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, January 28, 2008

My Letter to NEW Quest on V S Naipaul

"New Quest" is a quarterly journal of participative inquiry into society and culture, launched by the late A.B.Shah. The journal seeks to generate a serious debate on issues ranging across the humanities and social sciences. It also encourages literary contributions in the form of original as well as translated poetry and fiction.

Its hon. editor is Dilip Chitre.

Its latest issue no. 169 July-September 2007 carried my following letter.

Letters to the Editor


This refers to "Home truths" by V.S. Naipaul (India Today, September 10, 2007).

As exemplified by his book "India: A Wounded Civilization", Naipaul has understood many facets of our civilization quite well. But his problem, like most Western analysts of India, is that he does not read any native Indian language. That is a big handicap because India's best is expressed in its native languages.

Naipaul has clearly not read Vinoba Bhave's Marathi books. If he had, he probably would have still maintained his view of Bhave as a copycat Mahatma, but would have uttered a few nice words for Bhave as a writer. He would have realized why, along with the saint-poets, Vinoba is a rare 'best-selling' author in Marathi.

Naipaul says "(In India) literary criticism is still hardly known as an art". This is far from the truth. He should take the trouble to read Dilip Chitre's book on Tukaram ("Punha Tukaram", which is also available in English), Durga Bhagwat's commentary on the Mahabharata ("Vyas Parva”) or M.V. Dhond's criticism of B.S. Mardhekar's poetry.

Naipaul says that “Indian writers, to speak generally, seem to know only about their own families and their places of work". This may be true of R.K. Narayan or Vikram Seth but certainly not of Bhau Padhye, the original chronicler of Bombay (long before Vikram Chandra) in all its colours.

I agree with Naipaul that he is getting on. And like most old people he has nothing new to say.


Aniruddha G. Kulkarni
Pune, India