Sunday, 21 March 2010

Nirad C Chaudhuri

The question of the 'audience' is a vexed one today for Indian writers in English, complicated by the ideas of post-coloniality, appropriation and authenticity. Although such choices are hardly ever deliberately or simply made, Nirad C. Chaudhuri's autobiography, written obviously with a Western audience in mind, makes nonsense of the claim that writing for such a market is necessarily incompatible with exploring the most subtle and recondite features of one's culture. The last of a three-part essay by noted writer Amit Chaudhuri feels.
NIRAD C. CHAUDHURI's “The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian” presents, on the other hand, a startling variation, even inversion, of the theme of disowning and recovery, exile and homecoming. With Dutt originated the desire of going outward, toward England and Europe, in flesh or otherwise; R. K. Narayan, for instance, unable to make the journey himself, sent the manuscripts of his first novel to a friend in Oxford, urging him to drown them in the Cherwell if they found no publisher.
Although Nirad Chaudhuri did not travel to England till he was 57 years old, his whole life, till then, had, in a sense, been a preparation for that journey. By the time he made it, he had already memorised the features of England and Europe from his reading, as he tells us in” A Passage to England - "... my mind was not a clean slate ... it was burdened with an enormous load of book-derived notions"1. Thus, entering England, he compared the "authorised version" of the England he already knew with the makeshift version that was presented to him: 2"[t]he famous chalk cliffs did not stand out glimmering and vast, as Matthew Arnold had described, but seemed like white creases between the blue- grey sheet of the Channel .This predilection for attributing a veracity, or priority, to text or word over "actual" landscape or location seems to be a habit of the colonial mind. The multilingual Borges, situated mentally in both the Spanish language and the English texts of the colonial world, made this habit well known; in the story, "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius", the narrator remarks matter-of-factly that the eponymous place Uqbar exists in the intersection between text and vision: "I owe the discovery of Uqbar to the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopaedia ... misleadingly titled The Anglo-American Cyclopaedia ...3". Even before Borges, the habit had been made famous by another figure poised flamboyantly between the English language and another, colonial history; Wilde, in "The Decay of Lying", reminds us punctiliously: "Where, if not from the Impressionists, do we get those wonderful brown fogs that come creeping down our streets, blurring the gas-lamps ...?"4
By the time Chaudhuri made his journey, of course, he was, unlike Dutt, already famous in the language and country in which Dutt had aspired to make his name.
The Autobiography, which was published in 1951, had received some very favourable reviews in the British press. History, yet again, had almost come full circle with the writing of this book. Dutt had moved, about 100 years ago, from the English language to the mother-tongue, thereby, in a sense, inaugurating Bengali literary culture, and Chaudhuri now reversed the direction. At the time of his writing the autobiography, and even long after, it was unusual, indeed exceptional, for a Bengali to embark upon a literary project, major or minor, in anything but his own tongue; at the time, the Bengali language was, for the Bengali writer, the legitimate vehicle for cosmopolitan, middle-class expression. But the Bengal Renaissance, which was still coming into being when Dutt was writing, had obviously stratified sufficiently into a hegemony for Chaudhuri, who was born at its peak in 1897, and formed by it intellectually, to want to distance himself from it.
Chaudhuri had served a long apprenticeship as an "unknown Indian" by the time he published his autobiography at the age of 54. Gravitating from the small town, Kishorganj, to Calcutta to read History at the Scottish Church College, he stood first in the B.A. exams in Calcutta University, probably then the colonial world's premier institution of higher studies. As spectacularly, he proceeded to fail his M.A.. He then took up a series of jobs; and, for a time, notably, was secretary to the nationalist Sarat Bose. Yet he continued to feel uneasy with Indian nationalism, and with the post-Independence Bengali, and Indian middle class.
The Bengali bhadralok worshipped a good degree, but never forgave or forgot a bad one; it extolled professional success, and berated lack of ambition. Chaudhuri evidently knew what it meant to be judged by these standards; in his Preface, he said: "... after passing the age of 50 I am faced with the compulsion to write off all the years I have lived and begin life anew. My friends say I am a failure; and I dare say they will now think I am trying to excuse that failure; I will not concede the point".5 Dutt turned from English to Bengali with a similar refusal to accept failure; Chaudhuri turned from Bengali, and, in effect, Bengalis, in order to articulate a nuanced, but panoramic, picture of a Bengali sensibility; in both cases, the construction of "Bengaliness" is connected, in different ways, to English.
All his life, Chaudhuri strove to both express his Bengaliness and to escape it; he was profoundly a part of the Bengali bhadralok class, but could not bear to be a part of it; he fled to England in 1970, taking up permanent residency there. If Chaudhuri's first act of distancing was to write his autobiography in the English language, his second act of distancing himself from his intellectual antecedents in the Bengal Renaissance (which was also one of the principal authors of Indian nationalism) was his lapidary dedication itself, placed at the beginning of the book, which made him infamous in his own land:
TO THE MEMORY With a brief toast over a glass of champagne with a small circle of old close friends, Nirad C Chaudhuri celebrated his 100th birthday in 1998 reminiscing about a century of prolific writing which won him a fair share of accolades as well as brickbats. `Nirad Chaudhuri is quite excited over completion of this landmark in his eventful life,'' his eldest son, Prof Dhruv Narayan Chaudhuri said. “My father is quite conscious of the momentous occasion and is overwhelmed by messages received from all over the globe,'' he said.His alma mater, the Trinity College, is organising a special function later in the day in his honour. The author's family said he ``very much wants to attend the function and if his health permits he would be taken to the college in a special car.''If he does attend the function, it would be after almost a year that he would leave his residence, a semi-detached house on Oxford's famous Lathbury Road where you can still hear Metropolitan Opera's soprano voices wafting A number of prominent British papers carried rich tributes to yesterday while several Sunday papers carried special articles on his writings and life. Born in Kishorganj, now in Bangladesh, the author who shot into prominence with his very first book in 1951, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, has come a long way since, collecting awards and accolades by a heapful while courting a fair amount of controversy as well. His work is testament to a life of a romantic who idealised the past. Chaudhuri, a historian by training, failed to get a teaching job at Calcutta University and moved to Delhi to work as a broadcaster at All India Radio. Life in Delhi was hard and made harder by Chaudhuri's frankly expressed views.”6His first book, An Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, brought the ire of newly independent India to ear on him. The book, dedicated to the colonial rulers ``who conferred subjecthood, but withheld citizenship'', made Chaudhuri a toadying colonialist in most people's eyes. This was reinforced by the fact that Churchill (who said that India was being left to men of straw) and Arnold Toynbee both professed to like the book.With hindsight many of his critics will agree that he was misunderstood, and that he spoke out at a time when India brooked no criticism.He moved to Great Britain in 1970, settling in Oxford, where he has lived for the last 27 years. A prolific writer, he has written 14 books in English and Bengali. Apart from Autobiography, his other better known books are a equel Thy Hand Great Anarch, The Continent of Circe, Hinduism: A religion to Live By and biographies of Robert Clive and Max Mueller. His most recent book, Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse, published this year,deals with the idea of civilizations in decline.
Max Muller's My Autobiography and Nirad C. Chaudhuri's Scholar Extraordinary: The Life of Prof.the Rt.Hon. Friedrich Max Muller Reviewed by H.H. Anniah Gowda Quotable Quote:"WE MUST LEARN TO SEE A MEANING IN EVERYTHING"- Friedrich Max Muller in a letter to his son.One of Max Muller's lectures at Cambridge, in 1882, was published under the significant title, India: What Can It Teach Us? His autobiography was published posthumously in 1910, and it is now reissued by Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, along with a biographical essay by his wife Georgina. Nirad C. Chaudhuri's Max Muller, P.C. is an outstanding addition to the limited biographical material on Muller.Nirad C. Chaudhuri, who made himself known to the literary public at the age of 50-odd with his Autobiography of an Unknown Indian is now an experienced writer. His Autobiography, written in an authentic Bengali style of English, is a most attractive account of his childhood and youth in rural and urban Bengal. It ends with a persuasive outline of Indian history. Apart from its style, its striking feature is its ambivalent attitude towards Britain and towards India. But though this offended many, the book could not be ignored, and its author was accepted gradually as a literary figure of the first rank. Shortly afterwards, Chaudhuri went on a visit to England, and wrote A Passage to England, but that is a deviation. He resumed what appeared to be his vocation with The Continent of Circe: An Essay on the Peoples of India; in it he claims that he propounds a new theory of Indian history. Its quite unorthodox ethnology holds that the "brown" majority, as opposed to the "black" and "yellow" minorities are Aryan, and makes a good deal depend on that assumption. The climatic theory and the knowledge of India show up again in Scholar Extraordinary. Chaudhuri's gnomic, eccentric utterances and criticism of his countrymen have won him an audience abroad. In his latest book, though, he is careful not to hurt people. He shows that although he did not set foot in Europe till the age of 50 or so, he can write English with ease and elegance. Max Muller is an excellent subject for a biographer. Chaudhuri works within the framework of Muller's autobiography and his wife's biography and hence his brisk chronological narrative, interspersed with lengthy quotations from earlier works, diary and letters. The book makes absorbing if somewhat breathless reading, all the more so in that Chaudhuri wastes little time weighting questions of factual experience. On the other hand he has a chance to pay his and his coutrymen's homage to one who unearthed the hidden gems of India in Sanskrit literature for display to the world. Scholar Extraordinary is the story of Muller's thought and of his domestic life. It is divided into three parts – from part one emerges the young Max who shows scholarly proclivities, cultivates a love for music, bears the whips and scorns of time, studies philosophy and languages, and starts reading Sanskrit at Leipzig under Brockhaus. Having begun with simple grammar, he goes as far as the Rig Veda. Chaudhuri discusses all the ramifications of Muller's scholarly interests and researches in Indian religion and philosophy. The young Muller's intellectual voyage is well charted, occasionally fixing him in the intellectual movement of the period. He swam along the German tide fashionable among the Oxford reformers of the nineteenth century. In 1848, Muller came to Oxford which became his spuritual home for about fifty years. Part Two deals with Max Muller's work at Oxford: "Blessed is he who has found his work." He became Taylorian Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford and married Georgina Grenfell. Part Three discusses the dark and bright aspects of academic life at Oxford, the number of friends Muller cultivated, his fighting and losing an election for the Boden Professorship of Sanskrit in 1860, his interest in India and the Indians he met, and his personal tragedy in the loss of his two daughters, his bearing the loss like a true ascetic Vanaprastha, and his death in 1900. Pictures of nineteenth-century Oxford and of India emerge distinctly from the books under review. In one, Muller found his vocation and in another his spirit. The picture of Oxford's "dreaming spires" and warring Halls" is econstructed by Chaudhuri who, like the hero, crosses the "stripling Thames," and lives in Boar's Hill to write about a man, simple, ambitious but scholarly. The printing of the Rig Veda, including the commentary of Sayana,with the financial assistance of the East India Company at the Oxford University Press, took Muller to Oxford, where he gradually endeared himself to the social circles there. While his knowledge of Sanskrit earned Muller some secret enemies, his ability to play the piano made him popular. It was a social asset which earned him many invitations to dinner parties. His friend Victor Carus said that Muller would play violin and piano sonatas which kept his hearers spellbound. In his hands the sound of the piano became a poem in music. As a German, Muller was not liked by the Conservative Anglican Churchmen. Newman, the leader of the Oxford Movement, considered Lutheranism and Calvinism heresies. This attitude had its effect on his failure in the election to the Boden Professorship. Muller had deep friendships with Palgrave and other mid-nineteenth century intellectuals: Stanley, Jowett, Arnold and Pattison. Muller was shocked at the disrespect of the students towards their teachers at Oxford. In Germany, Professors were worshipped, and the students never questioned their ipse dixit. Muller found the constitution of the Oxford University, which had no government control, puzzling. Oxford did not know the Government nor did the Government know Oxford. However, Oxford grew on Muller as he patiently worked on the Rig Veda. His editorial labour and his deep knowledge of Sanskrit enabled him to claim the Taylorian Professorship in 1854. During these early years, the grind for Muller was very strenuous. His aim was also to trace the evolution of Indian religious and philosophical thought as demonstrated in the Vedas. As his scholarship in Sanskrit literature deepened, Muller's English prose became lucid, and he made his name as an able speaker. He was invited to speak before the Queen, who listened to him with rapt attention, without even knitting! Chaudhuri's scholar grows without giving up his grip on wordly success. The campaign in the contest for the Boden Professorship between him and Monier Williams reveals that human nature is the same, in Oxford as in India. Although he did not get the chair, he chose to stay on at Oxford. It had done him good since the age of twenty-four in so many ways. It was in Oxford that his mental energy and loquacity found full expression. His addresses and writings fill twenty volumes, now mostly forgotten except for Chips from a German Workshop, which is occasionally consulted by academics. Chaudhuri connects the scholar's life to his work and tells us that even at school Muller's ideal was that of a monk, undisturbed in his monastery, surrounded by his books and a few friends. The ascetic and the noble primitivism of the society in the Rig Veda aided him in his ideal, which did not preclude striving after worldly success. India had reached Europe through the Germanic Renaissance. Chaudhuri traces these movements and the powerful impact that India had on the spiritual and cultural life of Europe. Indian influence was irresistible, and Muller moved to England in the middle of 1840 to edit the Rig Veda. He became deeply interested in the study of etymology. Popularizing the terms "Aryan Man" and "Aryan Race" through the study of language, he explored the mind of the earliest civilized man. The Aryan man had been Greek, Roman, German and Indian. When Muller refers to the Aryan race, he means no more than Aryan speech. In his heart he had an image of his beloved India. Many Indians, who had heard of his translations of Hitopadesha, Meghaduta, and his edition of the Rig Veda, Sayana's Commentary and his other lectures and essays believed sincerely that India was the land of his previous birth. About his longing to visit the East in his younger days, Muller wrote: "I have had to give up many of these dreams but somehow one learns to see with the mind and imagination what we cannot see with the eyes." This is the typical view of a scholar devoted to the classical literature of India. He mistrusts the seen and trusts the unseen.The fact that he had no first-hand experience of India was thrown in his teeth by some Englishmen who did not respect his love for this country and his enthusiastic interpretation of Hindu civilization. It is difficult to believe and philosophic ideas of the Vedas if he had had direct knowledge of nineteenth-century India. Muller had the artist's insight to pierce through the Hindu scriptures and discover their pure poetic essence. He put the study of the origins of language, thought, religion, philosophy and law or other human creations of the Vedic period on the same level as the literatures of Greece, Rome and Germany. His knowledge of classical literature was richly enhanced by his Indian acquaintances and correspondents: Dwarkanath Tagore, R.R. Deb, Devendranath Tagore, Keshab Chander Sen and a host of other scholars and religious reformers. With some of them his friendship was deep and abiding. Strangely enough, Chaudhuri adds his own favourable comments to Muller's opinion of the Indians who reciprocated his feeling in abundant measure. Georgina Muller in her biography gives a letter from a middle-class Hindu in Madras who wrote to him on hearing that Muller was ill. His reactions were warm and heartfelt: "Sunday was the mail day, on which English mail letters are delivered at Madras...The postman gave me a card...in which the following lines were written: `Professor Max Muller is seriously ill and not able to attend to any letter.' When I read these lines tears trickled down my cheeks unconsciously. When I showed the card to my friends who spent the last days of their lives like mine in reading the Bhagavad Gita... They decided to have special service performed to God Sri Parthasarathy Swamy...in your name for complete recovery. The temple priest raised many objections to have our object accomplished, and the chief one of his objections was that he can't offer prayers and enchant manthrams to god in the name of one who is not a Hindu by birth...But, when one of our friends promised to pay ample remuneration for the purpose, he acceded to our request." Muller and Georgina come sympathetically alive in the pages of Chaudhuri's book. His portrait is fully evoked: Muller possessed a gift for languages and for music, he had an artistic temperament, the soul of a great lover, and of an affectionate father. He had a life-long involvement with God. Chaudhuri takes note of his hero's less scholarly occupations at Oxford. The death of his daughter Mary in 1876 brought about the virtual end of his intellectual life. The hero suddenly withdraws and enters into telepathic communication with his dead daughter. He keeps a journal addressed to her, to keep her presence alive. Like Georgina's parents, Muller was unwilling to give permission to his second daughter to marry an impecunions don, though he had been one himself. Later, he relented, but continued to pour moral precepts on her. The unhappy daughter died in childbirth. The journal ends with the telegram announcing the death of his second daughter pasted in. The apostle of Aryan idealism was beaten into submission by a cruel fate. His karma proved too strong to bear, and he wrote to his son: "We must learn to see a meaning in everything, we must believe that as it was, it was right." Chaudhuri set out to tell a story of the rise, glory and decline of one whose devotion of Vedic literature was unparalleled. The scholar's existence is evoked in fluent prose with a sharp eye for the history of India and of Europe. Only occasionally does Chaudhuri yield to the temptation of overwriting. He has summarized a mass of facts and arguments with great skill, and written about them with appropriate lucidity. The biographer remains throughout in a mood of respectful admiration. Scholar Extraordinary is a coherent and colourful tapestry: a grateful literary garland from India. H.H.Anniah Gowda was a Reader in English at the University of Mysore, Editor of The Literary Half-Yearly, author of a Kannada version of George Orwell's Animal Farm ( under the title Mruga Prabhutva and of The Revival of English Poetic Drama Endnote: Scholar Extraordinary was published on January 16, 1975 by Oxford University Press. A limited edition of Chaudhari's Autobiography of an Unknown Indian is being re-released this month by Jaico Publishers.

Nirad C. Chaudhuri, the enfant terrible of Indian letters, high priest of empire and prophet of the Armageddon to come, turns 100 years old on Nov. 23. That hasn't slowed his output. "The first thing I have to tell those who will read this book," he writes in his latest work, Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse, "is that it is being written by a man in his 99th year. I have never read or heard of any author, however great or productive in his heyday, doing that." Three Horsemen is more a celebration of doom than even his magnum opus, Thy Hand, Great Anarch! India: 1921-1952, whose title is taken from the Dunciad, that prediction of "universal darkness" by the 18th century English poet and satirist Alexander Pope. Chaudhuri was almost 90 when he wrote this masterly 979-page analysis of 20th century Indian intellectual and political life.
That book confirmed his status as a major literary celebrity in Britain, gained in 1951 with his first book, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, an exaltation of British values that earned the wrath of many educated Indians. But Winston Churchill found it "one of the best books he had read," according to his daughter Mary Soames. Chaudhuri has lived in Britain since 1970, firing off acidulous commentaries and only occasionally emerging from his Oxford study to receive an award--like his doctorate of letters from Oxford University--or to become a Commander of the Order of the British Empire under Queen Elizabeth. Chaudhuri the biographer is less well known. But Scholar Extraordinary, his 1974 book on the German Indologist Max Mueller, and his 1975 Master of Bengal on Robert Clive, who laid the foundations of the British raj, won admiration from academics. Presumably, Chaudhuri did not think Aristotle Onassis was in the same league, since he turned down Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' invitation to write her second husband's biography.
Chaudhuri the genial and chatty host is hardly known at all. That aspect of his personality was revealed to me only because of an unsuspected family link. Folded in my copy of Thy Hand is a letter dated Dec. 4, 1987 in the author's barely legible scrawl. "I have to tell you," he writes, "that the reference on p 179 to the friend who escorted me to my cousin's house at the time of the Hindu-Muslim riots of 1926 in Calcutta is to your father. You will be amused to note the [illegible] between him and my West Bengal friend Bibhuti Babu." "Father" is underlined twice; "amused" scratched out and rewritten; the word I cannot read could be English or Bengali.
Chaudhuri had told me of the incident, highlighting the ancient rivalry between Hindus from the eastern and western halves of Bengal, at our first meeting in 1962. Apparently, he and my father were distantly related through the network of small landowners, the Bengali bhadralok (literally, gentlefolk), who dominated Muslim-majority East Bengal, later East Pakistan and now Bangladesh. Both men moved to Calcutta, the capital of then-undivided Bengal. Chaudhuri was walking in the city one day with Bibhuti Bhushan Banerji, whose novels inspired film-maker Satyajit Ray's famous Pather Panchali and the Apu trilogy, when a Hindu-Muslim riot erupted. Banerji turned tail and fled, whereupon Chaudhuri went to my father, who lived nearby, to borrow something with which he could fight off attackers. A big man himself, my father must have been struck by the absurdity of the diminutive Chaudhuri brandishing an umbrella or walking stick; he insisted on escorting the visitor to his destination through streets resounding to chants of "Kill the fellows!"
My father had no recollection of the incident. Impervious to danger, he was also indifferent to literature. He had not heard of Autobiography and knew Chaudhuri only as the family pediatrician's "madcap" brother who couldn't keep his job in the Military Accounts Department and dropped out of bhadralok society.
That would not have bothered Chaudhuri, of whom it might be said, as it was of the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy, that he is a gentleman at an angle to the universe. But whereas Cavafy was a voluptuary, Chaudhuri is a voyeur. He is an elitist who was never himself a part of an elite, a renaissance man who lived after and outside the synthesis of British and Indian culture that was the Bengal Renaissance, an imperial subject who glories in imperialism. His insight into politics was gained not as a practitioner but as a private secretary to a nationalist barrister; his deep understanding of military science was acquired from reading.
Indeed, he has taught himself all he knows, whether about Mogul gardens, English cheeses or half a dozen European languages. Some inner flame must have succored him as he constantly added to his knowledge and honed his intellect while battling with poverty and privation. Educated in his East Bengal village and in Calcutta, he moved from one uncertain job to another until he became an international affairs commentator at India's state-owned radio in 1942. Yet Chaudhuri remained arrogantly independent of his social and financial betters. I suspect a certain envy may be laced into the withering contempt he professes for them. But in Three Horsemen, Chaudhuri leaves his readers in no doubt that, just as Bengalis deserved to lose their supremacy in India, Indians did not deserve independence. He dismisses even India's scientific and technological achievements as an "effort to become a second United States" that will only create "a Caribbean Island on a continental scale." Not that he is any more respectful of the U.S. "Not even in Hindu society does superstition present itself in so disgusting and yet overpowering form as it does in the materialistic United States," he writes in Thy Hand. Admiration he reserves only for the vanished England of his imagination.
Doom, decline and decadence are his metier. Social and cultural degeneracy, he writes, also in Thy Hand, afflicts "even the least civilized of the non-European human groups, e.g. those in Africa." But proud of what he calls his European origins, Chaudhuri reserves his harshest strictures for the British. They had it all--and squandered it. He cannot forgive or forget contemporary Britain's liberalism, surrender of ancestral hauteur and benevolence toward the Third World. When a distinguished Bengali economist, Amartya Sen, made history earlier this year by being appointed Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, Chaudhuri noted acidly that "when an Englishman loses his prejudices, he is no longer an Englishman." Mercifully, Chaudhuri is close by--he moved to Oxford in 1970--to keep the banner of Olde Englande flying, bearing out the prediction of British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge that the last Englishman would be an Indian.
The Anglophile in Chaudhuri would have relished my discovery of him in an English country house. Once the home of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the aristocratic letter-writer who had enjoyed a complex relationship with Alexander Pope, Wortley Hall had by the mid-1950s been reduced to hosting students' conferences. Coming upon Autobiography in the library there, I read it with mounting excitement. The book put into words everything he had ever thought. He was reluctant to see me: while his portly wife shuttled to and fro between the front door and the living room, Chaudhuri could be heard grumbling loudly about Indian journalists. They had not been kind to him: it was not difficult to be unkind about the vanity and posturing that masked his enormous erudition and incisive mind. But he soon placed me as my father's son and, giving a hoot of delight, announced that he had read his first Greek classic--I forget what--in the home of an uncle of mine in Kishorganj, the East Bengal hometown Chaudhuri left in 1927, never to return.
NIRAD’s spirits were irrepressible, and he attributed his achievements to never looking east. From Kishorganj to Calcutta to Delhi, he had always gone west, not crossing the Jamuna river to Delhi's east in decades.
Standing on the rickety balcony of his flat on that first visit, Chaudhuri sought my opinion of a scattering of tents across the road. I said they were construction workers who would go away when their job was done. "No!" he exclaimed with vehemence. "They will never go away. That is Hindu India coming into its own!"
He proceeded to develop the thesis that underlies all his writing. India is a massive piston that the British had dragged out and held in position by brute force. The Indians who had taken over were clinging to it with aching arms. There was not a hook or rope anywhere to secure the piston; they lacked the muscle to hold on. "Inch by inch, it's slipping in. One day our strength will fail, and the piston will slam back with a tremendous roar, plunging India again into the anarchy and bloodshed of pre-British times!"
Chaudhuri surely holds the record for being the world's oldest author. This remarkable man published a book in his hundredthyear:Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse (Oxford University Press, ISBN 019564189-2).He wrote in the preface to his latest book: The very first thing I have to tell those who will read this book is that it is being written by a man in his ninety-ninth year (the date of his birth being 23 November 1897, the year of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria). I have never read or heard of any author, however great or productive in his heyday, doing that. This confession alone will be enough to make the reader expect only senile babbling from me. It is not for me, however, to reassure him. He must be his own judge.Not content with writing a book in English, he embarked on an autobiography in Bengali. But he did not successfully realize this project. I am hoping someone would publish the material as it stands. On 3 March 1990, Nirad C. Chaudhuri was presented the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters by Oxford University. The speech by the Public Orator was delivered in Latin: The eminent Bengali whom I now present is thoroughly versed both in English and European poetry and has interpreted Indian society and customs to us with great intellectual ability, illuminating incidentally several aspects of our society. Mr. Chaudhuri expressed his views on contemporary events with a frankness which was too great to make him popular with his fellow Indians, praising certain aspects of the Raj, and lacking in the requisite enthusiasm for the birth of New India. But with passage of time his reputation at home is now restored. The Unknown Indian of his book has deservedly won fame and recognition.Mr. Chaudhuri was a Fellow of the Royal Literary Society and was conferred a CBE by the Queen of England on October 19,1992.This page is a tribute to this great man from India, who, according to the former diplomat Natwar Singh, was ``the possessor of a granite-like integrity which despises `saccharine morality' ''. I have gathered here as many references as I have been able to find regarding his work including books and articles by the man himself, as well as essays by other people on him and his work. I invite corrections, however minor, and additions to this page. I am, of course, aware that some information in this page is still incorrect and I need help. Contents Obituaries and Commentaries, compilation of articles, editorials and reminiscences in newspapers in India and abroad are available in the bibliography.
A compilation of books by Chaudhuri in English and BENGALI with detailed notes are available in the Archives Section of NATIONAL LIBRARY KOLKATA. A sketchier compilation of books by Chaudhuri in Bengali, Articles in English, a list of articles I have compiled based on my search in various online databases. Articles in Bengali on and by Nirad C CHAUDHURI is available in the SPECIAL ISSUES( SHARODIYA) of Desh AND ANAND BAZAAR PATRIKA, published from kolkata . Excerpts from works. Some excerpts from his works. Interviews. A compilation of audio recordings and interviews on radio and television. Articles, essays on Nirad C. Chaudhuri. Analysis, criticisms and such on Nirad Chaudhuri. Related links. Some other useful links that I have gathered based on my interests. Help Wanted. How you can make things on this page more accurate.Books, Articles on Chaudhuri Some of these links have expired. But I am hoping to add enough info to pin the details down so that one can track down the articles if necessary. Features and reports on Nirad Chaudhuri's Centenary These are generally dated around the period November 20--25, 1997. Birthday Greetings. The editorial in this newspaper, Calcutta Online dated November 24, 1997, has a tribute to Mr. Chaudhuri. The Beginning of Another Century for Nirad Chaudhuri. This is a news report on Nirad C. Chaudhuri's 100th birthday. November 24,1997.Another report on his 100th birthday. November 24, 1997. The First Century is a nice article by Amita Malik. November 22,1997. The President and Prime Minister of India congratulate Nirad Chaudhuri on turning 100. November 24, 1997. An evening with Nirad Babu. Recollections of a meeting on the eve of his 100th birthday. November 22, 1997. Out of Line: A Stylish Innings is another tribute to Nirad Chaudhuri. October 29, 1997. An Unbeaten Century is a feature in the Daily Star News by Waheedul Haque. November 24, 1997. Dissolution, Nirad Babu and Grappelli. A reminiscence. December 4,1997.Picture this Nirad is an article by Kanchan Gupta on Nirad Chaudhuri in the Pioneer dated November 22, 1997. From Unknown Indian to GOST. An editorial on Indian writing in English. November 22, 1997. Sunday Soliloquies. This has a paragraph on Mr. Chaudhuri's address at the Nehru Center in London. August 10, 1997. A Bengali and an Englishman is a very readable article by Amulya Ganguly on Nirad Chaudhuri in the Hindustan Times dated November 24, 1997. The Unknown Indian turns 100 is an article by S. Krishnan in the Indian Review of Books. December 1997. The Last Englishman by Pankaj Mishra in the Prospect magazine dated November 1997. East is East, West is West and both are declining is an article by K. Natwar Singh in the Asian Age dated December 17, 1996. A house for Mr. Chaudhuri is the first of a recent four-part article by Fakrul Alam published in the Daily Star dated Jan 10, 1998. Here are the parts in order. 1.A House for Mr. Chaudhuri, Part 1.2.A House for Mr. Chaudhuri, Part 2.3.A House for Mr. Chaudhuri, Part 3.4.A House for Mr. Chaudhuri, Part 4.The Rediff on the NeT Special: Nirad C. Chaudhuri. This has excerpts from his latest book.Nirad C. Chaudhuri, The First Hundred Years. A Celebration. Edited by Swapan Dasgupta, Harper Collins, 1997. A review of this book is available online. Another review by Vijay Nambisan is available too.
If English, for Chaudhuri, is the language by which he disowns Bengaliness, it is also his sole, and most powerful, instrument of recovering and expressing it; every sentence in the book - in the unparalleled poetry of its descriptions of the East Bengali landscape, and its portrayal of middle-class Calcutta - is imbued with the Bengaliness it also implicitly rejects. For Chaudhuri, recovery begins, indeed, in the midst of acting as interpreter to a non-Bengali, non-Indian audience. For instance, in his small prefatory note, Chaudhuri refers to Kishorganj as a "little country town"; a page later, in the first sentence of the first chapter, he is already dismantling the canonical English and literary resonances of the phrase in order to convey a lived, but unacknowledged, reality. His description occurs, as we see, between two definitions, one disowned, the other recovered: "Kishorganj, my birthplace, I have called a country town, but this description, I am afraid, will call up wholly wrong associations. The place had nothing of the English country town about it, if I am to judge by the illustrations I have seen and the descriptions I have read ..." What, then, is the Kishorganj he posits against the English phrase? It is something in-between, a hybrid, a colonial construct, like "Bengaliness" itself: "one among a score of collections of tin-and-mat huts or sheds, comprising courts, offices, schools, shops and residential dwellings, which British administration had raised up in the green and brown spaces of East Bengal?"
But to embark upon the Autobiography in English was a solitary project. It was like being in an echo chamber, listening to your own voice. Dutt had had the "literary shopkeeper" to read his poem to; Chaudhuri had only himself. In an essay called "My Hundredth Year", Chaudhuri recalls how, when he began to write his book, the act of composing involved a play of echoes (audible echoes as well as literary ones) and a talking to oneself: "I read what I had written aloud and then also read a passage from some great work of English prose in the same way. If the two sounds agreed I passed my writing". The reason for this, as Chaudhuri puts it, was "an acute anxiety", a sense of dispossession, for "I did not learn English from Englishmen, nor hear it as spoken by native speakers of the language till late in life". Chaudhuri, like many of his generation and background, learnt English as a second language. English prose style, in the hands of writers like Chaudhuri and Naipaul, has been an instrument of ambivalence; neither of these two writers, among the greatest post-colonial stylists of English prose, came from the upper reaches of their respective societies. On the other hand, Rushdie's khichdi prose, with its "Bombay mix" of Hindi, English, and Indian English, is a hegemonic language, and the increased use of a similar English in films, books and advertisements signals the coming of age of an upper-middle class generation in post-Independence, post-liberalisation India. This is not to either praise or condemn it, but to point out that, in order to appreciate its comedy and excitement, it is important to remember that this khichdi language is very far from an African creole or pidgin, or being a language of the dispossessed. On the other hand, English prose style, in Chaudhuri's hands, becomes the measure of one who feels he does not quite belong; it is partly a language of suggestion, which is why sound and rhythm are such significant components of it. Chaudhuri believed in ideas, opinions and positions, but believed equally in the prosody of the English sentence: "There is no such thing as one standard rhythm of English prose. English prose rhythms are bewilderingly diverse ..." There is, thus, a greater tension between sense and sound, between the different resonances, audible and half-heard, of what Chaudhuri says, than either his readers or even he has given himself credit for. English prose style, and its auditoriness, becomes, for Chaudhuri, a mapping of an area between control and dispossession, between the authority of words and the suggestion of sound.

Even before he had reached the age of fifty, Nirad C. Chaudhury had a premonition that he would not live long. He was wrong, for he was only half-way through his life and died a centenarian in the month of August this year. His fear of dying early prompted him to write at a furious pace a book that was entitled: "Autobiography of an Unknown Indian". After the publication of this book in 1951 he was no longer an unknown Indian. The book became a best-seller not only in India but in the English-speaking world far beyond the borders of India. The book gives an account of his own His Indian reviewers who had lampooned the Unknown Indian in 1951 without assessing its literary merit, apologised to him after 15 years and one of them even went to the extent of writing him a letter of regret from his death bed. Chaudhuri was a gentleman to the core. He forgive them all because he always maintained that “the only loyalty which I owed to my people was that I should warn them ... even at the risk of being unpopular. This duty I have performed all my life and therefore I have now to live in exile”. That paid him at the end of his life. THE KINGDOM Abroad, however, he had a band of admirers; among them Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Harold Nicolson, Raymond Mortimer, Sir John Squire down to Hugh Trevor-Roper, Sir VS Naipaul, Vikram Seth, Salman Rushdie and Pankaj Mishra who were spellbound by the exceptional quality of the book. Doris Lessing had described the Unknown Indian as “one of the great books of the 20th century”. Few, indeed very few, are aware in India that Tina Brown, the flamboyant former editor of The New Yorker had picked 20 intellectuals of the last century and wanted to have a special issue on them. Unfortunately, the grand plan remained unaccomplished although Chaudhuri gave a scintillating interview to New Yorker’s special team at his Oxford house. The interview which I had the privilege to see along with his eldest son, Professor Dhruva N Chaudhuri, at his house in New Delhi was an intellectual treat for me as he effortlessly spoke on the vanishing culture of India. Most of what he had said is there in The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian.
The impression that one gets from Nirad C.Chaudhuri’s talks was that he was under an irresistible compulsion to speak, and speak perceptively, on the vanishing trends of civilisational values. His last book Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse, had mirrored it with same spirit: “If a nation continues to exist as a human group in a devitalised state instead of disappearing, I regard it as a decadent society. This diagnosis is not amoral judgment at all; it is half a biological and half an historical one. Yet most people regard it as a moral condemnation, and if it is applied to them they glare and growl with raised hackles... Nations too, can reach in their old age a golden Augustanism or an ignoble existence in a figurative brothel”. THE DELUGE The addendum part of the interview was that he spoke on Britain. With overflowing sentiment he attacked modern society using the Tocquevil-lesque yardstick. He said that “no civilisation can disappear unless there are active agents for its destruction ... in Eng-land today young savages ... mug and even kill helpless old women, so there are also the same kind of savages who perpetrate the same type of crimes on an old civilisation”. As far as India is concerned, all that he wanted to say was embedded in his books. But the question is how many of the young read it at the college and university level. William Radice gave an honest picture: “It (Unknown Indian) is not a book for young people. Every year I religiously place it on reading lists at the School for Oriental and African Studies, but hardly any student reads it right through. I myself only read it complete, and with great pleasure and admiration, about six years ago”. But that is also the view we hold of other writers. Didn’t Bernard Levin write in The Times, London, that Shakespeare ought to be read at an early stage? No wonder Nirad Babu wrote his own epitaph in his very first book: “Here lies the happy man who was an islet of sensibility surrounded by the cool sense of his wife, friends and children.” How true life in the context of the sub-continent's encounter with the British raj. His own feelings about the encounter is clear from the dedication of his book: "To the memory of the British Empire in India.....because all that was good and living within us was made, shaped, and quickened by the by the same British rule". There was no doubt in his mind that the golden age of the modern era in Indian history was the Bengal Renaissance in the nineteenth century. It goes without saying that the thesis of the book was highly controversial in the post-independence India proud of its emancipation from the British rule. Nirad Chaudhury was born in Kishoreganj in East Bengal in 1897 and was exposed as a young man to the rising tide of nationalism unleashed by the partition of Bengal. But even at an early age he had a detachment of spirit and he did not submit to the herd instinct without questioning. It is not surprising therefore that in 1921 he had an instinctive dislike for the non-co-operation movement started by Gandhi as well as for Gandhism because of "its rejection of civilization and reason". Rationalism, in his mind. was best represented by the dynamic West and not by the sluggish East. Through his study of Indian history he had come to the conclusion that India had always been rejuvenated by its encounter with outsiders. The Aryan migration had led to the flowering of the Hindu culture; the Turko-Afghan invasion of Muslims had introduced new ethnic elements and "the mind, no less than the blood had been renovated by them"; and the British rule made possible the growth of intelligentsia which has played its part in building up the culture of modern India. Nirad Chaudhury was certainly an Anglophile but not in a servile sense, as was the case with so many Westernised Indians of his day. He did no ape Western manners and wore Western clothes for the first time when he had to in his mid-life. He was a Sanskrit scholar and delved deep into the Indian classics and admired them. At the same time he had taught himself French and had acquired considerable mastery over it. He developed a passion for Western classical music when there was very little opportunity for him to hear it in concerts or in gramophone records as they were expensive to a person of modest means. A landmark event in his life was his employment as secretary to Sarat Chandra Bose, a leading barrister of Calcutta. Subhas Chandra Bose, then a bachelor, used to live in his elder brother's house, which enabled Nirad Chaudhury to get to know them both, and through them Gandhi, who was their house-guest during one of his visits to Calcutta. In 1940, Subhas Bose managed to evade house arrest and travelled to Germany, via Afghanistan, to carry on his struggle for independence with the help of the Axis Powers. The British Government was naturally concerned about his activities in Berlin. In order to counter the broadcasts of the "Azad Hind", set up by Subhas Bose in Germany, the BBC used the services of George Orwell, the famous author, and Mulk Raj Anand, an Indian intellectual and writer, who spent the war years in London (See Orwell: The War Commentaries, Schoken Books, New York, 1985). When Bose left Germany for East Asia by submarine to carry on his activities on behalf of the "Azad Hind" and to form and lead the Indian National Army (INA), the job of countering Bose's propaganda aimed at Indian listeners fell upon the All-India Radio. The BBC in London was even unable to monitor the speeches of Bose, since the radio transmitter in Rangoon was capable of using only the medium wave with limited range. The Air in New Delhi had been given the nickname of the Bokhari Brothers Corporation (BBC) by some wits because it was run essentially by two Bokhari brothers from the Punjab. One of them, Ahmed Shah Bokhari later became Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations. It was he who is believed to have offered him a lucrative job at AIR as a political and military commentator. Nirad Chaudhury had served in a minor position in the accounts department of the Indian army once and had developed an interest in military history. Apart from this, Bokhari must have read some of his articles in journals and periodicals and been impressed by his elegant style of writing in English. Nirad Chowdhury had no compunction about accepting the offer because he believed in the Allied cause at a time when most Indians seemed to be too eager to welcome an Axis victory if only because it would hasten the independence of India. It pained him when some of his critics accused him of losing his intellectual integrity by acting as a propagandist for the British raj. Worse still, several members of the Sarat Bose family voiced their suspicion that he had been a police agent when he was employed in their household. (see Nirad Chowdhury's article, Mahatma Gandhi o Subhaschandra Basu' in the Saradiya issue of Desh, 1401 Bengali era). In spite of his literary success, Nirad Chaudhury was unhappy in India. He visited England for the first time in his life in 1954. He moved permanently to England in 1970 with his family, never to return. He settled in Oxford where the academic ambience and excellent library facilities suited him perfectly and he continued to write books and articles until he was hundred years old, a record for an author. Nirad Chaudhury's views had often been unorthodox. Within one year of his residence in England he plunged himself into another controversy: the independence movement for Bangladesh. He wrote articles in the Hindustan Standard in India, as well as letters to the editors of leading British newspapers, and I believe, took part in a discussion in the BBC berating the independence movement. They were published in a booklet form by the Pakistan Information Ministry and I had a copy of it in my desk while I was serving as the Deputy Permanent representative of Pakistan in 1971. Unfortunately I left the copy in my office when I defected from the Pakistan Government in August of that year. During my recent visit to London, the veteran engali journalist Abdul Matin kindly furnished me with a copy of a long letter Nirad Chaudhury had written to the editor of The Times which was published on 13th April 1971. In it he blamed the British correspondents in Dhaka before the military action for being "extremely unrealistic in playing up the possibility and even inevitability of the secession" and encouraging "theextremism of Muslim Bengalees." He painted a pessimistic picture of the outcome of a freedom struggle by Benaglees. The only result that he could foresee was that the "Pakistan army would remain in East Bengal as an army of occupation in an enemy country. This it can do indefinitely.The worst is yet to come, for famine and disease will follow." He concluded his letter to the editor with these words: "The only humane attitude to adopt now would be to refrain from saying or doing things which would encourage Bengalee resistance or give provocation to the Pakistan army. The outside cannot do anything more for the Bengalee Muslims, but it can at least avoid worsening the situation". Nirad Chaudhury was of course wrong in his assessment of the prospects of the liberation war for Bangladesh, for Bangladesh, for Bangladesh emerged as a sovereign state before the year was over. That Nirad Chaudhury was embarrassed by his failure to asses the situation correctly is evident from the fact that in the sequel to his Autobiography, "Thy Hand, Great Anarch" (1987), he has chosen to omit any mention of this faux pas on his part. This may also explain his petulant reference to "so-called Bangladesh" in an article in the Bengali magazine Desh , which caused the government of the day in Bangladesh to over-react by banning the entry of this magazine from India. How did Nirad Chaudhury go so wrong about the outcome of the liberation struggle in Bangladesh? During the second World War he was convinced that the preponderance of the Allies in manpower and material resources was so overwhelming that the Axis powers eventually be crushed and defeated. He applied his ratio of forces doctrine mechanically to "civil war" in Pakistan as he called the freedom struggle and could not imagine how Bengalis, lacking modern arms and experience of fighting a well-trained army, could prevail over them. He failed to take into account the moral indignation of the world about brutal massacre perpetrated by the Pakistan army to annul the results of the first-ever election in Pakistan and how the world public opinion would oblige many governments international organisations to deny assistance to Pakistan to continue its repression. importantly, he could not foresee that India could not remain an idle bystander for too long view of the millions of refugees streaming across the border and putting an unbearable on its economy. Nirad Chaudhury's occasional errors of judgement do not diminish to any great extent his considerable intellectual achievements. A scholar must be judged by the sum total of his work and its worth. By any standards it was remarkable. Humility was not one of his virtues. His strong point was that he had the courage to swim against the tide of accepted values and an enquiring mind which is a mark of a true intellectual. He dared to pull the skin off contemporary Indian society and to disclose what lay underneath, however unpleasant. In his last major work,"Three New Horsemen of the New Apocalypse" (1997), he tried to do the same about the Western society, but in a sketchy, and some critics would say, somewhat superficial way. Like the great German Orientals Max Muller, the subject of one of his books, Nirad Chaudhury was a scholar extraordinary.
BIBLIOGRAPHY

v Portraits: A Gallery of Intellectuals. by Edward Shils, edited by Joseph Epstein, University of Chicago Press, 1997.
v The Last Englishman by Sunanda K. Datta Ray in Time Asia.
v The Beast in Nirad Chaudhuri's Garden, by Margery Sabin. Essays in Criticism, January 1994.
v Nirad C. Chaudhuri by C. P. Verghese 1973. ISBN 089253091.
v Nirad C. Chaudhuri by Chetan Karnani. Boston: Twayne, 1980.
v Nirad C. Chaudhuri: at home in Oxford. The American Scholar v. 60 (Spring 1991) p.242-6
v The unknown Indian; on Nirad Chaudhuri's achievement by Edward Albert Shils in Encounter (London, England) v. 71 (Nov. 1988) p. 64-7.
v Citizen of the world by Edward Albert Shils in The American Scholar v. 57
(Autumn 1988) p. 549-73.
v Chaudhuri, Nirad C., 1897-1ndian author and journalist by Naomi Bliven in The New Yorker v. 64 (Nov. 21 1988) p. 144-7.
v Perceiving India: Through the Works of Nirad C. Chaudhuri, R.K. Narayan and Ved Mehta by David Scott Philip. Envoy Press, July 1986. ISBN:093871905X.
v Nirad C. Chaudhuri's first publication by M. K. Naik in The Journal of Commonwealth Literature v. 19 no. 1 (1984) p. 98-107.
v The Beast in Nirad Chaudhuri's Garden by Margery Sabin in Essays in Criticism: A Quarterly Journal of Literary Criticism (EIC), Oxford, England.
v Article in: vol. 44 no. 1, 1994 Jan. Pages 26-48.
v Nirad Chaudhuri: Autobiography and Self Identity by B. D. Sharma in Language Forum: A Half-Yearly Journal of Language and Literature (LangF), New Delhi, India. Article in: vol. 18 no. 1-2, 1992 Jan-Dec,Pages 181-85.
v Passages to England by John Thieme. Book article in D'haen, Theo (ed.);Bertens, Hans (ed.). Liminal Postmodernisms: The Postmodern, the (Post-)Colonial, and the (Post-)Feminist. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994.357pp. Pages 55-78.
v A Slow Alienation: Nirad Chaudhuri's Bengali Chidhood in The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian by Cynthia Abrioux.
v Commonwealth Essays and Studies (CE&S), Dijon, France. Article in: vol. 15 no. 1, 1992 Autumn, pages 20-28.
v Remembering India by David Pryce-Jones in The New Criterion (NewC),New York, NY. Article in: vol. 7 no. 9, 1989 May, pages 77-80.
v Indian Autobiography: Gandhi and Chaudhuri. Sel. Conf. Papers by Jeffrey Meyers. Book article in Ramelb, Carol (ed.).
v Biography: East and West. Honolulu: U of Hawaii P, 1989. xvi, 237 pp. pages 113-121.
v The Two Chaudhuris: Historical Witness and Pseudo- Historian by Sudesh Mishra. The Journal of Commonwealth Literature (JCL), London,England. Article in: vol. 23 no. 1, 1988, pages 7-15.
v The Plight of the Aryans and the Nightmare of History: Nirad Chaudhuri's Alternative View by Haydn Williams. SPAN: Journal of the South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (SPAN),Murdoch, WA, Australia. Article in: vol. 24, 1987 Apr, pages 190-207.
v Nirad C. Chaudhuri : the renaissance man by Raj Kumar Paul. Book published by Rawat Publications, Jaipur, 1998. 179 pages.

v Mirrorwork : 50 years of indian writing, 1947-1997 Published by H. Holt & Co., NY, 1997. Edited by Salman Rushdie and Elizabeth West.
v Alternative imaginings in the autobiographies of Jawaharlal Nehru, Nirad C. Chaudhuri and Mohandas K. Gandhi Thesis by Anita Jain (A.B., Honors in Sanskrit and Indian Studies)--Harvard University, 1994.
v Commonwealth Literature by C. D. Narasimhaiah has an article on the autobiographies of Nehru and Chaudhuri. Pencraft International, 1995. ISBN 81-85753-06-7. This is an amusing read.
v A Manifold Voice by William Walsh has a chapter on Chaudhuri. Chatto & Windus, London, 1970. See also Commonwealth Literature by William Walsh, Oxford University press, 1973.

3 comments:

  1. Dear, I have not yet read your article in full. The references you have used I read. But more allusive is your personal encounter with him. Most of the people written on NC knew him personally. Once I talked to Tapan Roychaudhuri on his neighbour and his remark was startling. Those who met and those who did not mostly share opposite view on NC. I expect something regarding that. Last ten years I am collecting materials on NC. and it is now huge, published and unpublished in cases.

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  2. http://www.slideshare.net/radhanag50/atmaghati-nirod-choudhury-by-dr-radha-nag-bears-ample-proof-of-its-authors-coomendable-economy-of-expression-the-statesman-calcutta-note-book-09042001?ref=http://www.slideshare.net/amitavonag/newsfeed?redireAtmaghati Nirod Choudhury by Dr. Radha Nag bears ample proof of it's author's…ct=1 via @SlideShare

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  3. The Statesman reviewed this book on 09.04.2001 in Calcutta Notebook column which I would like to share:
    'Radha Nag's recently-published Atmaghati Nirad Chandra is a welcome answer to Nirad C. Chaudhuri's Atmaghati Bangali and two-volume Atmaghati Rabindranath. In more than a decade since the publication of the first volume of this trilogy on the dire self-destruction of the Bengali people and their greatest poet, no Bengali has raised his voice against this charge - perhaps because it was framed by a Bengali who penned them in a respectable university town in England, clad in a Bengali dhoti, sitting on a Bengali mat.
    Nag's beautifully-produced 80-page volume bears ample proof of its author's commendable economy of expression. She has used NCC's Bengali works to show that obscenities abound in them. The writer who held an honorary D.Litt. from Oxford, it seems, could not make his points without outraging the proverbial British sense of decency.
    Chaudhuri the author, shows Nag, had been so trapped by Chaudhuri the man that he often makes unseemly self-revelations. And it may not be improbable that he was deliberately ribald to cater to popular tastes.
    Nag's book is written in a delightfully ironic style and if she's sometimes hard on Chaudhuri, she has been so for the sake of truth.'

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