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A problem that has teased me since long has probably teased a number of people before me, namely the problem of commencement. What comes first, language or thought? Character or Plot? Form or Content?

The human mind is a storehouse of weirdly mystifying activity. It is too deep to be fathomed and too abstract to be given shape. It churns out mysterious questions that defy clear-cut answers. Yet the writer must try to attend to some of these. I would love to get the views of readers on these, on my blog.

There is a certain kind of writer, of whom D. H. Lawrence is the prototype, who does not merely tell a story but enters the life-process as he tells it. Such a writer’s mind is always connected with his consciousness of life – which includes not only human relationships but nature itself and the forces that control nature and life. As he delves into physical and spiritual relationships he is simultaneously aware of the politics that human beings indulge in and how this connection is then linked with the larger, overarching, connections with divinity’s designs. The actions of individuals, societies and nations matter no doubt but even these are ultimately governed by larger global patterns somewhat like the universe of a Greek tragedy.

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 One of the reasons why literature is superior to most forms of non-literary writing is that it edifies or makes people better. Popular Indian novels of today hardly fulfill that role. These entertain no doubt, and are desirable for that reason, but they leave much to be desired in the form of edification. I wrote THE TAILOR’S NEEDLE with my country in mind. From the beginning to end I thought of my people; their social, educational and political needs. The novel is an attempt at nation building. Though the primary effort is to tell a story well and to entertain, Indian nationalism is never lost sight of.

I was so surprised to find that though the novel is selling in India it has done so much better in the West. I do not think it even got noticed by the Indian government. I am not certain that our government even cares to find out what our people should be encouraged to read.

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 A Scarred Conscience

 

Snakes come out of a mouth at such moments.

Brakes get jammed to the wheels at such moments.

Nature seems purple and magenta to the eyes.

Faces without noses and with an over dose of eyes.

Goblins on turtles go scoffing God knows where.

Curdled coffee streams flow winding everywhere.

Turrets like mushrooms and towers like devils

Spring from a conscience that is marred by devils.

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Leema Dhar: The Wonder Novelist from Allahabad

 

Allahabad has produced some remarkable authors, creative writers of every kind. Writers who have used Indian languages like Urdu and Hindi have been amongst the very best in the world, and now writers using English are coming forward in a big way. I have been fascinated particularly by the very young writer, Leema Dhar, who has created history by writing four bestselling novels at the age of twenty-one. She has written romances that have gripped people of all ages and climes. Already a recipient of literary awards for her writing and known by students and teachers of virtually all institutions where English is read and understood, Leema is a rare kind of author. Her father is also a Bengali novelist and she seems to have inherited the right genes from him. When I got to know about her I began to think seriously about the theory of rebirth. I had heard that sometimes someone works hard, learning a great deal in a lifetime but unfortunately leaves the world without the recognition that he or she deserves. This person is then born again in another life and whatever had been acquired in the previous birth by this person is transferred to the next. This seems to be the story of this wonder-girl. Her achievements of the last birth and of this are there together and this is a very promising feature of her work. For her the sky is the limit; she can achieve whatever any author before could as she has all the time in the world to progress.

Leema Dhar has a knack for creating plots that keep you glued to the novels and you do not want to leave these page-turners. Her stories focus on the lives of women, generally the younger ones and one sees how a particular woman is caught up in a relationship that leaves her reeling in agony till things sort out for her. Her four novels in order of their creation are as follows: Till We Meet Again (2012), Mom and I Love a Terrorist (2012), The Girl Who Kissed a Snake (2013) and You Touched My Heart (2013). These days she is working on, “Call Me a Killer in Love” and “Apolitical Virgin”.

Leema Dhar writes about young love and everything associated with this love. Her novels show you what love is and what a balmy effect it has. It is remarkable that someone as young as her can come out with so many versions of love, each better than the previous.

I know that as Leema matures as a writer she will proceed towards more literary novels and capture the world market with them. I can see her future in the instant – it is very bright indeed.

Lakshmi Raj Sharma

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 Some more useful material on Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy” can be found on this link:

http://www.articlemyriad.com/poem-analysis-daddy-sylvia-plath/

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 For an initial response to Plath's “Daddy” please read what you find here: http://www.gradesaver.com/sylvia-plath-poems/study-guide/summary-daddy

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 A novel can provide us with the kind of healing which is offered by a change of place. In the heat of an Indian summer a patient may be advised to go to a cooler place to recover quickly. This change does wonders to the patient after just a few days. A novel can similarly work wonders. It can take you out of your place and time and place you in another with tranquil restoration. When one steps into the life of others and begins to share in their joys and sorrows, the burdens of one's troubles get reduced. A reader just informed me that he was a different person after reading THE TAILOR'S NEEDLE. This gave me great fulfillment.

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Writing in English is a tragi-comedy for me, a funny historical accident. How history moulds our lives! The biggest accident India has known was the collision of British and Indian cultures; the crash that echoes still after centuries. The trauma of an accident can stay on as it has in Indian writing in English. A trauma it is but it has left behind in our minds the most delightful kind of pain, suffocation, guilt, confusion, hybridity, or whatever else you may want to call it.

This crash created the passage for the Indian mind’s journey into the West and helped it to come to terms with a more complete view of what the world is. Giving up the purity of what you were maybe painful but not having a more holistic or complete view is even more. This accident forced the Indian to experience the world anew; through the English language, the Western perception of things, through newer avenues that it opened up.

Writing in English can make one feel like an outcaste in India. The Indian who goes to the extent of believing that one should never venture beyond the bounds of one’s own language in one’s attempt to express oneself, begins to raise his eye-brows and questions the legitimacy of such an exercise when you indulge in it. Of course such a view is ridiculous but the writer does become a subject of ridicule because of someone who may have a better claim to be considered ridiculous. In the Hindi belt of India, and in other lingual belts, there is a substantial mass of people of the opinion that writing in the colonizer’s language is a sign of servility. For them the hatred for the colonizer extends to the colonizer’s language. Our countrymen who oppose Indian writing in English could be no more than the victims of politics or they could be victims of narrow, orthodox, mindsets that do not allow them to go beyond Indian languages.

In a democratic set up power groups can be chaotic unless there is widespread education that has led to enlightenment. When the voice of unenlightened orthodoxy begins to affect individuality the democratic machinery needs revamping. India is passing through times in which this is happening in the smaller towns, particularly.

Self-expression is a fundamental right which the individual should enjoy. Any and every language is good and respectable. The one who decides to write in a foreign language ought not to be treated as a second rate citizen. Or if he must remain in that position, he ought to be strong enough mentally and emotionally to withstand the pressure of such an ill-generated public opinion to continue to write confidently.

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 For Sylvia Plath’s “MIRROR” please go to the following link:

 https://www.pf.jcu.cz/stru/katedry/aj/doc/sbaas01-ghasemi.pdf

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"After great pain, a formal feeling comes--"

 

Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren

 

["After great pain, a formal feeling comes"] is obviously an attempt to communicate to the reader the nature of the experience which comes "after great pain." The poet is using the imagery for this purpose, and the first line of the poem, which states the subject of the poem, is the only abstract statement in the poem. The pain is obviously not a physical pain; it is some great sorrow or mental pain which leaves the mind numbed. The nerves, she says, "sit ceremonious like tombs." The word sit is very important here. The nerves, it is implied, are like a group of people after a funeral sitting in the parlor in a formal hush. Then the poet changes the image slightly by adding "like tombs." The nerves are thus compared to two different things, but each of the comparisons contributes to the same effect, and indeed are closely related: people dressed in black sitting around a room after a funeral may be said to be like tombs. And why does the reference to "tombs " seem such a good symbol for a person who has just suffered great pain (whether it be a real person or the nerves of such a person personified)? Because a tomb has to a supreme degree the qualities of deadness (quietness, stillness) and of formality (ceremony, stiffness).

 

Notice that the imagery (through the first line of the last stanza) is characterized by the possession of a common quality, the quality of stiff lifelessness. For instance, the heart is "stiff," the feet walk a "wooden" way, the contentment is a "quartz" contentment, the hour is that of "lead." The insistence on this type of imagery is very important in confirming the sense of numbed consciousness which is made more explicit by the statement that the feet move mechanically and are "regardless" of where they go. Notice too that the lines are bound together, not only by the constant reference of the imagery to the result of grief, but also by the fact that the poet is stating in series what happens to the parts of the body: nerves, heart, feet.

 

Two special passages in the first two stanzas deserve additional /469/ comment before we pass on to the third stanza. The capital letter in the word He tells us that Christ is meant. The heart, obsessed with pain and having lost the sense of time and place, asks whether it was Christ who bore the cross. The question is abrupt and elliptic as though uttered at a moment of pain. And the heart asks whether it is not experiencing His pain, and—having lost hold of the real world—whether the crucifixion took place yesterday or centuries before. And behind these questions lies the implication that pain is a constant part of the human lot. The implied figure of a funeral makes the heart's question about the crucifixion come as an appropriate one, and the quality of the suffering makes the connection implied between its own sufferings and that on the cross not violently farfetched.

 

The line, "A quartz contentment like a stone," is particularly interesting. The comparison involves two things. First, we see an extension of the common association of stoniness with the numbness of grief, as in such phrases as "stony-eyed" or "heart like a stone," etc. But why does the poet use "quartz"? There are several reasons. The name of the stone helps to particularize the figure and prevent the effect of a cliché. Moreover, quartz is a very hard stone. And, for one who knows that quartz is a crystal, a "quartz contentment" is a contentment crystallized, as it were, out of the pain. This brings us to the second general aspect involved by the comparison. This aspect is ironical. The contentment arising after the shock of great pain is a contentment because of the inability to respond any longer, rather than the ability to respond satisfactorily and agreeably.

 

To summarize for a moment, the poet has developed an effect of inanimate lifelessness, a stony, or wooden, or leaden stiffness; now, she proceeds to use a new figure, that of the freezing person, which epitomizes the effect of those which have preceded it, but which also gives a fresh and powerful statement.

 

The line, "Remembered if outlived," is particularly forceful. The implication is that few outlive the experience to be able to remember and recount it to others. This experience of grief is like a death by freezing: there is the chill, then the stupor as the body becomes numbed, and then the last state in which the body finally gives up the fight against the cold, and relaxes and /470/ dies. The correspondence of the stages of death by freezing to the effect of the shock of deep grief on the mind is close enough to make the passage very powerful. But there is another reason for the effect which this last figure has on us. The imagery of the first two stanzas corresponds to the "stupor." The last line carries a new twist of idea, one which supplies a context for the preceding imagery and which by explaining it, makes it more meaningful. The formality, the stiffness, the numbness of the first two stanzas is accounted for: it is an attempt to hold in, the fight of the mind against letting go; it is a defense of the mind. /471/

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