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Strength and Weakness

Manohar Bandopadhyay

By V.S. Naravane
Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, 1979, pp. 291, Rs. 75.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 3 November/December 1980

The literature available on Munshi Premchand, regarded as the father of the modern Hindi novel, is scanty. Hansraj Rahbar's book on Premchand (1958) is extensive thematically but marred by chronological inaccuracies. Prakash Chandra Gupta's monograph, published some twelve years ago, is too sketchy to provide a comprehensive view of the novelist. Robert O. Swan's research work, Munshi Premchand of Lamhi Village (1969) reads well for about a quarter of the book but his study of Premchand's novels leaves much to be desired. Viewed in this perspective Naravane's volume is a valuable contribution to critical assessment of Premchand's life and works, in English. Appearing as it does during the birth centenary year of Premchand it is a welcome enterprise by the author. In all senses his book emerges as the first ever comprehensive document on the subject. Judiciously organized, the book deals with the life of the novelist in the first four chapters and devotes the rest of the volume to an evaluation of his work and situates the novelist in the realm of Hindi writ­ing. In doing so he has slipped inevit­ably into repetitions though he has cautiously guarded himself against it. Unlike the works of his predecessors Naravane has a remarkable precision and force of expression and has dealt with all the different genres of Prem­chand's writings encompassing novels, short stories, plays, essays, translations and the books for children. Nevertheless a detailed exegesis on the massive corpus of all the essays that Premchand wrote could not be possible in the pre­sent scope of the book nor does the author lay any claim to it. Premchand wrote some sixteen novels big and small including their Urdu ver­sions. Some novels like Pratigya (Bewa) represent a substantial change from the author's earlier style. Naravane has dis­cussed at length the major and minor novels separately rather than in their chronological sequence of publication. The major novels fall in two categories. The first covers the novels that appeared between 1919-1925 namely Sevasadan, Premashram and Ragabhumi. The second category includes the novels which ap­peared between 1926-1936. These novels are Kayakalpa, Ghaban, Karmabhumi and Godan. Premchand was still writing his last work, Mangal Sutra when he died in October 1936. Godan is the magnum opus of Premchand. In this novel Premchand took the genre to a height which was unprecedented then in Hindi writing. It is unequalled in quality and stature even ...

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