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Notes from the Underground

Mrinal Pande

Edited by Namichand Jain
Rajkamal Prakashan, New Delhi, 2016, Rs. 360.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 4 January-February 1981

Muktibodh Rachanvali is a six volume compilation of the total literary output of one of the most remarkable writ­ers of our time. Born in 1917 at Sheopur, Gwalior, in a middle-class family, Muktibodh died in New Delhi in 1964 after a prolonged illness, leaving behind a size­able body of work most of it unpublished. His lifelong struggle against poverty left his literary gifts undiminished, but it did, coupled with the indifference of the read­ing public and the hostility of his con­temporary criticism, make him indiffer­ent to cataloguing or preserving his work. This must have made the task of collect­ing, arranging in proper order and chro­nologically his various poems and prose writings very difficult indeed. The editor of the volumes, the well-known Hindi poet-critic Shri Namichand Jain, an old and close friend and associate of the late poet, deserves to be congratulated for presenting, in spite of the odds, in as neat and orderly a sequence, the complete output of a mercurial writer, as was pos­sible. Of the six volumes the first two con­tain all Muktibodh's published and un­published poems; including their various drafts. Some of which are incomplete, abandoned midway for some reason or another. Volume Three contains Muktibodh's short stories and parts of an incomplete novel. Volume Four and Five contain Muktibodh's critical writings covering a wide field of literature, history and political philosophy. Volume Six is a collection of Muktibodh's letters, writ­ten to various friends, colleagues and fellow writers. Some of the letters are in English, most in Hindi. Missing from the collection is Muktibodh's book on Indian history, Bharatiya Itihas Aur Sans­kriti, written as a text book for school children, and banned for a shameful reason by the State Government. Muktibodh arrived on the literary scene at the critical time when the literate Hindu mind in our country was first faced with the scientific humanism of Western thinkers like Marx and Lenin who recognized the world one lives in, not as 'given', but as a product of innumerable socio-political choices, deci­sions and adjustments. Muktibodh turns upon the world around him in a raging scientific curiosity that rejects the roman­tic sad 'pastness' of' the past that his Chhayavadi predecessors and contempo­raries were so fond of emphasizing and demands a ruthless reassessment of the accepted social and aesthetic values. Rooted in the feudal ethos that not ...

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