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Writing Matters: In conversation with Dr Gopi Chand Narang

By Rahman Abbas

K7

‘To write is to fight…’

Dr Gopi Chand Narang (born 11 February 1931) is one of the finest literary critics in the history of modern Urdu criticism. His works deal with the cultural study of classics, stylistics, oriental poetics, post-modernism, structuralism and post-structuralism. He has taught at Delhi University, University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota, University of Oslo and Jamia Millia Islamia University, and in 2005, the University of Delhi named him Professor Emeritus. He is also Professor Emeritus at the Jamia Millia Islamia. The Aligarh Muslim University, Central University of Hyderabad and the Maulana Azad National Urdu University have conferred D.Litt. Honorus Causa on him. He is the only writer who has been decorated by the President of Pakistan as Sitara-e Imtiyaaz and by the President of India with the Padma Bhushan and Padma Sri. He was vice-chairman of the Delhi Urdu Academy (1996-1999) and the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language-HRD (1998-2004), and Vice-president (1998-2002) and President (2003-2007) of the Sahitya Akademi, National Academy of Letters. His important books includes Urdu Zabaan aur Lisaniyaat (2006), Taraqqi Pasandi, Jadidiat, Maba’d-e-Jadidiat (2004), Urdu Ghazal aur Hindustani Zehn-o-Tehzeeb (2002), Sakhtiyat, Pas-Sakhtiyataur Mashriqui Sheriyat (1993), Adabi Tanqeed Aur Usloobiyat (1989), Amir Khusrow ka Hindavi Kalaam (1987), Saniha-e-Karbala bataur Sheri Isti’ara (1986), Usloobiyat-e-Mir (1985), Hindustani Qisson se Makhooz Urdu Masnaviyan (1961) and others.

His seminal work on Mirza Ghalib – Ghalib: Ma’ni-Afrini, Jadliyaati Waza, Shunyata aur Sheriyaat (Ghalib: Innovative Meaning, Mind, Dialectical Thought & Poetics (2013) has been considered a milestone in understanding Ghalib. Besides the Padma Bhushan (2004) and Padma Shri (1990), Narang has received hundreds of awards across the globe – Bharatiya Jnanpith Moorti Devi Award (2012), Madhya Pradesh Iqbal Samman (2011), the European Urdu Writers’ Society Award (London, 2005), Mazzini Gold Medal (Italy, 2005), Alami Faroghe-e-Urdu Adab Award (Doha, 1998), Sahitya Akademi Award (1995), Amir Khusrow Award (Chicago, 1987), Canadian Academy of Urdu Language and Literature Award (Toronto, 1987), Ghalib Institute Ghalib Award (1985), and the Association of Asian Studies (Mid-Atlantic Region) Award (US, 1982). Besides India and Pakistan, he has made presentations almost all over Europe, USA, Canada as well as Russia, Uzbekistan, China and Japan.

 

 

Rahman Abbas: You are the most discussed literary critic in the world of Urdu literature. How do you assess this unparalleled journey of your life which started from Balochistan when the subcontinent was undivided? Could you also put some light upon your early connections with Urdu?

Gopi Chand Narang:   I am simply a lover of Urdu. I was born in Balochistan. My mother tongue is Saraiki, but my father spoke Baluchi and Pushto. He was a scholar of Persian and Sanskrit as well. I was brought up in a multi-lingual, multi-cultural environ. The common speech of bazaar and school was Hindustani and Urdu. Language is nobody’s monopoly. It belongs to whosoever loves it. The newly independent India gave hope to many young people like me that there would be ample opportunities for fulfilling our ideals and aspirations. The Urdu Department at the Delhi University had come into being at the personal intervention of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who was Minister of Education, also played a role in this. As I later pursued my doctoral degree, I was extremely fortunate to have had guidance and patronage of some of the brightest minds of that time, including Dr. Zakir Husain (who later became President of India), Dr. Tara Chand, Dr. Syed Abid Husain, Prof. Mohd. Mujeeb, Khwaja Ghulamus Syeddain, Dr. Khwaja Ahmad Faruqi, Sajjad Zaheer, Prof. Ale Ahmad Suroor, Syed Ehtisham Husain, Maulana Imtiaz Ali Arshi, Qazi Abdul Wudood, Malik Ram, Masood Hasan Rizvi Adeeb, Najeeb Ashraf Nadvi, and Dr. Syed Mohiuddin Qadri Zore. These people symbolized values of our composite Indian heritage and they were true role models of our highest ideals. When I look back and remember these unique personalities, I cannot but feel very fortunate for having had them as my patrons and role models.

Rahman Abbas: Some years ago, due to your stark criticism of the fake modernism in Urdu, you were personally targeted. It was unfortunate that instead of countering your opinions, your minority identity was targeted. Did that affect you? What was your reaction then and now?

Gopi Chand Narang: It is a sad story. As a young writer you must have witnessed all that happened. As long as Ale Ahmed Suroor, Khalil ur Rahman Azmi, Waheed Akhtar, Sulema Arib, Mahmood Ayaz and some seniors were alive and active, they wanted to develop a dynamic model which was alive to India’s  new social and pluralistic needs. But soon after, when Shams ur Rahman Faruqi and his journal Shab-Khoon took over, a period of misconceived notions and a hidden agenda of sectarian fake modernism set in. This is a period of great turmoil and overlapping. Faruqi with his arrogant self-esteem, one-upmanship and know all bravado started polemics which had more sound than sense. He and his cronies, through over heated debates, set flawed standards for fiction, poetry and ghazal.  This confused and misguided a whole lot of promising young writers. Waris Alvi, Baqar Mehdi and some others resisted but they had no theoretical base. At this stage, avoiding labeling and indulging in the misguiding polemics, I switched from my earlier cultural studies and stylistics base and started writing on Theory (both Western and Oriental) and postmodernism. Across the border, Wazir Agha, Qamar Jameel, Intezar Husain, Jameeluddin Azmi, Zamir Ali Badayuni, Faheem Azmi and many other genuine writers joined hands. We wanted to respond to the new social and epistemological shift absorbing the new light of the times, stressing the freedom of the creative voice of the writer, while constructing a genuine model which should be alive to our own pluralistic cultural, realistic and truly subversive, ingenious and in tune with our practical complex social concerns.

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English kills the creativity of a bhasha-writer, says Sahitya Akademi president

Kannada writer Chandrashekhara Kambara dons many hats. He is a poet, playwright, novelist and critic who has been honoured with the Padmashree, Sahitya Akademi Award, Kabir Samman and the Jnanpith Award. Kambara has been passionate in his advocacy of the regional traditions of art and literature, and of plurality in social structure. Recently elected the president of Sahitya Akademi, when I met him at its regional office in Bengaluru, he firmly defended the Akademi’s autonomy and underlined the necessity of writing in one’s mother tongue.

You are heading this institution at a time when there is a strong feeling among writers and thinkers that freedom of expression is under threat and that the Sahitya Akademi has remained a “passive, powerless body.” How do you view this?

There are many issues involved here, and I shall try to be brief in explaining them. First, the Sahitya Akademi is a non-partisan and non-political institution, and its sole function is to “develop literature and literary culture in all Indian languages and to promote through them plurality and cultural unity of the country.” You cannot expect one institution to do the job of another. Secondly, it is an autonomous and independent body…

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An alternative whose time has come

By Shafey Kidwai

The launch of Gramaalok and Sabuj Sahitya is destined to produce a nuanced narrative of self-exploration which is hardly showcased by the profit and sponsorship conscious organisers of literary festivals.

Does unprecedented galore of literary festivals articulate an intense feeling for cultivating a vibrant reading culture in an era of digital literacy? Can they be reckoned as proxy for universities and other public spaces which not very long ago were used for frank discussions on unsavoury truths? Is the very existence of intellectual conclave being used as a subterfuge by big corporate houses to further their commercial interests in a world fast turning into an ultra-modern global megalopolis? The answer is a definite ‘yes’ and it prompts the parliament of Indian authors “ Sahitya Akademi” to provide an avant-grade congregation. Recently Indian Academy of Letters launched a new literary co-action called Graamalok featuring both authors and readers to thwart the attempts of manipulating literature for making big bugs that has almost become a norm. It is an alternative narrative meant for creating a taste for literature in the remote areas of the country which are conveniently ignored by the organisers. Read more

Source: The Hindu


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India: Brahmaputra Literary Festival in Feb

Assam is all set to host the Brahmaputra Literary Festival (BLF) with more than 150 authors from within and outside the country scheduled to participate in the three-day literary extravaganza beginning here from February 28.

”We have aimed to make the festival a landmark event of the country’s literary calendar, which will not only expose people to interact with famed litterateurs but also take literature of the North East to the rest of the country and the world,” National Book Trust (NBT) Director and a Sahitya Akademi winning Assamese author Dr Rita Choudhury, told PTI.

The festival will be inaugurated by Union Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javedkar.

The festival is being organised jointly by the NBT and Assam government and will host 60 panel discussions, host of book releases, book readings and culture festivals including screenings of films based on books, musical and dance performances. Read more

Source: Business Standard


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India: Why a Marathi childhood is incomplete without Madhuri Purandare’s books

By Pooja Pillai

madhuri-purandare

Madhuri Purandare is rarely to be found among children. The writer and illustrator has a “long distance” relationship with her readership. “It’s not as if I maintain this distance deliberately,” says the 64-year-old. And it has not made a difference to her work. Purandare is one of the most successful writers for children in Marathi literature, and has had her works translated into English, Urdu, Kannada, Assamese, Telugu and Hindi. Besides notable works like Babachya Mishya, Radhach Ghar and Chitravachan, the Pune-based writer also conceived and edited Vaachu Anande, an anthology for children that juxtaposes classics of Marathi literature with iconic artwork from across India. For her contributions to children’s literature, she won the Sahitya Akademi’s Bal Sahitya Puraskar in 2014, and more recently, the first Big Little Book Award instituted by Parag, an initiative of the Tata Trusts.

As is evident from her stories, Purandare sees children as they really are: individuals with strong likes and dislikes, who do not like being talked down to and who are not universally adorable. “Her stories have a sense of rhythm and flow. They are very visual as well, making it easy for even struggling readers to comprehend,” says Shubhada Joshi, founder of the Pune-based alternative school Khelghar, which uses Purandare’s books in its reading programmes. Joshi says, “Every story takes you into a child’s world, shows you how she perceives the world. Her writing creates opportunities for children to ask questions and think independently. Her work also gives parents and teachers an insight into a child’s imagination.” Read more

Source: The Indian Express


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Journey of a Complete Poet: K Satchidanandan

By Arti Das

poet

Veteran Malayalam poet K Satchidanandan is here at the ongoing Goa Art and Literature Festival (GALF) 2016. In a candid chat with NT BUZZ he speaks about poetry, challenges of translations, socio-political scenario and what it takes to be a complete poet.

Veteran Malayalam poet K Satchidanandan is a pioneer of modern poetry in Malayalam, a bilingual literary critic, playwright, editor, columnist and translator, former editor of Indian Literature journal and the former Secretary of Sahitya Akademi, believes that due to internet and social media there has emerged a new audience for poetry in the country. But, at the same time it has made the world of the poets limited to their comforts of mutual admirations in the virtual world. He says: “Now with internet and especially blogs many poets are getting a platform to publish their work. But, it has made their reach limited. Their work is generally liked and shared by friends and thus there is no meaningful critique of their work, which we were exposed to. This can mislead a poet.” K Satchidanandan is here in Goa for the VII edition of GALF and also to deliver a lecture today at MOG.

Looking at the positives of social media he points out that in Kerala especially among Malayalam poets, they have invented new forms of poetry. Here the poems are presented in a multi-media format with audio-visuals, clipping of a film, painting and even audio recitation of the poetry. All these new formats and democratisation to publish the work is a move to engage the audience and also gives a new lease of life to poetry and also garners a new breed of audience. “It is making popular, accessible and democratic, but may not be raising quality of poetry,” he says. Read more

Source: The Navhind Times


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Nation’s diversity is under attack: Writer Nayantara Sahgal at Chandigarh litfest

Borrowing from Nobel prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s notion of the human race, noted writer Nayantara Sahgal said India was home to many cultures, races and lifestyle, hence producing a civilisation from where their writing comes. “It is this diversity that is under attack and not merely a group of writers,” said the irrepressible Sahgal, who returned the Sahitya Akademi award last year.

During a panel discussion on ‘Freedom and The Writer’ on the opening day of the Chandigarh Literature Festival 2016, at the Chandigarh Club, Sahgal, niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, said there was an attempt to make writers a monochrome of sorts.

The panel included novelistbplaywright and film critic Kiran Nagarkar; Mumbai Mirror editor Meenal Baghel and was moderated by Harper Collins chief editor VK Karthika.

Speaking against the mob rule against her clan, she cited an incident where students of Central University of Haryana, Mahendragarh, protested after two professors were reprimanded for staging play ‘Drapaudi’ that focuses on the plight of an Adivasi woman who suffers at the hand of the state and the army.

“This needs to stop happening in the name of ‘nationalism’,” lamented Sahgal, to which Karthika asked where was everyone when painter MF Hussain was forced to go into exile and if the community continued to be as ‘passive’ despite realising the implications. Read more


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No place for language chauvinism in India

”Is English really an Indian language?” Does this need a debate?

Many believe it does not, for English has been part of life in India. Some still dub it as the language of the elite while many find English as a language of opportunity. To cut the long story short, English’s place in India, after 70 years of Independence, continues to make for riveting discussion. That’s exactly what happened when an elite panel at Odisha Literary Festival (OLF) 2016 took up the topic and dissected it on the first evening of the two-day festival.

Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee, with his rich experience as a teacher of comparative literature and years with Sahitya Akademi as well as National Book Trust, put things in perspective by saying the official position of English in India is confusing. Constitution does not recognise it as an Indian language though Sahitya Akademi gives away an award every year in English language. On the other hand, two of India’s top literary awards Jnanapitha as well as Saraswati Samman keep English out of their ambit, he said. Read more

 


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Essay: Place in the poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra and K Satchidanandan

It is often assumed that to write in or be translated into English makes one “global,” and that to write in a “regional” language is to be more finely attuned to rural, small-town, or at least non-metropolitan India. The regional has two great signposts: language and space. But what if these signposts do not coincide? What of the writer in English who addresses the interior, or the writer in Malayalam who speaks from the metropole? And this doesn’t even begin to exhaust the possible permutations of a writer’s idiom, location and audience. How should we approach the matter of a writer’s relationship with geographical belonging and estrangement, and the literary consequences of it?

Two recent poetry collections—Jayanta Mahapatra’s The Lie of Dawns, and K Satchidanandan’s The Missing Rib—offer an occasion to examine these questions. Mahapatra’s collection consists almost entirely of poems written in English; though he has published extensively in Oriya, this book contains only one poem in translation. The Lie of Dawns is the most comprehensive collection of Mahapatra’s work to date, featuring poems from across a span of 35 years that the poet selected himself. Mahapatra came to poetry relatively late; he was over 40 years old when his first book of poetry, Svayamvara and Other Poems, came out in 1971. But he has been prolific since—according to the Sahitya Akademi, he has published 39 books in total. The Lie of Dawns gives us a fair measure of the range and cadence of the poet’s oeuvre, with many lyric poems and the occasional longer poem, showcasing the sense of inborn melancholy and remembering that is central to his work. It is particularly interesting to examine Mahapatra’s relation to the town of Cuttack, in Odisha, where he has lived almost all his life, and which produces in his poetry a dialectic of alienation and belonging. Read more


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Looking for voices: The landscape of literary translation in India leaves much to be explored

Here is a question. How many of these names would appear familiar to a moderately avid Indian reader: Suren Talukdar, Mau Das Gupta, Dhansri Swargiary, Chhatarpal, Susheela Punitha, Sharifa Vijliwala, Damodar Khadse, N Damodara Shetty, Rattan Lal Shant, Jaymala Danayat, Devendra Jha, K C Ajayakumar, Naorem Khagendra, Shankar Pradhan, Shakuntala Baliarsingh, Balbir Parwana, Madan Saini, Tarashankar Sharma, Tala Tudu, Sarita Sharma, Gowri Kirubanandan, L R Swamy and Suhail Ahmad Farooqi?

The 22 people named above won the Sahitya Akademi Translation Prize 2015. Every year, since 1989, the Akademi has been awarding prizes to the best translation in the languages that came to be recognised by it over the years. With the prestigious Sahitya Akademi stamp, one would assume that the award would bring recognition and also put the spotlight on the original author, apart from setting a stage for a discussion on bhasha literatures and their translations. But this occasion rarely sees focused media coverage and mostly remains a missed opportunity. In 2015, seven of the translations originated from Bangla (translated into Assamese, Bodo, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Santhali and Urdu) and Hindi (translated into Bangla, Dogri, Gujarati, Konkani, Nepali, Rajasthani and Sanskrit); two Malayalam titles found their way into Kannada and Telugu while two in Dogri were translated into Kashmiri and Sindhi; one title each from Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, Odia, Telugu and English were translated into English, Hindi, Odia, Punjabi, Tamil and Marathi respectively. Read more