G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Friday, June 24, 2016

अस्वस्थ भूत, अस्वस्थ भविष्य...A. V. Jategaonkar's 'Aswasth Vartaman'

John Gray:

“Humans thrive in conditions that morality condemns. The peace and prosperity of one generation stand on the injustices of earlier generations; the delicate sensibilities of liberal societies are fruits of war and empire. The same is true of individuals. Gentleness flourishes in sheltered lives; an instinctive trust in others is rarely strong in people who have struggled against the odds. The qualities we say we value above all others cannot withstand ordinary life. Happily, we do not value them as much as we say we do. Much that we admire comes from things we judge to be evil or wrong. This is true of morality itself.”
 ('Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals', 2002)

Marathi writer Anand Vinayak Jategaonkar (आनंद विनायक जातेगांवकर) died in January 2016. I had not read any of his books as of June 12 2016. I read his obituaries in Marathi magazine Lalit (ललित), April 2016. There he was portrayed as an avant-garde writer who did not get his due from the establishment. [Among other things, he has written a Marathi play 'Kaifiyat' (कैफियत), 2011 based on Franz Kafka's 'The Trial', 1914/15.]

On June 11 2016, I was strongly recommended a few of his books by a couple of friends whose literary tastes I respect.

One of the books was  'Aswasth Vartaman', c 2014 ('अस्वस्थ वर्तमान' / 'Restless Present'). Therefore, I ordered it on June 12 and then read first few pages of it online, on Bookganga.com.

Here is a para from it:

One of the statements in there is:
 "...आजवर हजारो मंदिरं पाडली गेली असतील, लेण्यांतील मूर्तींची तोंडं फोडून हात तोडले गेले असतील. परंतु कुणाचंही प्रार्थनास्थळ या समाजानं, या परंपरेने, या जीवनपद्धतीनं कधी तोडलं नाही…"

[...Until today thousands of (Hindu/ Buddhist) temples must have been demolished, idols in caves defaced and their arms cut off but this society, this tradition, this way of living never destroyed anyone's place of worship...]

Italicized and emboldened part of the statement  is NOT just naive but also highly inaccurate and grossly misleading. 

If I were to meet Mr. Jategaonkar, I would have humbly recommended him Yuval Noah Harari's book 'Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind', 2011 that states: "The human story is largely a record of conquest, and many cultures have become extinct as a result of being subject to imperial domination."

Indian civilization has NOT been exception to that. Destruction of Babri Masjid was tragic, and as an Indian I am ashamed of it, but it was NOT a first-of-its-kind act and sadly it won't be last. 
S. L. Bhyrappa has written about what methods propagators of Buddhism deployed to establish their religion in ancient India. The Partition of India, 1947 led to the genocidal slaughter committed by the followers of three major religions of India: Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism- every possible crime against humanity was committed during those dark days. It has been claimed by the likes of D G Godse (द ग गोडसे), Ashok Shahane (अशोक शहाणे) etc. that some of the major Hindu shrines in Maharashtra once belonged to Buddhists or Jains.

I have already quoted the following two passages of William Dalrymple and John Keay on this blog earlier.

"...What is perhaps especially valuable about The Buddha and the Sahibs is (Charles) Allen's gentle reminder of exactly how and why Buddhism died out in the land of its birth. Every child in India knows that when the Muslims first came to India that they desecrated temples and smashed idols. But what is conveniently forgotten is that during the Hindu revival at the end of the first millennium AD, many Hindu rulers had behaved in a similar fashion to the Buddhists.

It was because of this persecution, several centuries before the arrival of Islam, that the philosophy of the Buddha, once a serious rival to Hinduism, virtually disappeared from India: Harsha Deva, a single Kashmiri raja, for example boasted that he had destroyed no less than 4,000 Buddhist shrines. Another raja, Sasanka of Bengal, went to Bodh Gaya, sacked the monastery and cut down the tree of wisdom under which the Buddha had received enlightenment.

According to Buddhist tradition, Sasanka's "body produced sores and his flesh quickly rotted off and after a short while he died". At a time when Islamaphobia is becoming endemic in both India and the west, and when a far-right Hindu government is doing its best to terrorise India's Muslim minority, the story of how an earlier phase of militant Hinduism violently rooted out Indian Buddhism is an important and worrying precedent, and one that needs very badly to be told, and remembered..."

(The Guardian, 27 September 2002)

John Keay:
"...In the course of perhaps several campaigns, more triumphs were recorded by the Cholas, more treasure was amassed, and more Mahmudian atrocities are imputed. According to a Western Chalukyan inscription, in the Bijapur district the Chola army behaved with exceptional brutality, slaughtering women, children and brahmans and raping girls of decent caste. Manyakheta, the old Rashtrakutan capital, was also plundered and sacked...

 ...The classic expansion of Chola power began anew with the accession of Rajaraja I in 985. Campaigns in the south brought renewed success against the Pandyas and their ‘haughty’ Chera allies in Kerala, both of which kingdoms were now claimed as Chola feudatories. These triumphs were followed, or accompanied, by a successful invasion of Buddhist Sri Lanka in which Anuradhapura, the ancient capital, was sacked and its stupas plundered with a rapacity worthy of the great Mahmud...

...When, therefore, Rajendra I succeeded Rajaraja and assumed the reins of power in 1014, his priority was obvious. Sri Lanka was promptly reinvaded and more treasures and priceless regalia seized; prising open even relic chambers, says a Sri Lankan chronicle, ‘like blood-sucking yakkhas they took all the treasures of Lanka for themselves’..."

('India A History: From the Earliest Civilisations to the Boom of the Twenty-First Century', 2000/ 2010)

Considering all this, I find Jategaonkar's writing sentimental and sloppy and I wonder if I should read his book at all! 

I would have liked to tell him that, not just the present was restless, so was the past, and so would be the future.

Artist: Zachary Kanin, The New Yorker, 2011

p.s This post only by coincidence got posted on the day of #brexit 

This is one of the early comments I read:

"...Modern democracies operate within a framework of rationalism. Dismantle it and the space is filled by prejudice. Fear counts above reason; anger above evidence. Lies claim equal status with facts. Soon enough, migrants — and Muslims especially — replace heretics and witches as the targets of public rage...
...Not so long ago British politicians of almost all shades were proud of Europe’s role as a catalyst for the spread of freedom and democracy beyond its borders. Governments of right and left championed the EU accession of formerly communist states and urged Turkey to tread the same path.
Now the Brexiters demonise potential migrants from Turkey as terrorists, murderers and drug-traffickers, and promise to slam the door against Polish plumbers and Hungarian farm workers. Baroness Warsi, a former Tory party chairman once sympathetic to the Brexit case, calls it the politics of hate." (Philip Stephens, FT,UK)


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

ज्युडी हॉलीडे, मधुबाला...Judy Holliday, Madhubala- Jack Lemmon, Shammi Kapoor

Today June 21 2016 is 95th birth anniversary of  Judy Holliday.

As I watched Judy Holliday's 'Born Yesterday', 1950, I realized that I was watching one of the best performances on the screen.

Then I looked up to find out that it indeed was Academy award winning performance for 1950.

Ms. Holliday died at the age of just 43. She apparently had the IQ of 172.

Jack Lemmon said about her:

"She was intelligent and not at all like the dumb blonds she so often depicted. She didn’t give a damn where the camera was placed, how she was made to look, or about being a star. She just played the scene — acted with, not at. She was also one of the nicest people I ever met."

Judy Holliday and William Holden in 'Born Yesterday'

courtesy: Columbia Pictures

This is what Shammi Kapoor said about Madhubala:

"...I must admit, in spite of knowing that Madhu was already in love, I could not resist falling madly in love with her. No one can blame me for it. Even today, after meeting so many women and having had relationships with God knows how many, I can swear that I have never seen a more beautiful woman. Add to that her sharp intellect, maturity, poise and sensitivity. She was awesome....
...Becoming very nostalgic about Madhubala, he wondered, “Why women like Madhubala don’t happen anymore?” After a pause, “When I think of her even now, after six decades, my heart misses a beat. My God, what beauty, what presence. After another pause, he had said, “I think life was a bit harsh on her. She didn’t deserve to go through all that she did...."

 (Courtesy: The Hindu and Rauf Ahmed

Madubala died at the age of just 36.

Madhubala , Dev Anand in Kala Pani , 1958

courtesy: Navketan Films

Saturday, June 18, 2016

टांग्यातील बर्फी...Boule de Suif, Stage Coach

Today June 18 2016, my father Gopal Dutt Kulkarni (गोपाळ दत्त कुलकर्णी) turns 80

I just loved Guy de Maupassant's short story 'Boule de Suif', 1880...not in its French or English avatar but the Marathi one: 'Barfi' ('बर्फी')- translated by my father.

My father had poured so much heart into it that I read it dozens of times with the same intensity. It did not matter at all that Boule de Suif was a prostitute. Indeed every time I always wept a little with her at the end.

Since we were very familiar with tangas- and not stagecoaches- at Miraj during my childhood , I used to imagine a tanga in the story!

(I am sure the story has been translated a few times into Marathi- one of them almost surely by R D Karve र. धों. कर्वे because Maupassant was one of his favorite authors. For instance, read one here.)

It's argued that John Ford's film 'Stagecoach', 1939 is based on the story. I was not surprised to learn it because I felt the connection when I watched that wonderful film. It proves Ford was no less of an artist than Maupassant.

George Bancroft, John Wayne and Louise Platt in Stagecoach (1939)

courtesy: Wikipedia

Claire Trevor, Berton Churchill, Louise Platt in John Ford's 'Stagecoach'

courtesy:  United Artists

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

वेडापिसा का भन्नाट? Zweig's Amok

My father has been one of the underrated writers in Marathi, at least since my birth in 1960. He once was a prolific writer- writing books, leaders for a Nashik-based Marathi daily etc.

He has translated a few books of Stefan Zweig (1881-1942). He did Zweig's book 'Amok', 1922 into Marathi- titled : Bhannat (भन्नाट)- in 1970. It was published by - like most of his books- Suras Prakashan (सुरस प्रकाशन), Solapur.

Zweig has become some what fashionable today but there was a time he was almost forgot.

I did not know that the book was translated earlier, until I read Mukund Vaze's (मुकुंद वझे) article in Loksatta dated December 13 2015.

Dr. N K Gharpure (डॉ. . का. घारपुरे) did that in 1936, the year my father was born! 

Gharpure was a professor of German at Fergusson College, Pune. Therefore he did it from German while my father did it from English. 

I like my father's title भन्नाट  more than Gharpure's  वेडापिसा. It captures the mood of the novel more aptly.

Artist: Gopal Dutt Kulkarni, 1970

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Art is Long-lasting, Life is Longish: Frank Modell, Anatol Kovarsky

Bob Mankoff announced deaths of two cartoonists on June 10 2016 with these wonderful words:

"Ars longa, vita brevis. For cartoonists, especially long-lived ones like Frank Modell, who died two weeks ago, at the age of ninety-eight, or Anatol Kovarsky, who passed away last week, at ninety-seven, it’s often the other way around. That just comes with the territory. The job of the cartoonist is to connect with your time, for a time, not for all time."

True but artists like Mondell and Kovarsky will continue to connect, at least for a while, even after they are now gone.

Frank Modell appeared seven times on this blog from January 1 2007 to April 23 2009...here are two of them:

The New Yorker, November 5 1960

The New Yorker, January 12 1957

Mr. Anatol Kovarsky appeared two times October 19 2007 and February 3 2014 (when I said :
Mr. Kovarsky is 94 years old and still drawing!)

The New Yorker, May 10 1947

The New Yorker