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, November 09, 2010

Picture-Blindness: An Old Epidemic Among Marathi Literati


Simon Garfield :

 "The cliché that you can’t judge a book by its cover is wrong. You clearly can and all you need is a book of cover jackets to prove the nonsense of that phrase."
 
Ludwig Wittgenstein:

“Don’t think, look!”

Satyajit Ray:

"I don't know if it is the Bengali temperament, but many of our writers seem more inclined to use their minds, rather than eyes and ears."

 

वसंत पाटणकर:

"मराठीत कलाविषयक लेखन, सिद्धान्तन करू पाहणारे बहुधा सहित्यसमीक्षक असतात. त्यांना साहित्याचे जसे आतून ज्ञान असते तसे ते इतर कलांचे सामान्यतः नसते. अन्य कलांचे आतून ज्ञान असणार्या समीक्षकांनी केलेले कलाविषयक लेखन कलेच्या स्वरुपावर काही वेगळा प्रकाश टाकण्याची शक्यता असते. गोडश्यांचे लेखन हे या दुसर्या प्रकारातील असल्यामुळेच
ते
अभिनव ठरते. दुसरे असे की साहित्य, चित्र, शिल्प अशा अनेकविध कलांची काही विचारसूत्रांत बांधणी करू पाहणारी मोठ्या आवाक्याची समीक्षा मराठीत जवळजवळ नाहीच असे म्हटले तरी चालेल. त्यामुळे गोडश्यांचा कलामीमांसेचा हा प्रयत्न महत्वपूर्ण आहे."

["D.G. Godse Yanchi Kalamimansa" Editor; Sarojini Vaidya, Vasant Patankar (Marathi), 1997 (". . गोडसे यांची कलामीमांसा" संपादक: सरोजिनी वैद्य, वसंत पाटणकर)]

Nicholas Fraser:

Seeing is all that we can do reliably, and that, for J G Ballard at least, was more than enough to fill a lifetime.


HOLLY FINN:

"Today's signature move is the head swivel. It is the age of look-then-look-away... We miss almost everything; we text while we walk. What makes a person stand out now is the ability to look and keep looking...

...A "museum intervention" is now mandatory at Yale's School of Medicine for all first-year medical students. Called Enhancing Observational Skills, the program asks students to look at and then describe paintings—not Pollocks and Picassos but Victorian pieces, with whole people in them. The aim? To improve diagnostic knack."

Orhan Pamuk:


"Yes, painting and literature are “sister arts” and I taught a class about it at Columbia. I liked to ask my students to close their eyes, entertain a thought and to open their eyes and try to clarify whether it was a word or an image. Correct answer: Both! Novels address both our verbal (Dostoyevsky) and visual (Proust, Nabokov) imaginations. There are so many unforgettable scenes in the novels of Dostoyevsky, but we rarely remember the background, the landscape or the objects in the scenes.  There are also other types of novelists who compose memorable scenes by forming pictures and images in our minds. Before Flaubert’s “perfect word,” there should be a perfect picture in the writer’s imagination. A good reader should occasionally close the novel in her hand and look at the ceiling and clarify in her imagination the writer’s initial picture that triggered the sentence or the paragraph...

...Like van Gogh or the neo-Expressionist painters, show your brushstrokes! The reader will enjoy observing the making of the novel if it is made a minor part of the story... 

...
Try to identify the accidental beauty where neither the mind conceived of nor the hand intended any. The writer in me and the painter in me are getting to be friendlier every day. That’s why I am now planning novels with pictures and picture books with texts and stories.."


I have a lot of respect for Milind Bokil (मिलिंद बोकिल). Whatever little I have read written by him, I have liked it.

His essay on Vinoba Bhave (विनोबा भावे) is one of the best essays I have read in any language. It will take some talent to write a better essay than that.

Recently Anil Awchat's (अनिल अवचट) book 'Punyachi Apurvai' (पुण्याची अपूर्वाई) was published. Bokil released it in Pune (पुणे) on August 8 2010.

Lalit September 2010 has published the text of his speech made on the occasion. It runs four and half pages.

It's a personal tribute to Awchat and his contribution to Marathi literature. But if it is supposed to be about the book, I am deeply disappointed by it.

Presuming that Lalit has reproduced his speech in its entirety, Bokil doesn't mention illustrator Vasant Sarwate's (वसंत सरवटे) contribution to the book even once, although he does mention a few fellow writers.

It's hard to believe. I thought it was like going to Ajanta-Ellora and not mentioning paintings while describing your experience there!

Look at the cover of the book below. Even a cursory look by those who are familiar with Sarwate's work would know that it is his although you can't spot his name-stamp (नाममुद्रा) easily.

Following is a small passage from Bokil's speech. It's in Marathi.

Bokil talks about a new world-view given by Awchat to Marathi language for looking at life, society, environment.





(double click on the picture to get a larger view)

I am not sure about this claim. Although I have tremendously liked a lot of what Awchat has written, I don't think it's a new 'world-view' in Marathi. Awchat always had someone like S M Mate (श्री म माटे), if not one or two more, to follow.

What is shocking is Bokil doesn't mention Sarwate's contribution- although part of it is right under his nose next to Awchat's prose- in this regard.

Sarwate has given us a world-view no one in Marathi had given us before. And those who have followed him- most notably Abhimanyu Kulkarni (अभिमन्यु कुलकर्णी)- have never reached the heights, he took Marathi readers to.

He belongs where only the likes of James Thurber, Saul Steinberg or that anonymous artist who created Tom & Jerry in stone at Mamallapuram do.

I am sure Awachat- like P L Deshpande (पु ल देशपांडे), Jaywant Dalvi (जयवंत दळवी ), Vinda Karandikar (विंदा करंदीकर) and many others- considers himself lucky that Sarwate agreed to draw for his book.

But this problem of hyperopia afflicting Marathi culture is pretty old.

For instance, although the late Dinanath Dalal (दीनानाथ दलाल) designed and illustrated majority of notable Marathi books for a number of years, how many times was he mentioned in their reviews?

I recently wrote about a related disorder: "In Marathi Popular Culture, a false division between Laughter and Thought". Also, see my another related post "Can We Trust an Artist to Show us the Reality?".

I am surprised and frustrated by the spread of this malady.

In Indian culture "Darshan" (view) is an important aspect of the culture. Wikipedia informs: "Darshan is...an event in consciousness—an interaction in presence between devotee and guru; or between devotee and image or sculpture, which focuses and calls out the consciousness of the devotee. In either event, a heightening of consciousness or spirituality is the intended effect." Marathi poet-saints who were allowed inside the Vitthal (विठ्ठल) temple describe the image of deity.

Vilas Sarang (विलास सारंग) has written movingly about his meeting with great W H Auden where Sarang says the whole objective was "Darshan" of Auden. (btw- This essay always brings tears to my eyes.)

Poet-saints and Sarang didn't draw what they saw because of various reasons. More importantly they didn't have someone like Sarwate to help.

But when you have Sarwate illustrating a book of your favourite author, the last thing you should do is to ignore him.

If you don't like what he has drawn, then say so. For instance, Sarwate himself has always felt that S G Joshi's (सीताराम गंगाधर जोशी) illustrations suit C V Joshi's (चिं. वि. जोशी) books better than that of his very close talented friend S D Phadnis (शि द फडणीस ).

But please try not to be indifferent to a fellow artist.

Unless of course you too are suffering from picture-blindness.

p.s.
The above was written on November 9 2010. 'Lalit'(ललित) September 2011 has a 4-page review of Awchat's book by Shankar Sarda (शंकर सारडा). It does NOT even mention Sarwate's pictures! (Sept 9, 2011)