003. It won the Special Appreciation award.
  • SAPERA: It is a documentary on snake charmers well picturised in a village in Uttar Pradesh. Directed by Ravish Kumar and scripted by Vivek Mishra and Ravish Kumar, it won a Special Appreciation award. The duration was 18 min 38 sec.
  • XENO: The film portrays the feeling of dislike towards the Muslims.It has no dialogues and depicts a scene in a restaurant. Two persons siting there suspect a man who appears a Muslim when he goes out of the restaurant, leaving his bag ther. A beep comes from the bag. Suspecting it to be an explosive, the two search the bag only to find a cell phone ringing. The 8-min movie was directed by Albert Kurian and produced by Chetana Media. It was adjudged the best film on communalism.
  • BHENT (The Gift): The Marathi film starts with a kid telling his uncle how he has stored a shell gifted to him by the latter a year before. ‘‘I didn’t give it to anybody,’’ he tells his uncle proudly. His uncle gives him Rs 10 to eat an ice cream.The boy goes to a restaurant and orders an ice cream. While eating it, he observes the waiter there who is busy taking orders from customers and serving them the food. He also observes how the waiter gets disappointed when the customers go without giving him a tip. Meanwhile, the waiter gives the boy the bill. The boy gives the Rs 10 note and gets back Rs 1 as change. He looks at the coin and in the next scene we see the tip the kid left for the waiter - it is not the coin, but the shell which his uncle had given him a year back and which had been his priced possession.The boy in the film looks natural and innocent. The 7 min 35 sec film, directed by Anand Pande and produced by the department of Communication Studies, University of Pune, was adjudged the best short fiction film.
  • EARLY MEN: The film is a documentary on newspaper boys, who work even at 0.2 degrees temperature in the winter of Delhi. The unique feature of the documentary is, it has neither a voice-over nor any dialogues. The viewer follows the story only through the conversation of the newspaper boys. The 8 min 12 sec long film was directed by Karan Thapliyal and Souveek and produced by Sri Aurobindo Institute of Mass Communication in film studies. It won the best short non-fiction film award.

The last two movies received overwhelming response from the viewers at the Prasad Labs. Source: Indiavarta

Vulgarity and banality is crossing all limits

Checking degeneration: The Orissa Cine Critic Association criticised the vulgarity in Oriya cinema and music The Hindu Friday, Jun 17, 2005
It is now the time of remakes and remixes. Oriya cinema and music have been vitiated by crass commercialisation because of some dubious elements. The vulgarity and banality is crossing all limits. So, Orissa Cine Critic Association took up the cudgels on behalf of the audience looking for healthy entertainment by organising a seminar where the State Culture Minister was given a memorandum to act on.
It was proposed that tax rebate should only be available to original Oriya films and not remakes. A censor board to screen music should be immediately formed comprising lyricists, composers, music critics, etc. A similar censor committee should keep tabs on the video albums keeping in view the vulgarity of costumes, poses and lyrics. CDs cleared by the committee can only be telecast in various channels including the Doordarshan.
Eminent filmmaker Prashant Nanda, ace musician Prafulla Kar and actor George Tiadi came down heavily on the corruption in films and music, and urged the government to come up with sanctions against such makers and cassette companies. Cine critic association secretary Dillip Hali, highlighting the steps being taken in Maharashtra, asked the Government to come up with remedial measures immediately in the light of the memorandum presented. The event was organised in collaboration with the cultural outfit `Sanskruti O Sanskruti'. B.M.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Demoting the question of dream and life to madness and delusion

Terry Gilliam’s 1985 film Brazil makes a profound declaration about the poverty of modern living. Clearly Orwellian, it portrays an atomized society where the people are subjugated to a system of deceptive images and technological barriers that isolate them from each other both physically and psychologically. As a critique Brazil seems more relevant today than when originally released. With plastic surgery and shopping all the rage, clever propaganda posted on every street corner, an unbearable paranoia regarding terrorism, and the acceptance of torture as a means of persuasion, the world of Brazil is only a slightly exaggerated version of the world we live in.
Stuck within this autocratic machine is the film’s protagonist, Sam Lowry, a dreamer and slacker, unconsciously searching for a way out. Suffering from a severe case of boredom Lowry often lapses into the dream state, where he has reoccurring fantasies of a particular woman he has never met. When he finally has a chance encounter with that woman, the scruffy Jill Layton, he is shaken from his weariness into a state of extreme giddiness, like someone who has fallen in love for the first time. Although Lowry never questions his position as a government agent he is quick to abuse that position in his romantic pursuit of Layton, and is even willing to cast it aside when he has convinced himself she is a terrorist. It is Lowry’s passionate drive towards Layton that gets him labeled a subversive by his peers, leading to his mental breakdown at the hands of an irrational government. While his eruption is a failure, snuffed out by the power of a totalitarian state, it is still genuine and raw, driven by a need for love, freedom, and poetry.
As a surrealist I have always identified with Lowry who, in spite of the corruption around him, persistently and magnetically follows his personal quest for love. Like Lowry, we too live in a corrupt terrain of technological overgrowth and psychological misery. Lowry sabotages this setting by opting to follow the trajectory of his dreams into his everyday life. Unfortunately, when all hope is lost, his dreams engulf, rather than harmonize with, his daily existence, demoting the question of dream and life to one of madness and delusion. Regardless of this closure, Lowry’s rejection of the reality those in power have created is a reminder to us that no system which undermines freedom can provide us with the intrinsic, emotive factors needed for the actualization of real life. Brandon Freels Friday, May 05, 2006 Has Anybody Seen Sam Lowry? Flying Stone1:24 AM also

Saturday, July 22, 2006

To make theatre, one has to share space with living people

MOHAN MAHARISHI The Hindu Friday Review Delhi Friday, Jul 21, 2006
It is quite true that all of us would like to live in a society where culture in general and theatre in particular plays a significant role in negotiating social tensions, while defining our relationship with the whole psycho-spiritual environment we live in. Enlightening and entertaining people is the long established function of all art forms, especially theatre.
Even if the reader wishes to discount the bias of a theatre person (who, all his life, has done nothing to earn his bread except creating theatre) most would agree that theatre is an art form that has more direct relationship with the living impulses of a given society. It is so because not only is its site of exhibition social (as a theatrical event unfolds before a live audience), but the site of its making, unlike other art forms, is also social. Making theatre is not a job that one can do alone, hidden away in a studio or in the solitude of the Himalayas.
To make theatre, one has to come down to earth and share space with living people. It is a group work and demands creative interaction at every stage with the whole lot of other people. The final product, if there is ever one, is the result of months of colluding between thoroughly trained and exceptionally talented individuals.Good theatre demands the highest form of co-operation between creative human beings. How does one create an environment where this kind of activity is initiated and sustained over a period of time?
One cannot blame the young theatre graduates for having opted out for greener pastures. One could probably avoid that if theatre were a viable career option. The absence of professional theatre companies in the country leaves no alternative before a trained and talented young actor. After all, he too is responding to an overall social situation where success in terms of money and fame is idealised.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

India is a state of idea, a metaphysic

If I were asked who was the greatest Indian novelist of the 20th century, I would undoubtedly point to Raja Rao -- who passed away Saturday July 8th 2006 in Austin, Texas, just two years short of the century mark. Alone among all other writers of his time, including Mulk Raj Anand and R.K.Narayan, it was his destiny to unfold a profound insight for many readers into the eternal India. And in this, his works stand in contrast to the many new Indian novelists who see India through Western or Westernized eyes.
What makes Raja Rao’s unique is not just the highly innovative, experimental, and dynamic English prose style that he developed much before Salman Rushdie, but the deeply spiritual content of his works. His spirituality is not of a New Age feel good kind, but philosophically rigorous. He is a novelist of ideas, but the idea is always suggestive of something beyond itself, pointing, ultimately, to the Absolute.
As Professor Makarand Paranjape of Jawaharlal Nehru University tells us: “Raja Rao considered his writing a sadhana, a spiritual discipline. Reading him is also a sadhana. Like the great Russian writers Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, his fiction elevates the spirit, taking the reader to a higher plane of consciousness."
In many ways he was the quintessential writer of the Great Indian Diaspora, a harbinger for the likes of Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Bharati Mukherji, Jhumpa Lahiri and many others who followed. His legacy lingers; but, sadly, few of the modern writers, who crowd the literary marketplace, are aware of or acknowledge this legacy. And long before writers such as Rushdie made it trendy, Rao was infusing unique Indian literary genres, including interior monologue, retrospective narrative and symbolism, into the narrative of English fiction.
In India Raja Rao would be, as he himself once put it, "somewhat important." But he chose to live in a modest apartment on Pearl Street in Austin, Texas, where he was on the faculty at the University of Texas from 1966 to 1980. When he retired as professor emeritus, he continued to make his home in Austin -- where both his sons were born. ..."India," according to Raja Rao, "is not a nation, like France or Italy or Germany: India is a state of being..." On another occasion he wrote that India is ‘an idea, a metaphysic. My India I carried wheresoever I went…’
India, Raja Rao implied, is open to whoever can attain it, wherever they may be. And reading his works was an invitation to taste that eternal India – of the Mahabharatha and Ramayana, of the Upanishads, of Sankara, of Aurobindo, of Tagore, of Vivekananda, and of Gandhi.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I find it difficult to stay with myself

Two's company: As the pen of Oriya writer Devdas Chhotray overflows with "Longing", HUMRA QURAISHI finds that bureaucrats can be poets and artists can be self-effacing too The Hindu Metro Plus Thursday, Apr 01, 2004
ARCHITECT-ARTIST Prafulla Mohanti and bureaucrat-writer Devdas Chhotray don't give the slightest hint that they are great masters in the field of creativity, tending to speak of just about anything and everything except themselves. Recently their talent came to light when a book of poems titled "Longing" by Chhotray with illustrations by Mohanti was released in New Delhi. Mohanti has also translated the poems from the original Oriya.
If you were to ask Devdas, a senior bureaucrat, what makes him delve into that sort of romantic verse, he reveals he has been writing poetry and short stories for almost three decades and has provided lyrics for at least 75 Oriya films and written scripts of several films including "Shadows of the Rainbow" which was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995.
He is also the son of the well-known Oriya personality Gopal Chottaray. "You could say I have it in my blood. My mentor has been the well-known music director Akshay Mohanty, and often I 'd composed the lyrics over the phone." There is an upsurge of sentiments hidden in his simple lines of poetry. Each poem is direct, with that longing of great intensity. The central character of Mallika remains unchanged in these poetic lines. But Devdas tries to brush off any inquisitive queries. "No, Mallika is just an imaginary character."
But Devdas's yearning seems absolutely intense, as though matching his classical name and his romantic temperament, which seems bordering on restlessness. "I find it difficult to stay with myself," is how he puts it. As to why Oriya talent doesn't reach the mainstream, both these men have this to say: "Orissa earlier remained backward because of historical reasons, and even now the Government is not interested in the promotion of arts and culture of the State."
But apolitical men like Prafulla seem to be doing their bit, for though he is based in London, he makes it a point to come to his Orissa village Nanpur, staying there for three months, running a village school and arts centre there, with his English friend Derrick Moore. Let's not forget that Prafulla Mohanti is the author of works like "My Village, My life", "Indian Village Tales", "Changing Life", "Through Brown Eyes".
If Prafulla is himself a writer then why did he take on the task of translating his friend Devdas 's poems? "I have enjoyed Devdas' poetry for a long time and he has generously allowed me to interpret, rather than translate these poems into English, using my own imagination. My aim has been to give expression to the rich imagery of these sensuous poems of Devdas and offer them a wider public. My drawings are not illustrations. They are evocations of the general effect of the poems on my artistic sensibility."

Fidelity by itself is a kill-joy virtue

An unseasonal fruit The HarperCollins Book of Oriya Short Stories, 1998, Reviewer: DEVDAS CHHOTRAY Biblio MAY - JUNE 1999
Early in life, when I would plunge into reading of classics translated into the vernacular, particularly Oriya, and find large tracts unreadable, someone consoled me by saying that translation is a woman who is either faithful or beautiful, but seldom both. As I grew up, and relished more bawdy jokes, and read more Oscar Wilde, I too believed that it is better to be good looking than good; and fidelity by itself is a kill-joy virtue.
Therefore, I veered away from reading of translated works, more so when it dealt with Oriya, on account of its insufficient osmosis, which occured often. The other reason that did not exactly spur me to grab the Harper Collins Book of Oriya Short Stories (for instant reading) is the fact that most of the stories selected from works of veteran writers have become well-worn, after years of reading in school texts, and thus the curiosity was halved. So the book was left on the table after a brief rummage, which accounts for its delayed review.
What however brought me back again and again to the book is the lure of the cover by Brinda Datta, a jacket draped in the conch shell motif of traditional Oriya sarees in an aquamarine shade, unostentatious but elegant, which no Oriya can resist. Besides, my young son, who is much less an Oriya by upbringing, and hardly tied to books, greatly surprised me by devouring nine out of the 31 stories in one go. Then it was my turn.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Several more lives to live

Essay: Misery Loves a Memoir By BENJAMIN KUNKEL The New York Times : July 16, 2006
It's no news, of course, that so many recent memoirs, good and bad, well or execrably written, deal with hurt and healing. But when so many memoirists are busy confessing to so much, we easily miss what the form has come to exclude. Contemporary memoirs tend to be either convalescent or nostalgic in mood. (It's as Augustine said in his "Confessions": "I remember with joy a sadness that has passed and with sadness a lost joy.") But is there nothing more to life than recovery and grief? Is there no idea of the good life we can sustain beyond the possession of health? To understand what's gone missing, it's useful to recall something about the turn of the 19th century.
It was then that secular autobiographies — we call them memoirs — first attained something like their contemporary prominence. There had been a few before 1800 (for instance those of Benjamin Franklin and Edward Gibbon, and of course Casanova and Rousseau), but in English it was Wordsworth especially, in "The Prelude," who discovered that the self could provide a "heroic argument." By this he meant that the theme of an individual's growth could claim all the dignity and moment traditionally accorded battles in heaven or on earth.
Wordsworth and the other Romantics took the form of Augustine's "Confessions" and threw out the devotional content. They retained the down-up shape of crisis and recovery, but instead of an accession to godliness the pilgrim came into restored wholeness and an awareness of vocation. Contemporary writers agree with Wordsworth on the supreme importance of "what passed within me," just as their direct manner was pioneered by him: "I speak bare truth / As if to thee alone in private talk." But how crabbed our memoirists' ambitions are compared to his! The maintenance of recovered health is a narrow vocation, and as for nostalgia, it's only nostalgia.
For the Romantics, you lost your way in life not when you began to take drugs, leak self-esteem or be ill-used by your intimates. For them, the crisis was immediate and general: to be a functioning adult in a corrupt society was to be far gone already. They sought a return not to mere sanity, but to a state of being that had scarcely yet existed. Psychologically and politically, the young Romantics were revolutionaries. Indeed, the culture of secular autobiography and the ideal of radical democracy emerged roughly together: now it was up to the individual to say what a good life might be and how society might allow one.
The best and most Romantic memoir an American has produced is "Walden" — though nobody calls it one. But it is: Here is what I did with a few years of my life and how I feel about it now. What Thoreau has to overcome during his time in the woods is not a lapse in mental health. His great problem is to escape the mental health of his neighbors, their collection-plate opinions, their studious repetition of gossip.
Thoreau isn't against self-esteem (he admires a friend who has learned to "treat himself with ever increasing respect"); but his main task is to lose his esteem for society in which "trade curses everything it handles" and the singular natural resource of time is wasted in barren productivity. Maybe he had vices out there in the woods, but that's not his concern, or ours. The overwhelming impression is of his philosophical ardor, which he tries to fuse with his practical ardor. There's not a note in the book of self-pity, or nostalgia. And why did he quit his cabin in the end? "It seemed to me that I had several more lives to live." 12 Benjamin Kunkel is an editor of n+1 magazine and the author of "Indecision," a novel.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Inscape: seeing with exactitude

Poets have always understood that by indwelling in nature we can intuit what dwells within nature--we are always swimming in a sea of clues that point beyond themselves to a hidden reality to which the clues point. By attending to things and events in a certain way, we allow them to "speak" to us, and this in turn informs us about their nature.
The English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins coined the term "inscape" to refer to this more intense experience of observing things in such a way that their intrinsic qualities emerge. He believed, for example, that by allowing one's attention to be drawn to a bird in flight, a tree, or a landscape, we allow their character to act upon us through a union of the inner and outer worlds. Similarly, Goethe argued that we discover the true nature of things through a contemplative kind of looking he called "seeing with exactitude." By doing this, we can open ourselves to what the cosmos is telling us about itself.
This has obvious theological implications. For example, what is scripture but an exterior narrative that tells us of the within--the inner nature--of God? ...As the poet Novalis put it, "The seat of the soul is where the inner world and the outer world meet." If you are feeling boxed in by the materialistic paradigm of modernity, know that you may escape it any time through the many inscapes that surround us. posted by Gagdad Bob at 7:31 AM

Same evil, new axis

It is absurd that contemporary scholars continue to convey flattering ideas about ancient Greece and Rome. Being that they are mostly secularized minds, they do not understand the real drama of history: the struggle between darkness visible and uncreated light...
The literature of antiquity abounds with details of how it was necessary to beat children in order to drive the demons out of their minds. One book notes that “When the Emperor Diocletian became ill in 303 AD, the state required a general sacrifice. Anyone who did not sacrifice a child during the Emperor’s illness would be immediately executed.” When he was 22, Nero murdered his own mother out of fear that she would kill him first. Nero and Caligula inaugurated so many grotesque cruelties that I don't think I want to even mention them. It will ruin your day.
Crucifixion was the product of the most lingering and painful death the Romans were capable of imagining in their sadistic minds. Although they didn't invent it, they perfected the process, making it as slow and agonizing as possible. The length of survival on the cross might go on for as long as four days, with insects burrowing into open wounds and birds of prey tearing at the victim. I could go on, but I won’t. You’ve probably seen the Passion of the Christ anyway.
“Thou shall not murder” made no sense whatsoever to the Romans. Nor did “I am the light, the way, the truth.” Has anything really changed? Same evil, new axis. Some people need to see the darkness before they can appreciate the light. If so, be sure and read LGF every day for dispatches from the front, where light does battle with the absolute darkness of our enemies--enemies of humanity, enemies of God, enemies of the light, enemies of progress, and enemies of all that is decent and holy. posted by Gagdad Bob at 6:58 AM 13 comments

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A fresh definition of sensuality in motion

Alvin Ailey Dancers Turn Up the Heat at Paris Festival
PARIS, July 5 — There was color, passion, lyricism, energy and loads of talent, but what really won over a large crowd of Parisians to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater this week was something all too often overlooked amid the abstraction and intellectualism of contemporary dance. Sexiness.
True, the French are meant to be experts in these matters. And love, sex and eroticism all parade noisily through French advertising, literature and movies. Yet on Tuesday, with the first of five programs being presented here through July 22, the Ailey dancers offered Parisians a fresh definition of sensuality in motion. No doubt it helped that this week's program revolves around jazz. So amid lifts, leaps, spins and arabesques, there was jive, mambo, merengue and more. Put differently, on display was modern classical dance with wiggles galore.
While no stranger to Paris, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is the guest company for the second edition of a new summer festival called Les Étés de la Danse de Paris. Last year's featured company, the San Francisco Ballet, proved an immense success. Now Alvin Ailey is offering a quite different look at American dance today.
For some years now dance has probably been America's most appreciated cultural export to France. Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, Bill T. Jones, Trisha Brown and Lucinda Childs all have huge followings here. And with 20,000 people attending the San Francisco Ballet performances last year, the stage was set to welcome the Ailey troupe this month.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fruitful dissatisfaction with fossilised ways of life

A recurring figure in modern literature is that of the Questioning or Dissatisfied man - distanced, for this or that reason, from the customs and codes of his own society, but also rendered strangely immobile, apathetic, rootless by his rebellion, and almost chronically discontented and splenetic, ill at ease wherever he goes and whatever he does - the figure, in other words, of an alienated human being. But this condition, while never pleasant, is nevertheless a fashionable attitude towards life, which is why it is the task of readers coming across this predicament in literature, whether in autobiography or even fiction (for fiction can be untruthful), to judge whether it is genuine or merely a pose - fruitful dissatisfaction with fossilised ways of life, or merely the caterwauling of a selfish being.

The unity of discrete literary formations

Genealogies of Indian Literature P P RAVEENDRAN Economic and Political Weekly June 24, 2006
Indian scholars who have theorised Indian literature in diverse ways in the 20th century include K R Srinivasa Iyengar, Sri Aurobindo, Krishna Kripalani, Umashankar Joshi, V K Gokak, Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, Sujit Mukherjee, Sisir Kumar Das, G N Devy and Aijaz Ahmad. Most of these scholars with the obvious exception of Aijaz Ahmad, whose sensitive and highly nuanced elaboration of the category of “Indian literature” is in effect an acknowledgement of the impossibility of positing such a category, arrive at the broad possibility of conceiving an Indian literature either as the expression of an essential Indian culture or as the unity of discrete literary formations.
The reformist-nationalist- modernity projects that were under way in all parts of India in the early 20th century acted as a great unifying force at this juncture. So did the progressive literary movement (Indian Progressive Writers Association, IPWA), which launched in 1939 a journal under the title New Indian Literature from Lucknow. Since its inception in 1954, the Sahitya Akademi, under the tutelage of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was also the first president of the Akademi, has been propagating the idea of the unity of Indian literature by using the slogan “Indian literature is one though written in many languages”. The title of the Akademi’s journal Indian Literature, echoing the name of its short-lived IPWA forerunner, is more than symbolic in this sense.
That Indian literature as a theoretical category was constituted in the 19th century would nowadays be disputed only by bigoted adherents of cultural revivalism. Many thinkers of liberal persuasion can be seen, sometimes explicitly, but more often implicitly, to be opposing this bigotry. Sisir Kumar Das’s move in publishing the last two volumes, the ones pertaining to the period since 1800, of his projected multi-volume history of Indian literature can be read as an implicit criticism of this bigotry.