The Fictional Art of Arun Joshi: An Existential Perspective examines the achievements of Arun Joshi as a novelist from a new perspective. Divided in six chapters followed by 'Overall Evaluation,' it analyses the entire corpus of Arun Joshi's novels and demonstrates that there is a pattern in his works. The innate urge to determine life's meaning in positive terms leads Joshi's protagonists to wage an incessant war against challenging situations. The author's capacity of critical judgment is reflected in the analysis of novels. He derives conclusions in a convincing manner and the organisation of critical material is remarkable. The five substantive chapters devoted to Arun joshi's five novels have been indigenously designed in such a way that the arguments are corroborated by textual citations. The endeavour is commendable for the reason that it strives to undo the injustice done to one of the most distinguished Indian English novelists. Joshi stands in the line of Raja Rao and R.K. Narayan for his perspicuity and perception that are discerningly Indian. It also presents the socio-economic and cultural background leading to the literary milieu of the period to which Joshi belongs and there is no doubt that it will make a valuable book in terms of its contribution to the field of scholarship pertaining to Arun Joshi.
Dr Vachaspati Dwivedi obtained his Ph.D. in English from the Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. He taught English language and literature at the undergraduate level in Rang-Frah Government College of Arunachal Pradesh. Dr Dwivedi is at present Senior Lecturer in the Department of English, Sant Binoba P.G. College, Deoria (U.P.) and is busy in doing research on the novels of Anita Desai and Shashi Deshpande with a view to perusing their works in Indian English literature. He has published articles in reputed Indian Journals and has presented papers at national seminars and conferences.
Arun Joshi is one of the perceptive contemporary Indian English novelists who have attempted to grapple with the predicament of modern man in their writings. While Anita Desai and Kamala Markandaya concentrate on the social scenario and endeavour to underline its inadequacies, Joshi explores the individual psyche of the protagonists. Imbued with an instinctive urge to define their identity in relation to themselves, to their society and also to humanity at large, his heroes take plunge into the extremely trying situations and combat with them in their peculiar ways. Though influenced by the Western Existentialism, Joshi appropriates his response and answers from the native soil.
Man's spiritual quest may take several forms with Joshi's protagonists. Despite surrounded by affluence and sophistication, they mark themselves as `outsiders,' misfits in an apparently satisfactory environment of materialistic age where something invaluable-`the deeper poise of the spirit'-is missing. The search for values which could serve as cornerstones of faith and conviction tosses them from one alternative to another leaving them battered and emaciated. This exploration is not a smooth and easy process and has its scars and bruises. The agonising experience culminates in resolving the tension, though implicit and farfetched it might appear. His technique of self-introspection intensified by self-mockery of the protagonists opens a new dimension in post-independence Indian English fiction. It is because of his novel approach, his psychological understanding of the inner conflict of human beings and his existential vision that one is enamoured to his writings.
The conflict between human self and his environment has often baffled human existence. It has given birth to different varieties of fiction through which writers have tried to analyse the anxiety and absurdity of human situations. Right from his first novel Joshi is deeply involved in the "exploration of the mysterious underworld, which is the human soul, and its lonely journey through a world where it is necessarily a stranger, a foreigner" (Mathai: 8).
In The Strange Case of Billy Biswas, his second novel, he writes that "life's meaning lies not in the glossy surfaces of our pretentions, but in those dark mossy labyrinths of the soul that languish forever" (Joshi, 1971: 56) and "my novels are essentially attempts towards a better understanding of the world and of myself" (Bannerjee: 3). These statements reveal Joshi's deep interest in delineating and interrogating human situation in this world of cybernetics through his five novels namely The Foreigner (1968), The Strange Case of Billy Biswas (1971), The Apprentice (1974), The Last Labyrinth (1981) and The City and The River (1990), besides a collection of short stories-The Survivor (1975). The present work intends to analyse the spiritual odyssey of Arun Joshi's protagonists and also the stylistic strategies employed by him to articulate their anguish. The work consists of 6 chapters followed by the 'Final Estimate' of the novelist on the whole.
The first section of the opening chapter 'Introduction' is devoted to a survey of the social, economic and political situation obtaining in the 20th century and the development of Indian English fiction. It also takes into account the change that came in Indian English fiction after Independence when the authors shifted their focus from the public to the private sphere.
Arun Joshi is a major contemporary Indian English novelist who has attempted to grapple with the predicament of modern man. While Mulk Raj Anand, R.K. Narayan and Raja Rao concentrate, by and large, on the social scenario in the native country and endeavour to underline its inadequacies, Joshi's main thrust is on the individual psyche of the protagonist. Imbued with an instinctive urge to define their identity in relation to themselves, to their society and also to humanity at large, Joshi's heroes plunge into the extremely trying situations and combat with them in their peculiar and distinctive ways. Despite surrounded by affluence and sophistication, they mark themselves as `outsiders,' as misfits in the apparently satisfying environment where something more valuable-`the deeper poise of the spirit'-is missing. The search for values which could serve as cornerstones of faith and affirmation tosses them from one alternative to another leaving them batterred and emaciated. This exploration is not a smooth and easy process and has its own obvious scars and bruises. However, the agony of the protagonists culminates in resolving the tension, though implicit and far-fetched at times it might appear. By virtue of such existential themes and a skilful weaving of fictional techniques in his novels, Joshi has created an enviable space for himself in the comity of Indian novelists. Joshi has to his credit five novels and a collection of short stories which have yet to receive the critical attention they deserve. Before undertaking an indepth study of Arun Joshi's works, it is imperative to peruse the beginnings of Indian English fiction to appreciate him in its proper perspective.
Indian English literature is a body of writing which is the creation of Indian race responding fruitfully to the Western impact during the 19th and 20th centuries of colonial period. Though English was first introduced to de- orientalise and anglicise India, it set the stage for a complete intellectual and cultural regeneration of Indian society and opened the floodgates of Western ideas. This exposure brought the dormant intellectual and critical impulse into sudden life and manifested itself in social, religious and political awareness. It also induced a creative urge in the intellectuals like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Henry Louis Vivian Deorozio, Kashi Prasad Ghose and Micheal Madhusudan Dutt among others and this phase is often termed as the renaissance of modern Indian English literature.
By resorting to a liberal and creative use of English language Ram Mohan Roy ushered in a new epoch of English literature. His articles were published in The Hindu, The Statesman and The Times of India and built up excellent standards in English and cultivated a public taste by the popularity they enjoyed among the educated classes. After him it was Henry Vivian Derozio who contributed a lot in the fruition of Indian English literature. Born of an Indian Mother and a Portuguese father, he started his career as a teacher of English literature at Hindu College, Calcutta. As a poet, he was influenced by the Romantics notably Byron, Scott, Moore, Shelly and Keats and wrote many poems in the love of his country and Nature. Kashi Prasad Ghose was one of the first Indians to publish a regular volume of English verse, The Shair and Other Poems (1830). Ghose was educated at Hindu College and had edited an English weekly The Hindu Intelligence as well. Michael Madhusudan Dutt was comparatively more talented than Kashi Prasad Ghose. Though Dutt's fame now rests on his great Bengali epic, Meghanad Badha but he had also written many essays, verses and dramas. His narrative poem The Captive Ladie (1849) demonstrates the influence of English romantic poets on him. The contributions of these intellectuals brought many social reforms and inculcated a questioning spirit for national freedom besides accelerating the expansion of English in several parts of the country. In the field of literature, however, their endeavours were limited only to essays, articles, poems and translations rooted in the urge of national reconstruction. This trend is also revealed in the works of some other intellectuals like Keshab Chandra Sen, Kashinath Tailang and Dadabhai Nairoji. It is significant to note that the years between 1818 and 1850 witnessed the emergence of prose as well as the appearance of journals and periodicals in most of the Indian languages which became a sound base for the rise of the novel in the eighteen sixties.
It was in the later half of the nineteenth century that writers like Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Toru Dutt and Romesh Chandra Dutt attempted to give the Indian English novel its real beginning. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee wrote Rajmohan's Wife (1864) and it became the first Indian English novel which set the stage for the emergence of novel as a form of literary expression in India. It was followed by Durgeshnandini in Bengali which appeared in an English translation in 1890. Kapala Kundala, Vishavriksha, Anandamath, Devi Chaudharani and other novels appeared between 1866 and 1880. In Poison Tree, which is the translation of Vishavriksha, a married man starts loving a young widow and there is great hue and cry. The sad plight of a widow in Hindu society was another recurrent motif in Indian fiction besides the theme of national freedom which is dealt in Bankim's best novel, Anandamath. This work comprises the well-known song Bandemataram which taught people the gospel of patriotism and influenced the artists all over India. Bankim's real contribution to the development of the Indian fiction in English is that he adapted an alien form and medium to a theme which was essentially Indian and never became a slave to the western tradition of story telling in his novels by seeking a reconciliation between the two views of life. Though Rajmohan's Wife cannot be considered a remarkable novel but it did inaugurate a long series of novels to come. Raj Lakshmi Devi wrote The Hindu Wife (1876) and it was followed by Tom Dutt's unfinished novel Bianca or The Young Spanish Maiden (1878), Kali Krishna Lahiri's Roshanara (1881), H. Dutt's Bijoy Chand (1888) and Kshetrapal Chakravarti's Sarata And Hingana (1895). Romesh Chandra Dutt wrote all his novels in Bengali but translated two of them into English, The Lake of Palms (1902) and The Slave Girl of Agra (1909). His later three novels, Todar Mall, Shivaji and Pratap Singh were translated into English by his son. All these novels, either written or translated in English shaped the reader's interest and motivated many a later writers to choose-the long sustained piece of prose fiction-as their creative medium.
As a great writer, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee remained an inspiration throughout his life for many later novelists and poets such as Rabindra Nath Tagore and Sarat Chandra Chatterjee disposed to the cause of national freedom and social reconstruction. Tagore is the most outstanding figure in Bengali literature and it was his Gitanjali which won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1912. Though he is known as a great poet all over the world he was also a novelist of no less significance. The success of Gitanjali gave a boost to translations and publications of his Bengali writings in English as well as in other languages. Of Tagore's full-length novels, only three appeared in approved English versions in his life time. Naukadubi (1905) appeared as The Wreck, Gora (1910) retained the same title, and Ghare Bahire (1916) became The Home and The World but his first success was Choker Bali (1902) which was translated into English by Krishna Kriplani as Binodini. It deals with the plight of a young widow and presents a deep psychological study of its characters. By the ideas that work in the novel, Tagore affirms the right of the widow to be married, to be free and to get love from the society in the place of neglect and suppression. Gora projects the vision of Tagore regarding the individual in renascent India. The hero, Gora, grows up as an orthodox Hindu in the care of his foster parents Krishnadayal and Anandmoyi and it is later on that he realises that his mother was an Irish who had died after giving birth to him. The readers' opinion is divided between Gora and Suchitra and their love is shown in conflict with religious orthodoxy which makes the novel a play of ideas. The Home and The World has the background of revolutionary Bengal of 1905 when the atmosphere was in turmoil with slogans of 'Swadeshi' and `Bandemataram' and the novel is the artistic presentation of the impact of these nationalist forces on the life of individuals like Nikhil, an idealistic husband, his wife Bimal, and his friend, Sandeep.
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