30 November 2019

THE STRANGENESS OF TAMILNADU: M.S.S. PANDIAN'S LAST BOOK




M.S.S. Pandian (1958–2014) was an eminent historian of South Indian politics, caste, culture, and cinema. His writings offer distinctively Tamil insights on these areas. In this book his chief focus is Tamil political culture for roughly thirty years since 1985. His success lies in bringing a historical understanding to bear on what he called “the strangeness of Tamil Nadu”.

A key figure in Pandian’s thinking was E.V. Ramasamy “Periyar”. Pandian argues that Periyar’s ideals and strategies long remained popular among Tamil progressives, but that their survival became difficult because of radical changes in pan-Indian political culture. To show these changes, this book is organised chronologically as well as along thematic sections that reflect the themes of Periyar’s Dravidian ideology: linguistic identity, state politics, religion, and caste. 

Periyar’s ideas, Pandian argues, can still provide productive standards for critical analysis of politics in India. But because they are not widely known or appreciated outside Tamil Nadu, they represent the “strangeness” of Tamil politics instead of being adapted as progressive in the country as a whole.


"“The DMK–AIADMK era provides the political context for the writings collected in this book . . . Pandian had purposefully organised these short chapters chronologically, and in thematic sections that reflect fundamental subjects for Periyar’s Dravidian ideology: linguistic identity, state politics, religion, and caste.

Those themes embody a message that Pandian highlights in his Introduction: Periyar’s ideas still provide productive standards for critical analysis of political practice in India. The importance of this message reverberates through all his chapters, because Periyar’s ideas are not widely known, understood, or appreciated outside Tamil Nadu; and thus, they represent the “strangeness” of Tamil politics in India, rather than being sufficiently appreciated for their progressive potential in India as a whole. Dravidian ideals are anathema to the BJP Hindu nationalists who now rule in New Delhi and who cultivate popularity in most of India but yet remain uniquely (“strangely”) unpopular in
Tamil Nadu.

Periyar’s ideas are radically progressive but ignored by secular progressives in the Indian Left. His ideas have nevertheless been embraced by the downtrodden low castes, i.e. Dalits, all across India, who appreciate Periyar against all the odds . . . Most importantly, perhaps, Periyar’s ideas facilitate radical political thought and action focused on patriarchy and caste as multi-layered structures of inequity and power sustained by Brahmin authority and Hindu ritual.”

From the Introduction by Anandhi S. and David Ludden.




M.S.S. Pandian (1958–2014) was, at the time of his untimely demise, Professor, Department of Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was co-editor of the twelfth volume of Subaltern Studies. His books include The Image Trap: M.G. Ramachandran in Films and Politics (1992), and Brahmin and Non-Brahmin: Genealogies of the Tamil Political Present (2006).

Hardback/ 264 pages/ Rs 795



07 November 2019

TRANSLATING THE INDIAN PAST by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra





An excellent review of this book THE TRIBUNE by the renowned Tamil scholar A.R. Venkatachalapathy (click here or paste the link into your browser: https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/sunday-special/book-reviews/a-subtle-feast-of-words-to-be-valued/829591.html) is good reason to remind readers of how wonderful, as a work of Indian literary and cultural history, this book really is.
 
 
"Critic, poet, anthologist, scholar and translator. Mehrotra’s literary career is as multifaceted as it is difficult to write about. To do justice to it, we would need a higher vantage point than what’s afforded by the book review format. For those who haven’t read Mehrotra before, Translating the Indian Past serves as a decent introduction to the author’s longstanding literary preoccupations; the book can also be seen as a belatedly written preamble to the poems" Vineet Gill, Scroll




Through his poems, criticism, translations, and edited books, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra has played a major role in defining Indian literature in English. This, his second essay collection, carries all the elegance, incisiveness, and erudition of his first, Partial Recall.

Some of the essays here are on an unexamined piece by Toru Dutt; an old appreciation of Amrita Sher-Gil by an obscure critic; the almost forgotten Srinivas Rayaprol who corresponded with William Carlos Williams; Arun Kolatkar’s unknown early poems and his letters to his first love, Darshan Chhabda; Eunice de Souza, admired for her spareness and acerbic feminism; and the reclusive Dickinsonian poet Reshma Aquil who loved anonymity. Throughout the book the collective presence of the ‘Bombay Poets’ is unmistakable.


What animates many of the essays is Mehrotra’s hostility to contemporary critical amnesia and his affection for quiet, unflamboyant writing. His distinctive view of the past stitches these pieces into something like an argument: if we value a complex literary history of Indian writing, he says, the byways and shaded locations need to remain visible.


ARVIND KRISHNA MEHROTRA was born in Lahore in 1947 and educated at the universities of Allahabad and Bombay. He has published six collections of poetry, three volumes of translations, and edited several books, including An Illustrated History of Indian Literature in English. He lives in Allahabad and Dehradun.

READ AN EXTRACT HERE IN SCROLL




HB/ 270 pp/ Rs 795/ BUY