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शुक्रवार, 31 जुलाई 2015

Vignettes of literature then and now

Kuldeep Kumar, a well known writer and columnist use to write a regular column on Hindi Belt in The Hindu. In this piece he has concentrated on ALOCHANA, the literary magazine published by Rajkamal Prakshan. The intellectual bankruptcy of hindi literature coupled with the its sharp decline in terms of readers and critics has found a voice in this short note. 

A vivid account of the journey of ‘Aalochana’ from a magazine devoted primarily to literary criticism to its present avatar of catering to social sciences. Like individuals, magazines too re-invent themselves. And when an iconic Hindi magazine like “Aalochana” (Criticism) does it, the event is bound to stir the literary world because over the past seven decades, the magazine has become a veritable institution. Its first issue had come out in October 1951 under the editorship of progressive critic Shivdan Singh Chauhan. During those days, Cold War was raging between the capitalist camp led by the United States and the socialist camp headed by the erstwhile Soviet Union. Hindi literature was not immune to this all-pervasive political-ideological struggle. Against this backdrop, it was significant that Rajkamal Prakashan decided to bring out such a trend-setting journal devoted mainly to literary criticism. Chauhan ably edited the magazine and shaped it into a significant critical voice that was heard with seriousness. However, he could bring out only six issues of the quarterly as, in early 1953, the publishers thought it fit to hand over the magazine to an editorial board comprising Dharmvir Bharati, Vijaydev Narayan Sahi, Raghuvansh and Brajeshwar Verma and assisted by Kshemchandra Suman.

It was a tectonic shift as nearly all members of the new editorial board were Cold Warriors. Although they edited 11 issues, they could not steer the magazine well and after a mere five years of its publication, “Aalochana” got its third editor in well-known critic of chhayawad 
(romanticism) Nand Dulare Vajpeyi. In 1963, Shivdan Singh Chauhan was recalled to edit the magazine. Namwar Singh, who had acquired a formidable reputation as an intellectual and literary critic even in his youth, was called upon to take charge of “Aalochana” in 1967. Although he remains associated with it even today as its Chief Editor, it is well known that for the past nearly two decades, he has been more or less performing a supervisory role 
while the magazine was being successively edited by Parmanand Srivastava and Arun Kamal. Vishnu Khare, Nandkishore Naval, Prabhat Ranjan and R. Chetankranti have also been associated with it as Assistant Editors at various stages.

Apoorvanand, a professor at the Hindi Department of the Delhi University and a well-known commentator, is the newest editor of “Aalochana”. He has brought out two issues of the magazine together as they focus on an assessment of the Indian democracy made by social
scientists. This has given rise to a fierce controversy on the pages of Hindi daily “Jansatta” about the ideal nature of a literary journal.

On May 30, 2014, I had begun this column by bemoaning the fact that “for various reasons, Hindi has primarily been a language of literature and journalism and very little has been written in it on social or natural sciences”. While the situation has not undergone a sea change, it has certainly improved and books and articles have started being written in Hindi on issues of social sciences.

Last year, in collaboration with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Vani Prakashan had started a “peer-reviewed” journal “Pratiman” devoted to social sciences. Two of its issues were also devoted to the just concluded Lok Sabha elections. 
Decrying the metamorphosis of “Aalochana” from a journal of literary criticism into one focusing primarily on social sciences, Shambhunath, a retired Hindi professor, drew a parallel between it and “Pratiman” and saw a conspiracy to promote the ideological stance of the ‘subaltern school’.

Though the attack did not make much sense as Shambhunath lambasted something which deserved a hearty welcome, he was perhaps driven to it as “Pratiman” and “Aalochana” happen to share quite a few contributors. This has naturally resulted in sharing the way they look at social and political issues although raising the bogey of ‘subaltern school’ does not cut much ice. While both the issues are well edited and contain very interesting reading material, one feels amused to notice a regular column “Namwar Ke Notes” wherein former students of Namwar Singh present their class notes, or in their absence, notes prepared by Singh himself for his lectures.

One is reminded of Ferdinand de Saussure, the great French linguist whose collated lecture notes were published in 1916 after three years of his death in the form of an epoch-changing book titled “Cours de linguistique générale”. This book laid the foundation of Structuralism as well as Semiology as it offered a synchronic linguistic model that could be used to analyse and explain various phenomena. A man of sharp intellect and vast erudition, Namwar Singh is an excellent teacher but he is no Saussure. No new critical concept or theory (for example, “objective correlative” in the case of T. S. Eliot, “ostranenie” (defamiliarisation) in the case of Viktor Shklovsky and “analysis of creative process” in the case of our very own Muktibodh can be attributed to him.

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