Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sonorous effusions of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri

YOUR OWN DIVIDED FACE - Discomfort with the either/or lies at the heart of Jejuri TELLING TALES AMIT CHAUDHURI This is the introduction to the New York Review of Books Classics reissue of Jejuri.
A generation of Indian poets in English (A.K. Ramanujan, Mehrotra, Kolatkar) had turned to the idiosyncratic language, and the capacity for eye-level attentiveness, of American poetry to create yet another mongrel Indian diction — to reorder familiar experience, and to fashion a demotic that escaped the echoes of both Queen’s English and the sonorous effusions of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri and the poorly-translated but ubiquitous Gitanjali of Tagore; to bypass, as it were, the expectations that terms like ‘English literature’ and ‘Indian culture’ raised...
I’ve said that in the larger unfolding story of the independent nation, writing poetry in English was a minor, marginal and occasionally controversial activity. This remained so in spite of Nissim Ezekiel’s attempts to invest the enterprise with seriousness, to stir Anglophone readers as well as writers in the vernaculars, both of whom were busy with more important projects, to see it as something more than, at best, a genteel and harmless preoccupation; at worst, as a waste of time, even a betrayal. Ezekiel defied this combination of indifference and moral and nationalistic chauvinism with a critical puritanism, and had a small measure of success. But marginal endeavours have their own excitements, disappointments, and dangers.

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