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.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

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."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Will Shripad Krishna Kolhatkar be as Lucky as Mark Twain?

Today is Mark Twain's 100th death anniversary.

Twain knew that he was dead because like Alfred Nobel and Ernest Hemingway, he had the chance to read about it in the newspapers!

He of course was not afraid of it: "I do not fear death, in view of the fact that I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it."

What kind of childhood he had?

Ferdinand Mount: “Decayed gentility and a feckless father. These make the springiest springboard for the angry artist. Dickens, Picasso, Joyce, Shaw, Francis Bacon all enjoyed these unsung advantages in life. So did Samuel Langhorne Clemens who called himself Mark Twain”

Twain never received the Nobel. So much for the importance of the prize! He probably was the author of the first typewritten manuscript ever submitted to a publisher.

Abut Indians, Mark Twain says: "It is a curious people. With them, all life seems to be sacred except human life."

('Following the Equator; a Journey Around the World', 1897)

Twain saw humanity's future very clearly when he said: "Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.”

He took very dim view of our civilization: “We are nothing but echoes, we have no thoughts of our own, no opinions of our own, we are but a compost heap made up of decayed heredities, moral and physical.”

In one of the funniest passages I have read, reminding me where I am heading, Twain describes how fickle human memory could be:

"I used to remember my brother Henry walking into a fire outdoors when he was a week old. It was remarkable in me to remember a thing like that and it was still more remarkable that I should cling to the delusion for thirty years that I did remember it -- for of course it never happened; he would not have been able to walk at that age. . . . For many years I remembered helping my grandfather drinking his whiskey when I was six weeks old but I do not tell about that any more now; I am grown old and my memory is not as active as it used to be. When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened."

100 years on , what is happening to Twain's US of A?

Lucy Ellmann says:

“What the hell is going on? The country that produced Melville, Twain and James now venerates King, Crichton, Grisham, Sebold and Palahniuk. Their subjects? Porn, crime, pop culture and an endless parade of out-of-body experiences. Their methods? Cliché, caricature and proto-Christian morality. Props? Corn chips, corpses, crucifixes. The agenda? Deceit: a dishonest throwing of the reader to the wolves. And the result? Readymade Hollywood scripts..."

Jonah Raskin says: "...The anniversary of his death provides an occasion to reappraise his work and rethink his life. Fortunately, critics and biographers have been sifting through Twain's published writings and rummaging through his archives. A half dozen new books delve deeply and from nearly every possible angle into perhaps our most profoundly divided writer..."

Two of the greatest Marathi writers, Shripad Krishna Kolhatkar 1871-1934 (श्रीपाद कृष्ण कोल्हटकर) and C V Joshi (चि वि जोशी ) were deeply influenced by Twain and Kolhatkar surely was as talented as him.

I just finished reading 'eka snehabandhachi gosht' (एका स्नेहबंधाची गोष्ट) edited by Dr. Anjali Soman (संपादक डॉ अंजली सोमण), 2005. The book is based on postal correspondence between Kolhatkar and Anandibai Shirke (आनंदीबाई शिर्के) from Dec 17 1913 to April 21 1934.

By some strange coincidence, like Twain but not on that scale, as per the book, Kolhatkar too had financial problems. He became a farmer to overcome them. From a few of his distressed letters to Ms. Shirke, you begin to understand what it meant to be a small farmer in Vidarbha. (I plan to return to this book a few more times. BTW- The photo of Ms. Shirke in the book alone is worth the price of the book!)

The Times of India reported on Mar 28, 2010:
"Nine more farmers in Vidarbha region of Maharshtra committed suicide in the last 24 hours. This takes the toll of farmers’ suicides to 19 in the last one week and 194 this year, claimed Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti — an NGO keeping track on farmers’ suicides since 1997..."

Looks like, in some important aspects, little seems to have changed since 1934!

Will Kolhatkar's 100th death anniversary celebrate his work as much as Twain's? Even one new critical book on his art, reissue of all of Kolhatkar's books and G D Khanolkar's (गं दे खानोलकर) biography of him will do.

I doubt it.



Artist: Joseph Keppler, Puck magazine, 1885