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."

Monday, September 26, 2016

Cock Match: Favourite Sport In Fiction Called Democracy



Today September 26 2016 is the day of the first of  the three general-election debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

Chris Hedges:

“The liberal class lacks the fortitude and the ideas to protect the decaying system. It speaks in a twilight rhetoric that no longer corresponds to our reality. But the fiction of democracy remains useful, not only for corporations, but also for the bankrupt liberal class. If the fiction is exposed as a lie, liberals will be forced to consider actual resistance, which will be neither pleasant nor easy. As long as a democratic façade exists, liberals can engage in a useless moral posturing that requires no sacrifice or commitment.”

(‘Death of the Liberal Class’, 2010)



Artist: Edward Steed, The New Yorker, September 2016

This picture reminded me of the following outstanding piece of art depicting many intriguing details.I have spent many hours 'reading' and admiring it.



Artist:  Johann Zoffany (1733-1810)



Philip Hensher writes about the painting:

“...There is a sense of letting the hair down about some of Zoffany’s Indian paintings. The masterpiece Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match depicts the meeting between cultures at its most rumbustious, complete with extremely vulgar allusions to the principal figures’ sexual prowess....”
 (‘The Telegraph, UK’, March 6 2012)


William Dalrymple writes about the artist:

"The Frankfurt-born Zoffany (1734-1810) lived in Lucknow for two and a half years, staying much of the time with Claude Martin. On his way back to England (where he had settled in the 1750s) he was shipwrecked off the Andaman Islands. Lots having been drawn among the starving survivors, a young sailor was duly eaten. Zoffany may thus be said with some confidence to have been the first and last Royal Academician to become a cannibal." 
('White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India', 2002)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Roads as Chasms and Crosswalks as Rickety Planks

Today September 22 2016 is World Car Free Day.

Vidyadhar Date wrote on his FB wall on December 29 2015:
"Apart from terrorists, the traffic police may be seen as a serious security threat to Churchgate railway station in Mumbai. They have put up barricades with the words traffic police inscribed on them on the footpath on the eastern side. This means a situation can worsen in case of a terrorist attack or some other calamity. Hundreds and thousands of people come out of the station constantly. Basic norms demand that for such a huge outflow there should be maximum points of exit. But with such tactics the authorities seem bent on funneling the people through the narrow underpass, treating them like cattle, causing them the maximum inconvenience.
The police, it seems, are posing this serious threat merely for the convenience of a few motorists passing along Maharshi Karve Roa road. The idea is that people do not come out of the footpath onto the road. Suppose there is security threat in the rush hour the situation will be particularly grave because then even the lucky ones coming out on the road will not be able to cross the road as the traffic light is usually switched off here . This switching off enables a constant flow of vehicular traffic while blocking pedestrians, posing a grave threat to their lives..." 


Artist: Karl Jilg for Swedish Road Administration

As Vox notes, "By depicting roads as chasms and crosswalks as rickety planks spanning them, [Jilg] shows just how lopsided the the proportions of a normal urban street corner really are." (more on it here http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/one-cartoon-that-highlights-how-much-public-space-we-sacrifice-for-cars--ZyVySum_sx)

Monday, September 19, 2016

धुक्यांतून रक्तलाल अंधाराकडे...How Russian Communism Enchanted Marathi Literati

त्र्यं शं शेजवलकर, डिसेंबर २६ १९३६:
"आज पुनः इस्लामसारखेच संकट साम्यवादाच्या रूपाने अवतरले आहे."
('निवडक लेखसंग्रह', १९७७, पृष्ठ ४) 
John Gray:

“George Bernard Shaw advocated mass extermination as a humane alternative to imprisonment, lauded Stalinist Russia at a time when millions were dying of starvation and viewed Hitler's Germany as a progressive regime. H G Wells flirted with similar views.”

“The Soviet famine of 1932–33 affected the major grain-producing areas of the Soviet Union, leading to millions of deaths in those areas and severe food shortage throughout the USSR...The famine was the result of the actions of the Soviet state in the implementation of forced collectivization, in economic planning, and political repression in the countryside.”

John Gray, ‘The Immortalization Commission: The Strange Quest to Cheat Death’, 2011:

“...From the time of the Bolshevik seizure of power there were many who believed they could find safety by serving the Soviet state. Lenin and Stalin practised terror by numbers, instructing the security services to arrest quotas of people – hundreds at a time, then thousands and tens of thousands, with NKVD officers using telephone books to pick out people at random and meet their targets. Officers who served in execution squads had to meet targets for each shift. In return they were given special uniforms, including leather aprons, caps and gloves to protect them from blood spray, rations of vodka, extra-high salaries and supplies of eau de Cologne to dampen the lingering smell of death.

Being an executioner did not ensure a long life. Between 1936 and 1938, an entire generation of Chekists that had served in the Civil War and the collectivization campaign was liquidated. Chekists working abroad were called back to their deaths. Theodore Maly, the Soviet undercover agent who served as controller for Kim Philby, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, returned to the Soviet Union in 1938 to be tortured and shot. Those who refused to go back were hunted down and killed. Having warned friends that if he died in the near future it would not be by his own hand, Walter Krivitsky, former head of Soviet military intelligence in Europe, who defected around the same time, was found dead in a hotel room in Washington, DC, in February 1941, surrounded by suicide notes in three languages.

The Terror reached out beyond the Soviet Union. Trotsky was not the first to be killed abroad. Leading figures among the White emigration had been kidnapped and murdered for many years. In 1928 a Soviet assassin (who would himself die in suspicious circumstances) made an attempt on the life of Stalin’s secretary, who had fled to France. In 1930, in an operation Yagoda later described to Gorky, the White Russian general Kutepov was kidnapped in Paris and died en route to the Soviet Union.

Being part of the death machine did not guarantee survival. Still, whenever someone was killed another lived on. So those who operated the death machine went on killing, surviving for another day until the machine consumed them as well.

It might be thought that the Terror would dampen Western support for the Soviet cause. In fact its power to enchant was greatest when the killing was on the largest scale. Western pilgrims came to the Soviet Union to be met by phantasms of the living, shadowy guides who evoked a dreamland of joy and plenty, then disappeared into the netherworld of the camps...”

Svetlana Alexievich, The winner of the 2015 Nobel prize in literature:

“...Communism had an insane plan: to remake the “old breed of man,” ancient Adam. And it really worked…Perhaps it was communism’s only achievement. Seventy-plus years in the Marxist-Leninist laboratory gave rise to a new man: Homo sovieticus. Some see him as a tragic figure, others call him a sovok. I feel like I know this person; we’re very familiar, we’ve lived side by side for a long time. I am this person. And so are my acquaintances, my closest friends, my parents. For a number of years, I traveled throughout the former Soviet Union—Homo sovieticus isn’t just Russian, he’s Belarusian, Turkmen, Ukrainian, Kazakh. Although we now live in separate countries and speak different languages, you couldn’t mistake us for anyone else. We’re easy to spot! People who’ve come out of socialism are both like and unlike the rest of humanity—we have our own lexicon, our own conceptions of good and evil, our heroes, our martyrs. We have a special relationship with death. The stories people tell me are full of jarring terms: “shoot,” “execute,” “liquidate,” “eliminate,” or typically Soviet varieties of disappearance such as “arrest,” “ten years without the right of correspondence,” and “emigration.” How much can we value human life when we know that not long ago people had died by the millions? We’re full of hatred and superstitions. All of us come from the land of the gulag and harrowing war. Collectivization, dekulakization, mass deportations of various nationalities…” (‘Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets: An Oral History’, 2013)

कै. अनंत काणेकर (१९०५-१९८०) हे तत्कालीन मराठी साहित्यातील अत्यंत वजनदार नाव. खांडेकर, फडके, काणेकर वगैरे... १९५७ सालच्या अखिल भारतीय मराठी साहित्यसंमेलनाचे अध्यक्ष... १९६३च्या मराठी नाट्यसंमेलनाचे अध्यक्ष...पद्मश्री... मराठी विश्वकोश मंडळ सदस्य...त्यांचे काही लघुनिबंध (साधारण दर्जाचे) माझ्या शाळेतील क्रमिक पुस्तकात सुद्धा वाचलेले...

... तसेच दुसरे मोठे नाव कै. शं वा किर्लोस्कर (१८९७-१९७५), साक्षेपी द्रष्टे संपादक, पुरोगामी, लेखक, व्यंगचित्रकार...

२०१६ सालच्या एका 'ललित'च्या अंकात  काणेकरांच्या 'धुक्यांतून लाल ताऱ्याकडे', फेब्रुवारी १९४० चे संक्षिप्त परिक्षण वाचले. ते पुस्तक विकत घेऊन बरेच वाचले.

पुस्तकाचे शीर्षक सरळ सरळ एडगर स्नो यांच्या अत्यंत गाजलेल्या 'रेड स्टार ओव्हर चायना', १९३७ ची आठवण करून देते.

काणेकरांचे पुस्तक इंटरेस्टिंग आहे. पण कम्युनिझमने किती लोकांना किती मोठ्या प्रमाणात मूर्ख बनवले होते याचा तो छोटा ऐतिहासिक ऐवज पण आहे!

पुस्तकाला प्रस्तावना आहे शं वा किर्लोस्करांची, ज्यांच्या संपादीत 'किर्लोस्कर' मासिकात, पुस्तक १९३७ साली  लेखमालिकारूपात पूर्वप्रसिद्ध झाले होते.

शंवाकि प्रस्तावनेत काय म्हणतात ते पहा:

गडद लाल धुक्यातून जेंव्हा सूर्य उगवला तेंव्हा काय काय झाले ते आपल्याला आता समजले आहे... पण वाचून खूप करमणूक होते हे खर!
काणेकर रशियात खूप कमी काळ होते. ३१ में १९३७- ११ जून १९३७. पृष्ठ १०० ते १५७ मध्ये ते वर्णन आले आहे. बरेच काही लिहण्यासारखे आहे त्याबद्दल पण फक्त एकाच गोष्टीबद्दल लिहतोय.
एका म्युझियमबद्दल काणेकर लिहतात:

काणेकर जोसेफ स्टालिन ला देव म्हणतायत!
Artist: Helen E. Hokinson, The New Yorker, August 15 1942

काणेकरांना स्टालिनची खळी कदाचित आधी माहिती असेल पण त्याचे इतर वास्तव हे त्यांच्या मृत्यू पर्यंत कदाचित समजले असेल. काय वाटलं असेल त्यांना आणि शंवाकिंना? त्या दोघांनी स्वतःच्या मूर्खबनण्याबद्दल काही लिहले आहे का? आपल्या वाचकांना त्यांनी समोर आलेल्या वास्तवाची जाणीव करून दिली का? मला कल्पना नाही.


Artist: Herbert Block