“Journalism” by C.L.R. Sastri.–Thacker & Co., Ltd., Bombay. Rs. 11/8/-
Mr. C. L. R. Sastri is Sir C. Y. Chintamani’s son and that, perhaps, partly explains his charming cocksureness. It also explains the readability of a book which deals mostly with figures who, to the working Journalist in India, are forgotten ghosts of Fleet Street remembered only by John O’ London’s or, at best, by James Agarte. Mr. Sastri is alive to the limitations of his book and it is no use finding fault with him for not doing what he does not attempt to do. His main purpose is to indicate the higher aims of journalism, emphasize its kinship to literature, explain the work of great models and recall to the minds of Indian Journalists some of their own good standards. This he does in the manner of an essayist, in a style intensely personal, and since it helps to make his enthusiasm infectious, the method may be considered highly successful. Like Hazlitt, one of his heroes, Mr. Sastri has gusto.
To those of the younger generation of journalists in India, who either do not know or do not care to know their Massinghams, Montagues and Gardiners, a book which glorifies not only the English language but English models may seem unconvincing. Mr. Sastri does not mention even American journalism or American journalists by way of compensation. But if our tailors still look to Bond Street, our financiers to Lombard Street and our politicians to Downing Street, there is no reason why our journalists should not look to Fleet Street for inspiration. As long as there is English journalism in the country, it would be better not to claim linguistic swadeshi in the matter of English but to remember that what is well worth writing is worth writing well. Unfortunately, many of the younger journalists in India drift into the profession with no higher purpose than to make a living and turn their blood into lead and with no higher success than be slipshod leader-writers, indifferent newsmen and incompetent editors, mere journeymen in an alien world of letters.
Mr. Sastri, it seems, emphasizes too much the kinship between journalism and literature. His list of British journalists who have achieved distinction in literature is not imposing. Nor was Saintsbury’s. Neither Masingham nor Montague, good writers and great journalists, could be classed as major figures in literature, and when Mr. Sastri calls EarleWelby as genius, the reviewer, who has equal enthusiasm for Welby, must look to other standards than Mr. Sastri’s. Where journalism ends literature begins and the true journalist is modest enough for, as Mr. Sastri admits, journalism is at best literature in a hurry, in fact, it is history, sociology, politics, and economics in a hurry. The truth is that it belongs to the sphere of action.
If Mr. Sastri prefers to emphasize the literary aspect of journalism, he is entitled to it. He is also well qualified for it. His standards are high, his models great, his epitaphs eloquent. His digressions–including the digression on digressions–are always interesting and his quotations, for which he puts in again a digression in defence, are, even when they seem too long, apt. His enthusiasm for Sir Francis Low or Sachchidananda Sinha it is difficult to share but on one matter it is easy to agree whole-heartedly–his tribute to ‘Triveni’ and its Editor. For one who had the same heroes as Mr. Sastri at one time or other but has since chosen other standards, it is possible to disagree with Mr. Sastri at every step; but it is impossible not to be interested in his enthusiasms. It is a vividly written and highly entertaining book.
M. Chalapathi Rau.
“Maria Murder &: Suicide”, By Verrier Elwin–Oxford University Press. Price Rs. 10/-
Mr. Elwin’s study of Maria Murder and Suicide is a refreshing contrast to much pseudo-anthropological research that is carried on in the country. The author combines in himself a broad knowledge of primitive life, an accurate acquaintance with the aborigines of India, a humanitarian insight and scientific acumen of a high order. The book embodies investigations into the murders and suicides of the Bison-horn Marias of Bastar.
The book naturally divides itself into four broad sections. In the beginning we are furnished with a general idea of crimes among the aboriginal tribes in India and we are then introduced to the tribe under investigation. Its general manners and customs are described and the ethico-religious background of the lives of its members is indicated. This part of the book is valuable in view of the author’s claim that it is a contribution to social anthropology rather than to the study of crime. The most interesting group of chapters in the book is the one devoted to the analysis of the various categories of crimes, in terms of their causes, like witch-craft and magic, marital infidelity, the desire to eliminate disputes about property, the tangle of family life, alcohol, revenge, and fatigue. The crimes of women and criminal lunacy are also discussed. This part of the book has great value particularly because of the many concrete cases in illustration and incidentally much light is thrown on the actual life of the community. Its problems and tragedies are vividly presented. The last group of chapters deals with the behaviour of the criminal after the crime, the attitude of the society to crime and the ways of the aboriginal prisoner.
The book has the merit of dealing with live anthropological material which it presents in a classified, tabulated form and, at the same time, is full of sympathy and insight into the lives of the criminals. Interesting points are brought out at every decisive stage of the exposition. Most of the crimes are shown to be the expressions of the social rather than the anti-social spirit. It is also established that the civilised man is not morally different from the primitive man, however different their respective types of criminality may be. It is also interesting to note that a large percentage of crimes proceeds from ignorance rather than wickedness. A powerful and sustained plea for a deeper and a more inward understanding of aboriginal mentality is the outstanding contribution and emphasis of the whole study. Such an understanding serves the two-fold purpose of rendering investigations more scientifically objective and of enabling reformist zeal to work with intelligence in the task of aiding the progress of the aborigines. A work like this educates our spirit of humanity and guides the effective expression of that spirit in working plans for the promotion of social welfare.
S. S. Raghavachar.
“Beggar, My Neighbour”–The case for India by Lionel Fielden-International Book House, Ltd., Bombay. Rs. 3/-
“I hold no brief for Indians. Many of them behaved atrociously to me,” writes the author towards the end of the book. “I who vowed never to write on India have reluctantly put my awkward pen to this book,” says he elsewhere (P. 65) and hopes modestly that “it may stir one or two of my countrymen to a realisation of the hatred which we are unnecessarily engendering and the friendship that we are steadily losing among the people of India.” Lionel Fielden was Controller of Broadcasting in India from 1935-40 and had occasion, in that capacity to meet not only the high dignitaries of Government and Congress Ministers but also a good section of the public. He presents the Indian Problem covering well-trodden ground–the Minorities, the Princes, the linguistic and racial divisions, urban and rural differences–with a sureness of tread that is remarkable for one who claims to be no expert, and with a directness and even brusqueness of expression characteristic of a broadcast announcer. We have in this book the Indian nationalist point of view presented with an incisiveness and vigour such as few non-Indians have ever succeeded in doing. Though the author disclaims the intention of writing a learned thesis, a ‘heavy-weight’ affair loaded with facts, he yet manages to present all relevant information in a striking manner. The general tone of informality, the non-chalance of a free lance, occasional flashes of humour and irony, the personal ‘asides’, all make the book eminently readable in spite of its dwelling most of the time on matters of acute controversy at the present time. One indeed hopes that the book will stir many more than just one or two of Lionel Fielden’s countrymen. The description of the Cripps episode and the sketch of Gandhiji are high lights m the book. The ‘Frontispiece’ at the beginning and the ‘Tail-piece’ at the end are delightful sketches dealing respectively with the departure and arrival of Indian Viceroys, and suggesting with devastating irony the lurid contrast between the pomp of viceregal movement and normal Indian life.
We congratulate the publishers on having brought out this Indian edition, and hope, If a reprint should be called forth that the letter-press would be less cramped than in the present one.
K. S. G.
“Hinduism at a Glance”–by Swami Nirvedananda, Vidyamandira, Dhakuria, Bengal. Rs. 4–8–0.
This book is a presentation, in a brief space of 200 pages, of the essentials of Hindu religious thought and practice. In his exposition, the author has followed the orthodox texts; while generally adopting the advaitic interpretation, he has explained also the view-points of the other schools of thought.
The book consists of two parts. The first deals with the main basis and contents of Hinduism like the Shastras, ideas of Karma and Rebirth, Mukti Pravritti marga, Nivritti marga and the four basic types of yoga. The second part gives an account of the avatars, the scriptures, spiritual truths, rituals and mythology. No essential detail is omitted and the explanations are impressive. The last chapter on the “Hindu outlook on Life” is an efficient summary of the fundamentals of the Hindu faith and a vigourous defence of the practice of the religion of the Hindu, which governs one’s entire life and conduct. Emphasis is rightly laid on the unity which underlies the everchanging diversities in Nature and on the Hindu concept of Dharma in terms of duty rather than in terms of rights.
The glossary of Sanskrit terms appended to the book adds to its usefulness as also the index.
The author’s style is simple, clear and direct. The study of the book may well be recommended to the modern University student who has no idea of our religion and is consequently indifferent to it.
“D.K.B’s. Standard Dictionary” –English-English-Kannada–containing nearly 24,000 words–pronouncing and explanatory, with appendices containing foreign phrases, prefixes and suffixes, notable names in fiction, legend and mythology, mathematical tables etc. Compiled by D.K. Bharadvaj, Vaidyaguru. Published by B. G. Sunkrishwar alias Tubachi, Shri Saraswati Pustaka Bhandar, Gadag. Price Rs. 5.
This compilation will be
found very helpful to school and college students. It is an admirable effort
which does credit to the amazing industry of the author.
“Premchand” by Madan Gopal.–Published by the Bookabode, 119, Circular Road, Lahore. Price Rs. 2-8-0.
As the author says in his preface a book acquainting the English knowing public with the personality and literary output of Munshi Premchand was long overdue. This has been well fulfilled by the book under review.
It gives a very readable account of Premchandji’s life and a comprehensive idea of his works. An effort has also been made to assess his work and to indicate its close relationship to the background provided by contemporary conditions.
Premchandji’s literary achievment is of universal and lasting value. It is no disparagement of this book to say that, while it may serve as a useful introduction to the subject, one must needs await a book giving a fuller and more sustained treatment for the proper appreciation of a personality of Premchandji’s stature.
“Mudrarakshasa" or The Signet Ring:–A play in seven Acts of Visakhadatta–Translated into English from the original Sanskrit by Ranjit Sitaram Pandit. Pp. xviii + 277. Bombay: New Book Company. Rs. 10/-
The Mudrarakshasa is one of the very few plays in Sanskrit dealing with a historical theme. In fact, scholars have not been unwilling to use it even as a source of historical information. The play is concerned with plot woven by Chanakya to force Amatya Rakshasa, formerly the Chief Minister of the Nandas and now the deadly enemy of their vanquisher, Chandragupta Maurya, to become the minister and chief supporter of Chandragupta himself. Hence the theme of the play is entirely political; it is unrelieved by popular attractions. The time-honoured Court jester is absent; what is more, love-interest itself is quite absent. Yet the play of his completely grips one’s attention. Here we witness a ‘battle of wits’; here is the absorbing interest of watching the clash of political plots and counter plots–the vengeful plans of the selfless, devoted and efficient but too human Amatya Rakshasa pitted against the brilliant, far-reaching schemes emanating from the brain of the ruthless and ever-watchful Chanakya. As the Drama progresses, the net cast by Chanakya draws closer and Rakshasa is firmly caught in its coils. Ultimately he sees no other way but to accept service under Chandragupta if the life of his dearest friend, the great-hearted Chandanadasa, is to be saved. The whole play sweeps on with such irresistible power that we are breathlessly carried along with it.
Visakhadatta, the author of this play, has to his credit at least one more historical play, the Devichandragupta (which now survives only in brief quotations). The author’s predilection for historical themes is shared by his translator too. Nearly ten years ago, Mr. Pandit gave the world ‘The River of Kings’, an English rendering of Kalhana’s famous History of Kashmir, sponsored by an illuminating Foreword from the pen of his brother-in-law, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Both ‘The River of Kings’ and ‘The Signet Ring’ were produced in the enforced solitude of prison life. Alas, that Mr. Pandit should have passed away so soon after the publication of the latter!
Mr. Pandit’s rendering of the play “is literal and omits nothing”; it is entirely in prose while the original, as is usual in a Sanskrit play, is in verse and prose. The translator knew the difficulties of his task quite well. He has confessed: “Unfortunately it has not been feasible to bring out the charm or vigour of the lyrical passages in form and matter.” He has moreover attempted “to retain, as far as possible, the original construction so that the Sanskrit style might be indicated.” This has resulted, as he himself has admitted, in making the play, if read aloud, “sound a trifle out of the ordinary.” It is also possible to quarrel with the translator occasionally, for instance when he renders the word ‘hataka’ (as in Chanakyahataka) by ‘good as dead.’ And one notes with regret that he has gone wrong in making the sentence ‘Katham na jnayate nama’ mean ‘How should the name be unknown!’ (page 23). The context makes it clear that the sentence should be rendered in some such way as ‘How can you possibly not know it?” Slips there are. But one notes with joy that they are not many. The translation, especially of the crisp prose dialogues, (which, it may be noted in passing, are the most significant part of the play) runs well and can be read with pleasure. Many an English equivalent has been aptly chosen and many a Sanskrit phrase has been happily rendered.
Mr. Pandit has provided the interested reader with an Introductory Note, Exegetical Notes, an Index and, more than all, a Postscript which runs nearly to a hundred pages, of small print and contains, in addition to a Critical Note and Bibliography, varied information on topics like the Sanskrit Drama, the historical background of the play, etc. Much reading has gone into these notes. One occasionally wonders if all this matter, though valuable in itself, is strictly relevant to the theme on hand. One also gets the impression that certain statements are made too confidently by the Author in regard to matters which are still under discussion, as, for instance, when he tells us that the language of the Brhatkatha was Ancient Pushto. (page 163).
The get up of the book is very good indeed for these difficult times. But one cannot help remarking that the proofs might have been read with greater care: two whole speeches, consisting of about four lines of the Sanskrit Text, are missing at the bottom of Page 13 of the translation. Is it possible that the proof-sheets did not have the benefit of final revision by the translator?
T. N. Sreekantaiya.
“Narayana Rao” (Andhra University Prize Novel) By Adavi Bapiraju, B.A., B.L., (Publishers: The Navya Sahitya Parishat, Guntur. Price Rs. 2-8-0)
This is a full length portrait of contemporary social life in Andhra. As a “novel of manners”, it is a lineal successor of Viresalingam’s Rajasekhara Charitra, Chilakamarti’s Ramachandra Vijayam and Vunnava Lakshmi narayana’s Malapalli. Bapiraju is a painter as well as poet and novelist, and something of the richness of colour and glow of imagmation of a poet-painter has gone to the making of Narayana Rao. Narayana Rao, the hero, and the group of friends associated with him are drawn from what may be regarded as the upper middle class in Andhra society. They are all ardent of the patriots, with a passionate faith in their country’s destiny and an absorbing planning love of art and literature. Discussions on political and cultural topics and descriptions of art-exhibitions and literary festivals are dexterously woven into the story.
Narayana Rao is an epitome of all that is noblest in Andhra Youth. He is able, accomplished and self-sacrificing. In him vigour of body and mind are allied to great delicacy of feeling. His tenderness towards children and family pets like cows and calves is specially noteworthy. In the story familiar spots like the Madras Law College, the Legislative Council Chamber, the railway platform at Bezwada, and even the prison-cells in Vellore, acquire a strange charm. The life of the countryside and of the justice toilers in the fields is depicted with intimacy and understanding. The episode of Maraka, the Harijan hero, who cuts down his only son while trying to violate the chastity of a young woman, is a powerful bit of writing.
While there are several strands, the main theme is not obscured. Narayana Rao who weds the daughter of an affluent Congress-minded Zemindar finds that he is not loved by his girl-wife. Through a long process of silent wooing, and the eloquent testimony of his own life and deeds, he ultimately wins her love. And all the friends who had scattered themselves in different vocations decide to settle down in rural surroundings and build an institution where service of the rural folk is combined with the pursuit of cultural aims. Indeed, there is right through the story an inner harmony which transmutes all work into worship.
Bapiraju is capable of patient chisel-work which enables him to unravel the mystery of the mind and his heart of his characters, and to bring before our view the life of a generation profoundly touched by the influence of Gandhi, Tagore, and Aurobindo. Along with this attention to detail is found the wide sweep of the brush which suddenly illumines a situation with a few deft touches.
Reading Narayana Rao, one is instinctively reminded of Sivaram Karant and his great novel of Kannada life, Marali Mannige. Baplraju and Karant are dwellers in the realm of the imagination, who have realised that all the artistic creation derives a new meaning and power by closer touch with mother Nature. The picture of Nagaveni re-creating her broken life by devotion to music even while working on the farm, captivates the Kannada reader. So too does the Telugu reader love the picture of Narayana Rao playing on the Veena while he gives up a promising career at the Bar to devote himself to service of his fellow-villagers of Kottapeta.
Narayana Rao is a notable achievement of the art of the novelist in modern Telugu literature.
K. Ramakotiswata Rau.