Sunday, 25 September 2011
I just wanted you to know that I just received my copy of Charles Johnson: Embracing the World. That condensed biography is phenomenal. What would the non-condensed version look like? The text is multifaceted, rich, and global. I like the subtitle; it speaks to Chuck's cosmopolitan sensibilities, his complex identity, and the universal thrust of his ideas, narratives, and motifs captured in his philosophical fiction. The fact that there are so many genres of writing within the text is evidence enough of the plural and inexhaustible style of Chuck. Of course, his work is also deeply pragmatic, but by no means ad hoc. He is a principled writer, ethically and stylistically. His work is indeed an attempt to embrace the world and thereby militates against myopia, sectarianism and unnecessary tribal perspectives. There is something in his writing that paradoxically captures with great precision that space of the human as expressed within the mundane of everyday life. Yet, his work has a vertical axis that never forgets the mystery of human existence. I think that he is motivated from both places, fully grounded and yet transcendent. He is able to touch our emotions in their raw and ever evolving states and yet capture something of the universal human spirit that is always already deferred, postponed. Perhaps this dynamic of deferral is due to the multiple manners-of-given-ness of human reality. Human reality is a process that is inexhaustible, something that stays just beyond the reach of the writer's pen. It teases, showing us exhilarating flashes. Yet, it remains ultimately concealed, one more step ahead.
Thanks for putting this together and for including my voice within it.
Dr. George Yancy is Associate Professor of Philosophy & Coordinator of the Critical Race Theory Speaker Series at Duquesne University, USA.
Friday, 2 September 2011
I have now had the chance to read your editorial, which is something I read first, have always admired reading, and look forward to reading when a copy arrives. This time I was amply rewarded - thanks for it. I just hope readers get to read my poem too - in context. Let me know if you get any feedback on the poem. Poetry is such a marginalized activity these days that it is really wonderful of you to continue to support it...
I also really liked your conversation with Jonah Raskin. He is clearly a kindred soul - and you asked interesting questions too. The various comments made about you/ Re-Markings were also fascinating. S Ramaswamy's remarks and Omkar Sane's piece were wonderful - in their own ways.
Jayanta's poems I liked too, and look forward to reading more of the articles in your excellent tenth anniversary issue. All good wishes, Shanta Acharya: Dr. Shanta Acharya lives in London. Her study, The Influence of Indian Thought on Ralph Waldo Emerson, was published by The Edwin Mellen Press, USA. Her latest poetry collection, her fifth, is Dreams That Spell the Light (Arc Publications, UK; 2010). She has published over 300 poems in major publications in the U.K., U.S.A., and India.
Thanks for sending me a link to all these well-deserved tributes to Re-Markings and to you as editor. I wish you many more years of success and productivity. All the best, Morris: Professor Morris Dickstein is a literary and cultural critic and Distinguished Professor of English at the City University of New York.
Thanks, Nibir and many congratulations! I agree wholeheartedly with Johnson's articulations of Re-Markings’ remarkableness. Thanks, Jonathan Little: Chairman, Dept. of English, Alverno College, Milwaukee, U.S.A.
Dear Dr. Ghosh,
I came to know of your journal through a website of the professors of English in Delhi University. Surprising that a journal of such merit and long standing is not known to most of us here. It is indeed a matter of great achievement to bring out a journal of this calibre for ten long years, twice a year. I shall be happy to subscribe to it from now on. Do let me know the subscription and how to go about it. Prof. Sushil Gupta, Delhi University
Congratulations Sir! In this era of internet, where reading habits are more or less extinct, the success of this journal brings cool breeze. Credit for this goes to you, contributors & subscribers. Wishing you more successful decades ahead- Akhil: Dr. Akhil Kr. Singh, M.D.
It’s truly great. I feel blessed and elated on being your research scholar. May God bless you with many more achievements! I pray for your good health and success. Deep regards – Supriya Bhandari, Moga
Thank you for sending me the recent tributes. I am glad to be associated with Re-Markings and glad that Wystan is one of the people that Re-Markings admires. All good wishes for your Tenth Anniversary and a continued journey into another decade. – Anita Money (W.H. Auden’s Niece), London
Dear Dr. Ghosh,
Congratulations! I think you deserve all the praise showered on you by all the reviewers and more. Thank you for sharing this with me. May God give you the strength to carry on for years to come. – Dr. Nafeesa Fathima Moinuddin, Fulbright Scholar 2002-03, University of Arizona, Tucson, U.S.A.
The comments from erudite scholars and exemplary critics kept me mesmerised for almost two hours. I would be over reaching myself in even trying to add a syllable to all the well deserved praise for Re-Markings and its chief editor. All I can say is - I concur with "what oft was thought but never so well expressed"! I am positive that there will be many many more anniversaries and every issue will be as good (if not better) than its previous one. May you continue to contribute meaningfully to our discipline. Congratulations to you and your committed team. - Regards, Neelanjana Pathak, Jabalpur
Dear Dr. Ghosh
I have received the September issue of Re-Markings.To sustain publishing a standard academic journal for ten years is indeed great and I believe, as Jonah Raskin does, that "much of the success of Re-Markings is due to the vision, dedication and courage" of Nibir Ghosh.The most interesting piece in this issue, as all readers would surely agree, is "How Nibir Ghosh Lost His Hair" !
I am sure Re-Markings will continue to serve the academic community of India for many more years to come.
Regards. J.N.Patnaik: Professor Emeritus, Ravenshaw University, Orissa
I received the latest issue of Re-Markings a few days back. I am really glad to see that your journal has completed ten years of existence and you really deserve applaud for the successful run of the journal. The latest issue is again very interesting with a wide variety of articles. I particularly enjoyed your interview of Jonah Ruskin, How Nibir Ghosh Lost Hair and poems by Jayant Mahapatra.
My heartiest congratulations to Re-Markings and best wishes for future. Regards, Dr. Jaya Tripathi,I TS Engineering College, Gr. Noida.
I got the September issue of Remarkings. I congratulate you for completing
I got the September issue of Remarkings. I congratulate you for completing
ten years of this wonderful journey. Sir, quite seriously I compared Re-Markings with some other journals published in India and I found most of them wanting in one way or the other.
I wish Re-Markings achieve new heights under your able guidance. --Jamsheed Ahmed, Department of English, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh.
Tuesday, 30 August 2011
My heartiest congratulations on the leadership role that you've played in enabling the success of "Re-Markings" since its inception. I personally thank you for introducing "Re-Markings" to me and also for inviting me to be part of its multicultural forum of ideas. I wish you every success as you continue in your role as the chief editor of this remarkable journal. Do take care and please don't lose touch. Regards, Walter
-- Walter S. H. Lim is Deputy Head (Literature), Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences :: National University of Singapore.
I enjoyed reading the post on the 10th anniversary of the Re-Markings! Congratulations! – Sarina: –Sarina Paranjape, Senior Program Officer (Indian Program),United States-India Educational Foundation, New Delhi
Dear Dr. Nibir,
Congratulations! You have done tremendous work and have made a place for yourself in the academics by showing light. I feel proud to be associated with the journal as a contributor to the first issue. Susheel: Dr. Susheel Kumar Sharma, Professor, Department of English, University of Allahabad, Allahabad.
These are terrific write-ups. I feel privileged that I could add my words to the celebration. Pranam, Chuck (Charles Johnson).
It is indeed remarkable to see Re-Markings (pun intended as pointed out) reach this milestone of a decade. I am sure future editions will make this decade’s journey look like it was just a start. - Ravi Monga
Congratulations and thanks (yes, Thanks) for what you create in every issue of RE-MARKINGS! Your vision and your hard work shows in every aspect of the journal. I too plan to write a post re RE-MARKINGS and about "Embracing the World." – Amrit: Professor Amritjit Singh, Langston Hughes Professor, Athens, Ohio.
Those are really fine tributes to Re-Markings and to you and so thanks for gathering them and
All the best, Jonah Raskin
Monday, 29 August 2011
Re-Markings, an international refereed biannual journal of research in English, celebrates Ten Years of its publication with the Twentieth Issue, Vol. X No. 2, September 2011
Excerpts from writeups in the issue
The Life of the Mind Knows No Geographic Boundaries
As the former fiction editor of a literary journal, The Seattle Review, a publication I served for 20 years, I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that Re-Markings is a simply remarkable (pun intended) contribution to our literary and cultural experience. During its first decade of existence, the breadth of its content - spanning fiction, poetry, literary scholarship, reviews, and special features on cultural questions of perennial interest - has been nothing short of breathtaking, thereby fulfilling its ambitious mission statement. What strikes me most about that mission is that from the beginning chief editor Nibir K. Ghosh has maintained a vision inspirited with a sense that the life of the mind (and heart) knows no geographic boundaries.
On the pages of this publication, East and West are constantly in conversation, offering readers the opportunity to reflect upon the works of Samuel Beckett, Thomas Pynchon, Jhumpa Lahiri, W.H. Auden, Henry David Thoreau, Jainendra Kumar, and many others. And for that reason we can say that Re-Markings is a bellwether publication for this new century and millennium in which the old tribal, nationalistic, ideological and provincial approaches to literary culture are destined to give way to a robust, multi-cultural appreciation of humankind’s global achievements in general. True enough, as I write these words in July, 2011, the world is wracked by conflicts based on race, ethnicity, and religion. But these, I suspect, are the last death twitches of a limited, tribal way of thinking at the dawn of the 21st century, a new era in which science, technology, advances in communication that obliterate isolationism and insularity, and a “global economy” made possible the recent “Arab spring,” i.e., young people demanding democracy, transparency in government, and prosperity for all. In both its spirit and practice, Re-Markings significantly nurtures these profound, evolu-tionary changes remaking (pun also intended) the world in which we live.
Like President Barack Obama, I see myself as both an American and a citizen of the world. And, as a Buddhist, I have a life-long appreciation for the great spiritual contributions that India has given to the world. I feel honored that my humble literary efforts were selected to appear on the pages of Re-Markings, first because all of its contributors exhibit a high degree of professional excellence. One only needs to glance at the publication’s handsome website to see that the works it generously gives us are both innovative and cutting-edge. And, secondly, I sense in Re-Markings the expansive spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of modern India, one of the most important spiritual figures in the 20th century, and an inspiration for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who I have written much about. With its 20th issue and tenth birthday imminent, we should all congratulate and thank Nibir K. Ghosh and his dedicated team for their decades-long labor that has fostered cross-cultural understanding and opened doors for new, exciting scholarship that will prove to be seminal for the future. And yes, I eagerly look forward to many more years of literary and scholarly gems from Re-Markings.
- Dr. Charles Johnson is novelist, essayist, literary critic, short story writer, cartoonist, screenwriter and Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington. He is a 1998 MacArthur fellow, author of Middle Passage, which received the 1990 National Book Award for fiction, and a 2002 recipient of an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is the author of 18 books, among them Turning the Wheel: Essays on Buddhism and Writing, and has published numerous essays, drawings and works of criticism. His fiction includes the novels Faith and the Good Thing, Oxherding Tale, and Dreamer, and three story collections, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Soulcatcher and Other Stories, and Dr. King's Refrigerator and Other Bedtime Stories.
10th Anniversary Reflections
I deem it a pleasure to offer my impression of Re-Markings on the cusp of its 10th-anniversary. The fact that the publication has survived a stormy decade is a real achievement and cause for celebration. Over the past 10-years Re-Markings has evolved and continues to mature. There is no other publication like it that I know of and it occupies a unique place in the world of global journals. I feel really honored to be connected to it, and to contribute to it and I have found a real sense of satisfaction as a writer and a thinker because of my links to Re-Markings. If I may say this, I believe that much of the success of Re-Markings is due to the vision, dedication and courage shown by its Chief Editor, Nibir. He has played a major part in making the journal what it is today. Re-Markings has a global perspective and it's also interdisciplinary. It aims to synthesize and to see the big picture as well as to look at and celebrate the local. The fact that it's both global and local makes it an extraordinary publication. I have written about films, fiction, theater, autobiographical pieces and traditional literary criticism and it is important to have a magazine that originates in India and that goes out and around the world to have a diversity of views and approaches. India itself as a country has made important strides in the past decade and it deserves a journal such as Re-Markings that looks critically at Indian society and culture. The world is a place of conflicts and clashes, but it is also a place of confluences and Re-Markings helps to furture the dialogue between different cultures around the world. It aids communication around the world and it has moved with the times and with the technological changes in the past decade as evidenced by the website which is impressive and professional. I hope to continue to work with Nibir and with Re-Markings and I hope that the journal has been shaped in beneficial ways by my contributions just as I have been shaped and influenced in beneficial ways by my association with the journal. Nibir has given birth to and nurtured a publication of which he and his contributors and his advisory board ought to be proud. So, congratulations Nibir and keep up the excellent work.
· Jonah Raskin is a Professor at Sonoma State University, California where he teaches courses in American literature, media law, and an interdisciplinary program for entering college students. From 1967-1972 he taught English and American literature at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. During that period, he wrote for underground newspapers, and was active in the movement against the war in Vietnam. Since 1975, he has lived and worked in northern California - with the exception of one year as a Fulbright Professor in Belgium where he taught American literature at the University of Antwerp and the University of Ghent. He is the author of 12 books and several volumes of poetry. His work has been translated into French and Spanish.
I first met Editor Nibir Ghosh at a debate competition organised by Agra’s popular newspaper DLA at St Peter’s College on October 11, 2008. The subject, if I remember correctly, was “whether politicians should also retire at age sixty.” I, as the ex-Member of Parliament from Agra rushing towards my sixties was soon joined by Raj Babbar, the sitting MP (age wise in somewhat the same category (!). It was a fun event with young talent from the city’s best schools debating on both sides of the issue.
As we were leaving, Nibir gave me a copy of Re-Markings, the journal that he edits and publishes. I lazily opened it on the train journey back to Delhi and soon was mesmerised. Here was Anna Akhmatova, Frantz Fanon and so much more. I could not believe it. I called a friend next day to go and pay for my subscription so that I could have regular supply of the journal.
The journal excited me for it was a continuation, it seemed to me, of the great literary traditions of Agra, of debate and discourse in all our diversities.
Our country has one of the biggest publishing industries in the world. In all our many languages are journals dealing with a myriad of issues. I too once, decades ago, edited and published a monthly journal Asli Bharat that took up the issue of public interest and got prominent people to write for us giving their views. It was based somewhat along the lines of Seminar, Economic and Political Weekly, The Other Side and so many others. So I know the difficulties that alternative media have with producing their journals. Newsprint, printing, distribution, staff and above all lack of advertising support on which all mainstream media survive.
It is one reason why I respect and admire Editor Nibir Ghosh for his devotion and dedication to his journal. He, and through him, Re-Markings took me back to my youth when we thought we could, as Frantz Fanon said, “It is also the consciousness of collaborating in the immense work of destroying the world of oppression.” Most importantly, it is a journal that makes you think and in my case, as I hope in many others, revisit those fires that once existed.
We all too often, in pursuit of our professional success, tend to lose sight of the beauty surrounding us, particularly of literary discourse. As Eldridge Cleaver says in his Soul on Ice:
…and why does it make you so sad to see how everything hangs by such thin and whimsical threads? Because you are an incredible dreamer, with a tiny spark hidden somewhere inside you which cannot die, which even you cannot kill or quench and which tortures you horribly because all the odds are against its continually burning. In the midst of the foulest decay and putrid savagery, this spark speaks to you of beauty, of human warmth and kindness, of goodness, of greatness, of heroism, and of love.
That is also why I thank Prof. Nibir for Re-Markings and wish him all strength in his efforts.
- Mr. Ajay Singh is a noted journalist. A former MP from Agra, he was Minister of State for Railways in the Indian government during 1989-1990. He has also had an eventful tenure as the Indian High Commissioner in Fiji.
A Decade of Excellence
Shanker A. Dutt
English Studies is and should be in a state of flux, always questioning, constantly debating and importantly, highlighting creative excellence. Skepticism, which lies at the core of this process, was described by Thomas Sprat, the Historian of the Royal Society, as not giving assent to any proposition until proven conclusively. Conclusive proof in texts is rarely possible and a man called Derrida ushered in the hypothesis of its improbability. Good research is a process of discovery through informed assessment leading to an opinion worthy of comment, debate and future inquiry. While it reviews existing knowledge which requires to be acknowledged, it says something that is different from what has been said before.
A number of literary and cultural journals have, over the years, provided space for the publication of scholarship in India. However, many of these have often struggled against the vagaries of quality and in trying to find an appropriate balance between the excellence of established names and the need to create space for the young researchers. Other qualities appreciated in a good literary journal are the value of the editorials and the punctuality of its publication. These are three areas where Re-Markings has scripted its success. Re-Markings is an international refereed biannual journal of English Studies that aims at providing a healthy forum for scholarly interpretations of multiple cultural texts as evidenced in literature, art, television, cinema and journalism with substantial focus on Contemporary Studies in English including translations and creativity. Its Chief Editor Nibir K. Ghosh, a Fulbright scholar and the Head of English Studies at Agra College, wrote rather poetically in the 10th issue:
It is perhaps a happy coincidence that Re-Markings, like the equinoxes, appears in March and September each year. The vernal and the autumnal equinoxes set the globe in perfect gravitational balance and become the harbingers of the Spring of life and the fruits of its Autumn. I am optimistic that Re-Markings will continue to offer, through a clockwork precision of the biannual event, the hope and cheer that one finds in the songs of Spring and the music of Autumn.
It is with this exacting precision of nature’s laws that one has to expect the arrival of Re-Markings and I cannot recollect an occasion to be disappointed.
In many ways, Ghosh has accepted a new mantle, bequeathed without conscious design, of being a rare crusader for literary scholarship as his illustrious predecessor, Professor Puroshottama Lal the primogenitor of Writer’s Workshop in Calcutta to whom Ghosh scripted a fine tribute this spring. In the manner in which Lal had challenged the overwhelming anonymity of his early days to launch the creative careers of India’s now famous poets and writers, so too Ghosh has provided space for discussion and interrogation of cultural productions in English and brought together a band of critics and commentators from different parts of the world on a truly globalised forum for expression and exchange. In the inaugural editorial, Ghosh had stated that “a good work of art invariably leaves its indelible markings on the shifting pages of time. It may or may not offer solutions to the problems that beset mankind but its sublimity lies in the way it contributes not only to the profound understanding of the age in which we live but also in making us aware of our private fears and insecurities, our joys and hopes.” In an age of considerable bitterness and despair, when the world seems to be ideologically partitioned, when development and progress have many, often contradictory definitions and core human needs are subservient to lifestyle choices, it compels us to engage with the narrativised world in search of understanding:
The sublimity of such time-honoured imprints is further affirmed through subsequent revaluations and reconsiderations by succeeding generations who visualise and discover in these paradigms of the essential human condition, the relevance of every living idea that is dynamic, and the significance of every precise emotion which tends towards intellectual formulation. What is, therefore, needed is an effective forum which can function as a repository for a coherent system of thoughts and ideas. I strongly believe that in addressing specific issues and concerns central to the human predicament, Re-Markings will play a seminal role” (Ghosh, 2002).
And indeed the prophecies of ten years ago have manifested over time in meaningful dialogue with texts. It was Umberto Eco who spoke of the written texts as being machines to generate interpretations. Readers from different cultural contexts and personal backgrounds engage with texts in different internal dialogues revealing multiple meanings. The author thus is relegated to being a controlling devise as readers vie for space to interpret and explain. It is this valued space that Re-Markings provides.
The canvas of Re-Markings is varied and vast comprising articles on mainstream and marginal representations of human experience. Each issue has a fair bit for differently interested readers. Women’s writings, for instance has been given substantial space and this may be divided socially, culturally, ethnically, racially, geographically and politically. An article named “Feminism in India: Challenges and Obstacles” by Mohammed Asim Siddiqui offers a synchronic analysis of the state of Indian feminism, discusses its fractured history, explores female subjectivities in colonial and post-independent India and the challenges in a globalised world order. Switching to the Black woman’s experience in the American continent, Pratima’s “Alienation and Affirmation in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye” looks at the quest of self-identity amidst racial discrimination and white dominance. The colonizing effects on the Black psyche makes Pecola long for blue eyes, a distinguishing characteristic primarily of the whites. Morrison believed that authenticity emerges from self-affirmation and making choices that leads to self-ownership. Dalit Feminism in which B.K. Sharma discusses the triple marginalization of Dalit woman with reference to Tagore’s dance-drama Chandalika offers another perspective on woman’s subjectivity living on the edge.
Over the years a number of articles have been published covering every genre on Diaspora experience, Popular fiction, Ecological concerns, Globalised experience, Identity, Subaltern subjectivities, Multiculturalism, Migration and Nationalism, Alienation and Assimilation from perspectives that span the entire critical matrix from liberal humanism to contemporary theory and beyond. Aside of explorations into multiple texts, the journal includes stimulating interviews, informed book reviews and an unusual repertoire of exciting poetry from diverse global locations.
Re-Markings has an impressive list of advisors: Charles Johnson, Jayanta Mahapatra, Amritjit Singh, Ruediger Kunow, S. Ramaswamy, Jonah Raskin and C.R. Visveswara Rao. The editorial collaborators along with Ghosh, A. Karunaker, Sundeep Arora and Katy Whipple ensure production-quality and punctuality. These eminent personages contribute to the authenticity of the journal’s distinction and encourage qualities of scholarship, good writing and some remarkable creativity that one has come to associate with Re-Markings. Some years ago, commenting on Re-Markings, I had written:
it must be a daunting task to publish a journal having to undertake the editor's onus of sorting out variable quality and the publisher's jugglery to balance finance and production. I really liked the honesty with which you have written the editorial in the March 2006 edition of Re-Markings. Often we do not problematise, question or challenge concepts because we are daunted by the reputations and the linguistic magic of what we read. You have taken the lid off manufactured mysteries in a short but telling editorial. Many congratulations for the excellent work you are doing.
Today, as the ten year milestone is crossed, it is a pleasure to reiterate what I had written and state that it is getting better with each passing equinox.
- Dr. Shanker A. Dutt is Professor of English in Patna University. He is associated with a number of Indian and off-shores educational institutions in different advisory, publication and resource capacities. He is currently the Chairman of Bihar Sangeet Natak Academy, Patna.
Re-Markings now has a decade of remarkable achievement. The ‘leanings literary’ and ‘critical sensibility’ have not only continued since the journal began its eventful journey in March 2002 but have established themselves in a marked pattern, all its own, under the dynamic editorship of Dr. Ghosh. What sets the mood and method of each issue is the EDITORIAL. His forceful presentation can be seen time and again. For example in the 2002 September issue, his comment on 11th September 2001 – “The catastrophe that reduced the mighty twin-towers of the World Trade Centre to mere fragments of etherised memory in the twinkling of an eye showed the seamy side of inhuman ingenuity to which even the sky seems no limit.” Quite an indictment. With the support of scholars like Charles Johnson and Jonah Raskin on the Advisory Board, Re-Markings has taken marked strides in the last ten years to establish itself as an elitist but eclectic literary journal. From time to time ‘Special Sections’ have been published like the section on V.S. Naipaul, Communalism, Racism, John Steinbeck, David Ray, W.H. Auden and Doris Lessing.
What makes Re-Markings unique among Indian Academic Journals is that it holds a perfect balance between creative and critical endeavours. Readers of contemporary poetry are as much benefited as the scholars who care for ‘Re-Valuations’ as indeed there are re-valuations of a wide variety of authors – old and new, from all over the world. It is a combination of the global and the local. What more can a literary journal do?
In my experience of reading literary journals for six decades, the latest decade – I call it the decade of Re-Markings – has indeed been truly remarkable.
· Prof. S. Ramaswamy has been a Senior Fulbright Fellow at Yale, in their famous School of Drama. Besides the Fulbright scholarships and fellowships, he got the British Council Scholarship twice, and has been a Shastri Indo-Canadian Fellow at McGill University. In 1959, he helped found the Bangalore Little Theatre (BLT).
How Nibir Ghosh Lost his Hair
Anniversaries are very tricky business. Firstly, you have to remember them. There is no secondly, because you forget them. And forgetting an anniversary is the biggest crime. You'll notice there are belated birthday cards, but no one has come up with a belated anniversary card. Another problem with anniversaries is you have to wait an entire year before you get a chance to remember it and undo your wrong, but since it is a year old, you forget again. Yes, it’s cyclical, just like anniversary is. The third problem with anniversaries is they are sure to come but yet you forget them. That makes the forgetting worse. It’s not a one-off incident that you are pardoned for forgetting. You know all along it is going to come, then how could you forget it? The fourth problem with anniversaries is they come with gifts. And thoughtful, useful gifts don’t count as anniversary gifts. If you do not believe that, try gifting your girlfriend sellotape the next anniversary (if you remember it, that is.) The logic is: the value of gifts reflects the investment that the couple gives of themselves to each other. Because of this logic, anniversary gifts typically are:
Candles you can’t burn.
Wastebaskets you can’t throw trash in.
Frilly pillows you must never sleep on.
A diary with scented pages you can never write in.
Stuffed, cute, furry toy animals.
So, these anniversary gifts keep piling on year after year till you do not have any more space for them. And that’s the next problem with anniversaries. You’re basically stuck with anniversary gifts till you die, because you can’t throw an anniversary gift even if you’re not celebrating the anniversary of the particular important event with that particular person anymore.
At this crucial juncture, it’s time to see where it all began. Obviously anniversaries did not exist when they couldn’t count. No wonder the men in the Stone Age cave paintings look so happy. They say, the practice of giving peculiar gifts on various wedding anniversaries originated in Central Europe. Among the medieval Germans it was customary for friends to present a wife with a wreath of silver when she had lived with her husband twenty-five years. The silver symbolized the harmony that was assumed to be necessary to make so many years of matrimony possible. On the fiftieth anniversary of a wedding the wife was presented with a wreath of gold. Hence arose 'silver wedding' and 'golden wedding.'
Maybe, it was cool back then to celebrate anniversaries, because things lasted that long. According to iMac’s dictionary, the word anniversary has its roots in Latin: anniversarius – annus (year) + versus (turning) – which means, ‘returning yearly’. By that definition, in today’s fickle and frivolous times, anniversaries seem like a dated idea (no pun intended). It’s rare you complete a year with anything except your bed-sheet, that too because you’re too lazy to change it. Otherwise, everything pretty much fizzles out before a year completes – a job, a relationship, a resolution, a gym membership, you name it, and it ends. (In the mid 90s, in India, we followed that pattern even for governments, but thankfully, we gave it up). It’s maybe because of this that we have come up with monthly, weekly and hourly anniversaries, or maybe it has something to do with Hallmark and Archies.
Another thing we can certainly say about anniversaries is it was a woman’s idea. There is no way a man in his right or wrong mind could’ve ever come up with that. Try imagining a man saying, ‘Let’s remember a date every year to celebrate this special moment right here’. It even sounds wrong. But it totally sounds like something a woman can do. Women can have the strangest anniversaries: the fourth month of the day he first told me we might be getting serious. Or, the 6th week of the first time he held my hand. Yes, women remember all this. Why are women like this? Why is the seventh week anniversary of the first time you saw a movie together, or the one-month anniversary of the first time he left his toothbrush at her place so incredibly important to women? One of the reasons is: They see getting a guy and keeping him in an exclusive, committed relationship, the way Lance Armstrong views the Tour de France - a long, gruelling competition with worthy adversaries, bad luck lurking around every corner, and a huge champagne-fueled celebration at the end of it.
Come to think of it, all anniversaries are like that. Sure, there are simple anniversaries, like your own birthday. You seldom forget it because you always have some woman in your life who calls you on that day to remind you. But most anniversaries are tough: marriages, relationships, and jobs, to name a few.
However, the toughest one is an anniversary issue. Which is what makes this anniversary so special. It is 10 years. 10 years is no small time. And to come up with twenty issues without missing deadlines is even a bigger feat. If you have no idea what goes behind releasing an issue, here’s a quick glance. 1. You need to come up with a topic for an issue. 2. Since you can’t fill all the pages yourself, you need to convince others to fill it for you. This is where authors come in handy, because we are used to writing for little or no money. 3. Once you’ve convinced them to write for you, you have to track them like Google. 4. While tracking them, you also have to be polite at all times, since you want it and they’re the ones who are doing you a favour by writing it. 5. While being polite, you also have to be pushy. This is an art that one can master only after seven issues. 6. You need to check and edit what the person has sent. 7. If it doesn’t match the brief, you need to tell the person to rewrite it, but without telling him to rewrite it, lest you sound impolite. 8. If the person doesn’t correct it, you have to do it yourself. This makes it tricky to send the issue to the concerned person, in the fear of insulting him. Because then, the very same person who did not make changes turns around and says, “Why did you make changes to what I wrote? Why couldn’t you just ask me to do it?” 9. You have to then edit and proof-check everything. (Newspapers today generally forget this step). 10. You have to release it and remember everyone who contributed and send them a copy while thanking them deeply and sound sincere while doing it.
And Nibir Ghosh has done this year after year, issue after issue, for 10 years and counting. Yes, Re-Markings has made it. It’s completed 10 years. How Remarkable. What does this tell us about Nibir Ghosh? It tells us 10 things:
1. He is a brave man.
2. He has a great team.
3. He is a professor with a lot of time on hand.
4. He has a wife who serves him food on time.
5. He really loves Re-Markings.
6. He is a zen master but doesn’t yet know it because he is busy editing this issue.
7. He looks older than his age.
8. He is an expert at getting things out of people.
9. As an editor, he has to write this point.
10. He has lost more hair than he can count.
Because all said and done, at the end of the day (or the year), simple or tough, that’s what anniversaries do. They make you lose hair. But some of them are worth it. And this is one of them. As I try hard to come up with a witty ending, I think I may have lost a few to this anniversary.
Cheers to everyone who’s been involved with Re-Markings in any way whatsoever over the past 10 years. It couldn’t have been possible without you. Now for god’s sake, can you send your piece on time as an anniversary gift? I am sending Nibir a diamond-studded comb.
· Omkar Sane, a product of J.J. Institute of Applied Art, Mumbai, is the author of widely acclaimed books Welcome to Advertising! Now, Get Lost and Coming Soon. The End. The March 2011 issue of Re-Markings carried an exclusive interview entitled “Creating Desires and Changing Mindsets: Conversation with Omkar Sane.”
Nibir K. Ghosh
If our journal has been able to reach the ten-year milestone with such style and dignity, it is largely on account of the faith that all worthy members have reposed in our editorial policy that remains committed to offering nothing but the best with clockwork precision. I deeply appreciate the patience that our precious contributors have displayed in waiting for over 12-18 months to see their work in print. I am immensely thankful to the contributors who have enriched this celebratory volume with their creative rendering of universal concerns that remain central to the world we inhabit. I am no less grateful to our esteemed members on the Advisory Board who have always shown rare zeal in being an integral part of Re-Markings. I am truly humbled by the praises that have been showered on the journal by celebrities from various walks of life. I have absolutely no hesitation in giving a large measure of credit for such lavish accolades to Dr. A. Karunaker, Mr. Sundeep Arora and members of the entire Re-Markings fraternity for their constant encouragement and support. Nibir K. Ghosh, Chief Editor
Thursday, 4 August 2011
"The erudite articles, insightful essays, vibrant poems and stories, glowing tributes and animate interviews in this memorable volume not only address multifarious dimensions of the Charles Johnson canon but also bring into bold relief the magnetic appeal of a veritable activist relentlessly engaged in making the world a better place to live in." Jacket copy, Charles Johnson: Embracing the World.
E. Ethelbert Miller asks: "The book CHARLES JOHNSON EMBRACING THE WORLD was just released in India. How do you feel about this book? Any surprises in it? How often do you tend to disagree with what critics say about your work?
Actually, this stunning book was full of delightful surprises for me. When it arrived (on Monday, August 1), my first reaction was to feel humbled right down to my heels. I felt as if I might faint. And whenever I look at it or hold it in my hands that's still how I feel. So many of my old, dear friends and colleagues from the art and academic worlds for the last forty years (as well as outstanding scholars I've yet to meet) made contributions to this remarkable work published by Authorspress in India, which is co-edited by scholar Nibir Ghosh of Agra College, who with his wife Sanskrit scholar Sunita Rani Ghosh spent the 2003-04 academic year at the University of Washington on a Fulbright to study black American literature in general and my work in particular; and the indefatigable, prolific poet and arts activist E. Ethelbert Miller.
In a word, it's more than wonderful to see all these thought-provoking and original works gathered together between the covers of a single, inexhaustibly rich book---as if everyone, West and East, is having a grand, international party as they simultaneously discuss and create literature, criticism, and philosophy. That cross-cultural, inter-disciplinary orientation has always been dear to my heart. In 308 pages, we have beautifully composed tributes, remembrances, essays, interviews, critical articles, fiction and poetry by Gary Storhoff, Geffrey Michael Davis, John Whalen-Bridge, Linda Furgerson Selzer, Shayla Hawkins, Marc Conner, Sharyn Skeeter, Adam Tolbert, Aurélie Bayre, George Yancy, Zachary Watterson, Michael Boylan, Richard Hart, Robert Abrams, Chris Thomson, John B. Parks, Julia A. Galbus, Sunita Rani Ghosh, Nibir Ghosh, David Ray, Ashraf H.A. Rushdy, Qiana J. Whitted, and Amritjit Singh (as well as reprints of seven of my essays and stories).
I have no intention of disagreeing with anything the critics, scholars, and artists say about me and my work in this gorgeous book. Well, let's say I won't disagree too much because I feel so grateful to them. As a matter of fact, I am in their debt forever for their kindness and generosity, for creating scholarship that begins with my work, yes, but goes so far beyond it, opening numerous new doors of discourse on culture and ideas for serious readers; and for using the occasion of this book to create poetry and fiction that stand on their own as literary artworks of distinction.
So Nibir, Ethelbert, and everyone who made this amazing book possible, let me say thank you thank you thank you. All of you have enriched my life over the years, and done so yet again with this book. And let me say thank you in Sanskrit, that beautiful creation of India, too:
Courtesy: Ethelbert Miller, E-Channel
I have received my author copy of your book, CHARLES JOHNSON: EMBRACING THE WORLD. I have begun reading through it. It is a rich and wonderful tribute to an exceptional man. I heartily congratulate and thank you and Prof. Miller on this fine achievement. I am so gratified to have my modest, remembrance of Charles piece included along with such distinguished scholars and artists. Once again so many thanks for bringing this book into the world. All the best. --Richard Hart:
Dr. Richard E. Hart is Cyrus H. Holley Professor of Applied Ethics and Philosophy at Bloomfield College in New Jersey, U.S.A. He is the editor/co-editor of four books dealing with environmental ethics, Plato's dialogues, and American philosophy. He has written and spoken extensively on the Nobel prize winning American writer, John Steinbeck. He serves on the editorial boards of the journals, Metaphilosophy, The Pluralist, and The Steinbeck Review. He regularly teaches courses on literature and philosophy.
Tuesday, 2 August 2011
Yesterday I received a copy of the book you and Ethelbert edited. All I can say is, "Wow." There is SO much in this book! It's breathtaking, stunning, and has a dazzling diversity of works from its many contributors---so many of whom are my old, dear friends and colleagues.
I am humbled right down to my heels by your, Ethelbert's and the contributor's generosity. This is a simply amazing book, like nothing published about my work in America. People in India---as I've always believed---know how to do things right!
When the other copies arrive (and soon I hope), this is a beautiful book that I am going to be eager to give as a gift to others.
Thank you, good sir. Thank you thank you thank you.
Pranam & Three Deep Bows to You,
(email dated august 2, 2011)
Saturday, 9 July 2011
Compassion is my art
-- Grace A. Ali
God makes stars. It's up to producers to find them.
-- Grace A. Ali
God makes stars. It's up to producers to find them.
MY GUEST IS NIBIR K. GHOSH. HE IS THE EDITOR OF THE NEW BOOK, CHARLES JOHNSON EMBRACING THE WORLD.
Q. WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE WORK OF CHARLES JOHNSON?
1. Nine years ago, when the Public Affairs Section of U.S. Embassy, New Delhi informed me that Charles Johnson—author of Middle Passage, Oxherding Tale, Dreamer etc., a MacArthur Fellow and winner of the National Book Award—was visiting India on a lecture tour, I was thrilled by the prospect of interviewing him against the backdrop of the Taj Mahal. My enthusiasm did not last long as his visit did not ultimately materialize on account of the Iraq war. Perhaps Fate had ordained that we would meet not in Agra, the city of Sulahakul, but in Seattle from where Johnson proclaims to the world the imperatives of embracing a standpoint that calls for an amalgamation of multidisciplinary and multicultural perspectives.
The chance to meet this celebrity came when I was awarded the Senior Fulbright Fellowship to work at the University of Washington, Seattle during 2003-04 on a project that was concerned with Contemporary African American Writings with special reference to the works of Charles Johnson.
I was attracted to Charles Johnson as a writer when I got to read his profile marked by amazing diversity of interests. I thought it was noteworthy that in a conflict-ridden world whose belief in multiculturalism, in flesh and spirit, made a lot of sense.
Q. WHERE SHOULD WE PLACE THE WORK OF CHARLES JOHNSON WHEN EXAMINING WORLD LITERATURE?
While examining World Literature we can place Charles Johnson at the crucial meeting point of philosophy and fiction. Through the corpus of his fictional and non-fictional writings, Johnson combines philosophy and folklore, martial art and Buddhism, to provide incisive insights into the new frontiers of the African American experience that calls for an amalgamation of multidisciplinary and multicultural perspectives. What is significant is that he not only loves to address the symptoms of change in terms of acute identity crisis but also tries to prepare the aesthetic ground for such a change.
Q. WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT THE NEW BOOK, CHARLES JOHNSON EMBRACING THE WORLD?
The erudite articles, insightful essays, vibrant poems and stories, glowing tributes and animate interviews in this memorable volume not only address multifarious dimensions of the Charles Johnson canon but also bring into bold relief the magnetic appeal of a veritable activist relentlessly engaged in making the world a better place to live in. Also included in this volume are essays and stories by Charles Johnson that illumine variant issues and concerns ranging from the ambivalence of the American Dilemma to delineating the meaning of Barack Obama, besides displaying his innate ability to contend with conflicting forces by celebrating life in the manner of Buddha, DuBois, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. If Johnson admires America for being the great country where “passions define possibilities” and where “no individual or group, white or black, could tell me not to dream,” he is no less enamoured by India: “its beauty, antiquity, breath-taking art and remarkable people, the peace I feel instantly when my mind drifts to the Buddhist Dharma or Hinduism, that great democracy of Being.” Above all, the book is bound to create an audience in this important region of the world where interest in subaltern themes is on the rise.
Q. WHAT NEW PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON?
4. Currently, there are two projects that I am working on: one is a book on Rabindranath Tagore as a Cultural Ambassador. It will be in the form of a tribute to the multicultural spirit of the Nobel Laureate in the 150th year of his birth. The other project is on Gandhi and his soulforce mission.
I may mention here that my focus is on the forthcoming issue of Re-Markings that marks the completion of ten years for the journal with its twentieth issue in September 2011. In the words of Professor Jonah Raskin of Sonoma State University, California: "The world is a place of conflicts and clashes, but it is also a place of confluences and Re-Markings helps to further the dialogue between different cultures around the world. It aids communication around the world and it has moved with the times and with the technological changes in the past decade as evidenced by the website which is impressive and professional. I hope to continue to work with Nibir and with Re-Markings and I hope that the journal has been shaped in beneficial ways by my contributions just as I have been shaped and influenced in beneficial ways by my association with the journal."
Courtesy: THE E MAG, E. Ethelbert Miller
Sunday, 29 May 2011
Accompanying the perceptive review by Anita (Auden) Money of my book on Auden (published by Authorspress in New Delhi) are six precious photographs - featuring Wystan Hugh Auden, his brother John, his father George Augustus Auden, his nieces Rita and Anita, Rita's mother Shiela, Rita's son Otto, and Alan Britten - so very graciously provided by Anita Money. Am beholden indeed to her for her graciousness. --Nibir
Sheila and Wystan Hugh Auden at Anita's wedding in Florence
Anita and Rita at Ischia with Mose (Wystan and Chester’s dog).
Ischia is the Italian island where Wystan and Chester used to spend the summer.
Ischia is the Italian island where Wystan and Chester used to spend the summer.
Anita, Rita, Sheila & George Augustus Auden (Wystan’s father) in Cumberland 1947
Anita with Alan Britten, Benjamin Britten's nephew by Auden plaque at Gresham's School (Holt)
(Edward) Benjamin Britten (the famous composer) and W.H. Auden collaborated on film and radio broadcasts, songs, and dramatic works. Benjamin Britten contributed incidental music for Auden and Isherwood's plays titled The Ascent of F6 and The Dog Beneath the Skin. Britten's song cycle On this Island takes its texts from Look, Stranger! Britten's last major setting of an Auden work, Hymn to St. Cecilia, was composed in 1942.
Anita, Rita and Otto (Anita's son) planting a tree at
The Geological Survey of India in commemoration of John Auden
Sheila and John Auden visitng Rita at Oxford
W.H. Auden: Therapeutic Fountain
Nibir K. Ghosh
New Delhi: Authorspress, 2010. Price: Rs. 525 (hardcover). Pages: xvi+175.
Human Time is a City
Nibir K. Ghosh begins his preface to W.H. Auden: Therapeutic Fountain with the observation that “How to make a world better for men to live in has fascinated the minds of thinkers, philosophers and writers in every age” and that there have been “visions of good and possibly attainable systems…and at other times fantasies of a desirable but unattainable perfection.” It is in this context that he feels Shelley’s statement that “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” should be understood. Auden objected to and found absurd the claim that poets were world legislators but he had himself been drawn to exploring concepts for an earthly paradise or New Jerusalem, at times detailing a purely private Eden, but ultimately always concerned with ways to make a better world, which is the thesis of this book. His own line “For poetry makes nothing happen,” from his elegy In Memory of W.B. Yeats has caused outcry and debate though read in context it is saying something more as Ghosh recognises.
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.
“Auden in Error,” a poem by David Ray, precedes the preface and acts as a gentle chastisement, affirming that poetry does indeed make things happen, a pointer to the subtitle of Ghosh’s book which pays tribute to the therapeutic nature of Auden’s poetry. In the appendix he has printed in full Auden’s address in 1951 to the Indian Congress for Cultural Freedom where Auden allows that artists and poets may have some political value as an irritant reminder of humanity: “I think that as long as there are works of art which are, each of them, unique, they are a witness, whether people understand them or not, to the world of humanity they reflect.”
Ghosh admires Auden’s poetry, both its technical virtuosity and the prophetic tone in which pronouncements were made which went on “to define the present and the future in relation to the past in order to give us a profound understanding of the age we live in.” He took up the challenge of writing this book as a result of the huge response to the ‘birth centenary’ tributes for Auden contained in the Special Section of Re-Markings (Vol.6 No.1, March 2007). He acknowledges with gratitude the help and guidance given by Professor Edward Mendelson, among others, and in the Foreword by Professor Jonah Raskin the hope is expressed that this book will bring Auden new readers from around the world to appreciate a poetry “that was intensely personal and that also reached out to the family of humanity and that cried out against war and against violence.”
Nibir Ghosh’s perspective on Auden is not only sympathetic and shows understanding but is rewarding in the serious attention he pays to Auden’s early political enthusiasms and search for ways towards a just society. He illustrates the underlying continuity of a quest which culminates in a personal philosophy that draws on Christianity and places responsibility on the individual to accept life and learn to love his neighbour as himself in order to make the world a better place.
The first two chapters cover the political situation in the late 1920s and 1930s reflecting that whenever the historical process tends to break down, it becomes fairly difficult to separate literary history from social, political and economic history. He shows how much thought Auden gave to Marxist theory and illustrates this by using quotations from both his poetry and prose on the major themes of ‘class struggle’, ‘Industrialism’, ‘Freedom-necessity-choice relationship’ and the ‘theory of evolution’. These ideas, particularly the question of freedom and necessity and the theory of evolution remain important concepts in Auden’s work to the end, evolving in various ways. He frequently contrasts the instinctual world of the animal and plant kingdom with the self-conscious world of man and also the parallel realities of Nature and History. In Auden’s address to the Indian Congress in 1951 he speaks of the danger of equating two realities with different laws:
There are two real worlds and we inhabit both of them. One, the natural material world, the physical world, the world of mass, of number, not of language. A world in which freedom is indeed consciousness of necessities, a world in which justice means equality before the law of physics, chemistry, physiology. And then there is the other world, the historical community of persons, the world of faces, the world of language where necessity is the consciousness of freedom and justice is the command to love my neighbour as myself, that is to say, as a unique, irreplaceable being….Unreality comes when either world is treated as if it were the other one.
Auden’s interest in Psychology is seen by Ghosh as related to his quest for a means of creating a better society because psychological ills cannot be ignored if civilisation is to be restored to a sound state of mental health. He offers an entertaining and revealing quote from Dylan Thomas:
I sometimes think of Mr Auden’s poetry as hygiene, a knowledge and practice, based on brilliantly prejudiced analysis of contemporary disorders, relating to the preservation and promotion of health, a sanitary science and a Flusher of melancholies. I sometimes think of his poetry as a great war, admire intensely the mature, religious and logical fighter.
Auden’s ideas on Psychology were influenced by various people whom Ghosh mentions, including Homer Lane, Groddeck and Freud, but it is useful to remember that the initial influence came from home as George Augustus, his father, who was a doctor with an interest in Psychology, became school medical officer in Birmingham, a newly appointed post at the time, later becoming Professor of Public Health at Birmingham University. Auden, aware of the snobberies and gentilities as well as neuroses which existed in his own class and in some of his own relations, understood the psychosomatic nature of illness and related this to society. These concerns are apparent in the private fantasy world of Mortmere shared with Christopher Isherwood and Edward Upward and in his plays dealing with saga rivalries and family feuds though his awareness grows, as Ghosh points out, when he confronts the wider world of social ills in Berlin. Ghosh quotes my father, John Auden, to whom The Ascent of F6 was dedicated, on Wystan’s lack of class and racial prejudice but dislike of “evil in high places, whether in Kremlin, Berchtesgaden or Whitehall.” The combination of a medical background and a thoughtful Christian upbringing had a lasting influence on Wystan and my father who, when he went to India as a young geologist, was shocked at the prejudices of some of the Englishmen he met, later marrying my mother Sheila Bannerjee who was Bengali. Our first introduction to Wystan was in 1951 when he came to stay with us in Calcutta.
In discussing Auden’s earlier poetry with its buoyancy and rhetorical advocacy of a new order against the old order and sense of imminent doom expressed in a new style “raising ordinary speech into strong and strange incantation,” Ghosh comments on the immediate impact he had on his contemporaries in a shared public vision. He quotes from Koestler: “the success of the Soviet economy provided such a contrast to the downward trend of capitalism that it led to the obvious conclusion that ‘they are the future – we the past.’” Later, for many, Communism became the God that Failed. For Auden, as Ghosh points out, the public vision lost its validity with political systems which turned humans into statistical nonentities and the rhetoric that had accompanied the vision began to pall. Communism shared with Fascism a totalitarian disregard for the individual.
The dangers of rhetorical language which simplify the truth for effect and can obscure the more complex reality became a matter of crucial importance for Auden as a poet and Ghosh reflects sensibly on the controversy over his later corrections and rejections of poems. His quest for the good included a difficult technical quest to write poetry which was truthful and with a quieter impact which aimed to “tell the truth, to disenchant and disintoxicate.”
In this context, it is worth drawing attention to his appreciation of De la Mare’s anthology Come Hither for it explains his dislike of pretension in poetry (part of his objection to Shelley’s remark, I think, about legislators): “particularly valuable was its lack of literary class consciousness, its juxtaposition on terms of equality of unofficial poetry, such as counting-out rhymes, and official poetry such as the odes of Keats. It taught me at the start that poetry does not have to be great to be good….”
Ghosh’s book, though compact, covers a great deal in its carefully structured seven chapters. It will encourage the reader to access the references after each chapter and consult the bibliography at the end in order to read some of the texts mentioned in order to follow Auden’s thinking, for example, his view of the relationship of Art and Politics (“The Prolific and the Devourer”). It provides many illuminating quotations to illustrate Auden’s constantly expanding and changing ideas, showing the major influences on which he drew to formulate his own imaginative truths in his poetry and in prose. It should be a salutary book both for newcomers to Auden and for serious Auden scholars for it will introduce them to the wise thinking expressed with such mastery in the poetry and which shapes both the poetry and the prose. Auden’s originality, as Ghosh says, “lay in his quick responsiveness to, and in the vigorous enunciation and brilliant assimilation of, the ideas of innumerable representative thinkers. These ideas helped him integrate ideological confusions and raise them to new levels of consciousness….” He comments on Auden’s belief in the Fall and in Grace and his personal understanding of God remarking that “His poetry gradually moves from the contours of contemporary social reality towards the direct contemplation of religious matters related to the eternal design.” He also quotes from “The Good Life” to show Auden’s critical view of the Church as an organisation: “When a religious body becomes an organised Church it becomes a political movement, and the historical evidence can point to no occasion on which the Church has been able to avert either war or economic changes.”
Love which features so strongly in Auden’s work both as eros and as agape becomes, as Ghosh appreciates, the crucial building block of the just city once one can progress beyond the idea of being loved oneself alone (selfish love) to a universal love which means understanding that difficult command to love thy neighbour as thyself (as a unique other equal to oneself, not a faceless number). These changes come from within but with the help of grace:
I know nothing except what everyone knows
If there when Grace dances, I should dance.
Ghosh admires Auden’s poetry for its courage because, as he says, disillusions are not allowed to settle into despair or hatred but instead life is affirmed: "Taking cue from Old Masters, Auden could visualise the extraordinary nature of day-to-day ordinary human suffering and yet reveal how life remains a ‘blessing’." Auden’s words “Bless what there is for being” are engraved on a stone in his commemoration at Christ Church Cathedral.
I would like to end with two quotations which are an affirmation of Nibir Ghosh’s thesis: one from a letter written to my father in 1941 - “Every ohm of private happiness and decency is, I am convinced, a political asset to the world,” and a verse from “Aubade” written at the end of his life and published posthumously in Thank You, Fog in 1974:
Human Time is a City
Where each inhabitant has
A political duty
Nobody else can perform,
Made cogent by Her Motto:
Listen, Mortals, Lest Ye Die.
Ms. Anita Money is an administrator in an inner city London comprehensive organising work experience and enrichment opportunities for students. Her father, John Bicknell Auden, Wystan’s brother, worked for the Geological Survey of India until just after India’s Independence. Her mother, Sheila Bonnerjee, a painter, was granddaughter of W.C. Bonnerjee, the First President of the Indian National Congress. She Read English at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford. She Worked for William Cookson on the poetry magazine Agenda from 1993 to 2000.
Courtesy & (c): Re-Markings (www.re-markings.com) March 2011