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."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

N G Kalelkar, It was Marriage at Cana, not The Last Supper

I like essays of N G Kalelkar 1909-1989 (ना गो कालेलकर) whose Marathi book 'Bhasha: Itihas ani Bhoogol' (भाषा: इतिहास आणि भूगोल) won Sahitya Akademi award in 1967.

Year 2009-10 is the 100th birth anniversary year of Kalelkar. The June 2010 issue of Lalit (ललित) has an essay on him by Prof. Vidyagauri Tilak (विद्यागौरी टिळक) to mark the occasion.

It is said that the main character- played memorably by Satish Dubhashi (सतीश दुभाषी)- of P L Deshpande's (पु ल देशपांडे) popular play 'Ti Fulrani' (ती फुलराणी) was inspired by Kalelkar.

Sunita Deshpande (सुनीता देशपांडे), P L Deshpande's wife, has written an unusually frank- for inbred Marathi literary culture of second half of 20th century- essay on Kalelkar, throwing light on many aspects of his personal life. (After reading the essay, Kalelkar became more interesting for me.)

In one of the most impressive passages from Kalelkar's book '"bhasha ani sanskriti" (भाषा आणि संस्कृती) he says:

When a class containing Lord Byron (1788 – 1824) was asked to write an essay on the subject of the Last Supper, Byron wrote just one line- 'The water saw its Lord and blushed'...Water in Latin is feminine...etc. etc. (page 47, edition December 1982)

This moved me so much when I first read it almost 25 years ago that I memorised it and kept quoting it in my conversations.

There are a couple of problems with this.

First, it was not the Last Supper but Marriage at Cana.

And second it was not Lord Byron- then a third grade boy- who first said this.

In fact it was Richard Crashaw (c.1613-1649) who wrote:

'The conscious water saw its God, and blushed' (original in Latin: Nympha pudica Deum vidit, et erubuit)

Read an earlier related post here

I feel Kalelkar should have attributed this to Crashaw. But did he know that it was Crashaw who first wrote it?

A lot of stuff written in Marathi has gone unchallenged.


Artist: Paolo Veronese, c 1562-63