Tuesday, April 26, 2011

At Mountain Echoes next month, and at Utkal University this week

My nose is pointing east. Next month, on the morning of Saturday the 21st of May, I'll be giving a lecture called "What Novels Tell Us About Life (And About Themselves) at the second edition of the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival in Bhutan. Among the writers whose work I'll draw on at this talk are Ashvaghosha, Vasily Grossman, Sandor Marai, Irene Nemirovsky, Chekhov, Bibhutibhushan Bandhopadhyay, and Edna O'Brien. The schedule for the whole festival is here, and if you live in India and would like to attend the festival you might want to think about a special flights-and-accommodation passage, details of which are here.

And later this week, at 11 am on Thursday the 28th of April, I'll be speaking for an hour at the English Department at Utkal University in Bhubaneswar in my home state Orissa, on two separate subjects, since universities never invite me more than once, and so many things pop up in my brain in the five-year gaps between these invitations.

First I'll speak for half an hour on "The Pleasures and Problems of Indian Literature Today", and then for the next half hour, after a short break to allow for anybody in the audience who wants to escape to escape, I'll give a talk called "Staying In Literature", about the different careers in literature available today for English literature graduates (in writing, editing, literary criticism and journalism, and publishing) that are potentially more satisfying to self and soul than work in television news, advertising, and other such expanding industries. The Department is home to several people doing excellent work in Oriya literature and its translation into English, such as Jatindra Nayak, the translator of Fakir Mohan Senapati and JP Das among others, and the literary critic Himansu Mohapatra. If you live in Bhubaneswar, you're very welcome to attend.

Senapati, incidentally, is the subject – or more appropriately the hub of a wheel with many spokes of different colours – of a fascinating new book of essays, Colonialism, Modernity and Literature, in which a number of Indian scholars and critics look at his classic novel Six Acres and a Third through a variety of conceptual lenses while also linking him to other language-literatures of his time, such as Hindi, Assamese and Telugu. To my mind Bankim Chandra Chatterji and Senapati are the first great novelists in Indian literature, but Senapati is more idiosyncratic and original than Chatterji, and Six Acres and a Third the first Indian novel that not only successfully mines Indian material but also invents a homespun novelistic mode rooted more in Indian narrative tradition than in classic nineteenth-century European realism, which most early Indian novelists adapted for their own ends. Indian literature needs more books like this to make a proper reckoning with its own roots.

If you'd like to read more about Oriya literature, a recent issue of the literary magazine MuseIndia is a special on Oriya literature and can be found here. And here is an old post on the great Oriya poet Salabega: "Tigers in the poetry of Salabega and William Blake".


WalkingWicket said...

Any chance of these talks being posted online?

Chandrahas said...

WakingWicket - Probably not, as I don't write drafts of them to read out, but just work up some rough notes live, on the day. But you can get a sense of my arguments by reading the essays on the writers I've linked to.

jack said...

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