Prufrock's Page

Sunday, June 05, 2005

New, Improved

"How is newness to come into the world?" asks Amitava (Husband of a Fanatic) Kumar in connection with Indian writing in English. He goes back to the fount -- Mulk Raj Anand, R.K. Narayan -- and concludes, somewhat hastily and unsatisfyingly: "Newness at this stage will come not only from an irreverent tongue, which is now a cliché, but a more accurate engagement with our complex realities, many of which have global dimensions."

But -- and it's a large "but" -- as Kumar himself touches upon but doesn't explore, the moment any writer consciously aims for 'newness', it becomes merely a contrivance, a stylistic gimmick, if you will. Originality in expression arises from a unique way of seeing the world, a way that's wholly specific and instrinic to the individual writer. And Pound's diktat -- "Make it new!" -- was perhaps one of the things responsible for the dead-end that Modernism faced after its exhilarating first wave.

Ironically, one of the 'new' voices that one has come across recently has been that of Hungarian author Sandor Marai, with the English translations of his
Embers and Casanova In Bolzano. When were both of them first published? In the 1940s.


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