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."

Thursday, April 21, 2016

फर्ग्युसन कॉलेजातील दादा ताई...Charlotte Bronte@200

Today April 21 2016 is 200th birth anniversary of Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Brontë, 1853:

“No mockery in this world ever sounds to me so hollow as that of being told to cultivate happiness. What does such advice mean? Happiness is not a potato, to be planted in mould and tilled with manure.”

One of the best essays in Marathi is by Vishwanath Kashinath Rajwade (विश्वनाथ काशिनाथ राजवाडे) 1863-1926. It is titled "Kadambari" (कादंबरी): novel.

Rajwade has no high opinion of not just Marathi novels but English too. He is fond of French and Russian novels. 

He says: "...टॉल्स्टॉय, झोला, ह्यूगो  ह्यांनी लिहिलेल्या कादंबऱ्यांच्या तोडीची इंग्लिश भाषेंत एकहि कादंबरी झाली नाही. जगातील सर्व राष्ट्रांना प्रसिद्ध अशा निरनिराळ्या भाषांतील कादंबर्यांची गणना केली तर त्यांत इंग्लंडातील दोन तीन व अमेरिकेतील एकाच कादंबरीचा समावेश करावा लागेल. Pilgrim's Progress, Gulliver's Travels, Robinson Crusoe आणि Uncle Tom's Cabin ह्या चार कादंबर्याखेरीज दुसर्या कोणत्याहि कादंबऱ्या इतर राष्ट्रांना सरसहा माहीत असतील असे म्हणवत नाही…. " [page 296/297, 'Rajwade Lekhsangraha', 1958/1992 (राजवाडे लेखसंग्रह)] 

Well, today Mr. Rajwade would be surprised to know that Bronte's 'Jane Eyre', 1847 is now commonly accepted in the canon of English literature and is widely studied in secondary schools.

Not just that,  "Charlotte Brontë has been called the 'first historian of the private consciousness' and the literary ancestor of writers like Joyce and Proust. The novel contains elements of social criticism, with a strong sense of morality at its core, but is nonetheless a novel many consider ahead of its time given the individualistic character of Jane and the novel's exploration of classism, sexuality, religion, and proto-feminism." (Wikipedia)

(BTW: it's surprising that Rajwade does NOT mention Herman Melville’s ‘Moby-Dick’, 1851, probably the greatest American novel of all time)
  
India figures in ‘Jane Eyre’ as it does in most 19th century English literature. 

In later part of the novel, St. John asks Jane to come with him to India. He wants her to come as his wife while she wants to be his sister!
“....“I am ready to go to India, if I may go free.”
“Your answer requires a commentary,” he said; “it is not clear.”
“You have hitherto been my adopted brother—I, your adopted sister: let us continue as such: you and I had better not marry.”
He shook his head. “Adopted fraternity will not do in this case. If you were my real sister it would be different: I should take you, and seek no wife. But as it is, either our union must be consecrated and sealed by marriage, or it cannot exist: practical obstacles oppose themselves to any other plan. Do you not see it, Jane? Consider a moment—your strong sense will guide you.”
I did consider; and still my sense, such as it was, directed me only to the fact that we did not love each other as man and wife should: and therefore it inferred we ought not to marry. I said so. “St. John,” I returned, “I regard you as a brother—you, me as a sister: so let us continue.”
“We cannot—we cannot,” he answered, with short, sharp determination: “it would not do. You have said you will go with me to India: remember—you have said that.”
“Conditionally.”...”

I thought this was funny.  There was so much of this brother-or-husband / sister-or-wife confusion in 20th century India, particularly before independence. 

There is a Marathi book called 'Vishrabhad Sharda' (विश्रब्ध शारदा), 1972 that contains a lot of letters exchanged among Marathi literati, theater personalities, other cultural players, activists, budding politicians.

I remember letters that were exchanged between Kavi Anil (कवी अनिल) and Kusumavati Jaywant. They started their exchange by addressing each other as brother (दादा) and sister (ताई) and went on to marry each other! 

There are dozens of such examples.  

This 'Victorian' custom must have come to English-educated Maharashtra from England via Bengal. In any case, they were reading Bronte at Fergusson college when Anil and Kusumavati attended it

'
'Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Brontë'
Artist: Branwell Bronte, c 1834

“Branwell—Emily—Anne are gone like dreams—gone as Maria and Elizabeth went twenty years ago. One by one I have watched them fall asleep on my arm—and closed their glazed eyes—I have seen them buried one by one—and—thus far—God has upheld me.”

—Charlotte Brontë lost her last sibling at the age of thirty-three in 1849

Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, adapted by Elizabeth Watasin 

[The Graphic Canon, Vol. 2: From "Kubla Khan" to the Bronte Sisters to The Picture of Dorian Gray (The Graphic Canon Series), 2012]

(if you have a difficulty reading speech balloons in the picture above, I have reproduced them below)

“Tea over and the tray removed, she again summoned us to the fire; we sat one on each side of her, and now a conversation followed between her and Helen, which it was indeed a privilege to be admitted to hear.

Miss Temple had always something of serenity in her air, of state in her mien, of refined propriety in her language, which precluded deviation into the ardent, the excited, the eager: something which chastened the pleasure of those who looked on her and listened to her, by a controlling sense of awe; and such was my feeling now: but as to Helen Burns, I was struck with wonder.

The refreshing meal, the brilliant fire, the presence and kindness of her beloved instructress, or, perhaps, more than all these, something in her own unique mind, had roused her powers within her. They woke, they kindled: first, they glowed in the bright tint of her cheek, which till this hour I had never seen but pale and bloodless; then they shone in the liquid lustre of her eyes, which had suddenly acquired a beauty more singular than that of Miss Temple’s—a beauty neither of fine colour nor long eyelash, nor pencilled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of radiance.” (Chapter VIII, 'Jane Eyre', 1847)

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