August 11, 2006

‘Sri Aurobindo’ is not just a name

Sri Aurobindo's Rodogune: The Relevance of Tragedy by Goutam Ghosal Volume 25, No. 1 November, 2004 South Asian Review The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown UPJ Home Page

Sri Aurobindo and World Literature (By Goutam Ghosal; Publishedby Sri Mira Trust, Pondicherry; Price: Rs.70.00, pp.138) —Dr. P.Raja SRI AUROBINDO: A UNIVERSAL WRITER SABDA Newsletter
Years ago while reviewing Dr.Goutam Ghosal’s book Sri Aurobindo’s Prose Style, I wrote:“…A look at the Aurobindoniana accessible in any library worth the name will reveal that there are a good number of studies available on Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy, Yoga, political thought, aes-thetics, poetry, plays and literary criticism. But one doubts whether a study of the stylistic features of his prose is available. Dr.Goutam Ghosal’s book fills the gap for his is the first detailed study of Sri Aurobindo’s prose style.”
I added: “Among the beauties of this slim and earnest volume are the clarity and brevity with which it puts its arguments.” After eight years and after reading his recent book Sri Aurobindo and World Literature I am unable to change my view on his arguments. Dr.Goutam Ghosal is a phenomenon, a titanic force in the history of Aurobindoniana, for he attempts to study in the book under review, another unexamined aspect of Sri Aurobindo. In his ‘Foreword’ to the book, Dr.Ghosal writes: “The name ‘Sri Aurobindo’ is not just a name. It means a new movement in literature, a silent revolution which is going to change the entire complexion of future literature.
But no writer can be studied in isolation and for a global writer like Sri Aurobindo, it is essential that he should be judged with reference to the other masters of literature. People tend to relate Sri Aurobindo only with the past Indian masters, forgetting that he also has close ties with the West.” The veteran researcher K.D. Sethna clarified this point by writing a scholarly book entitled Sri Aurobindo and Greece. In his thesis he observed: “…To make aspecial point of coupling Greece with him (SriAurobindo) might seem to the average informed Westerner an ingenious irrelevance. And yet, within this Indian of Indians, Greece lived with a power not only intimate but also creative as in few moderns of the West — and, starting with Greece, the cultural genius of all Europe fused with his Indianness.”
These words perhaps pulled Dr.Ghosal towards them and emphasized their importance. Sethna is a literary luminary and whoever comes anywhere near his aura is bound to shine. And the result is another slim volume that attempts to show how Sri Aurobindo may be studied with reference to the great Western writers, most of whom are romantics in a special sense. In this book Dr. Ghosal studies the classics like A Tale of Two Cities, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Antony and Cleopatra, The Old Man and the Sea through the Aurobindonian lens. Eminent men of letters like Walt Whitman, Baudelaire, Blake, Emerson, Poe, Keats and Oscar Wilde are compared with Sri Aurobindo and these short comparative studies clarify Sri Aurobindo’s position in the history of Western literature.
Dr.Ghosal compares the love sonnets of Petrarch with those of Sri Aurobindo and his verdict runs thus: “Petrarch’s love sonnets mirror the psychological motives of the poet, but they lack the suggestive quality of Sri Aurobindo’s otherwise immature poetry.” In one essay he traces the Cranian (remember Stephen Crane of The Red Badge of Courage fame) echoes in SriAurobindo’s heroic narrative Baji Prabhou. In another he compares the two great poetic theories — Tradition and Individual Talent(T.S.Eliot) and The Future Poetry(Sri Aurobindo) — that appeared in print a few years after the end of the First World War and observes: “Eliot’s theory of poetry is not in line with SriAurobindo’s theory of self-research.”
The eighteen short essays found in this book have “fine insights on every page” (to use the words of Sethna from his ‘Endorsement’ to the ‘Foreword’) and they are good enough examples of Dr. Ghosal’s scholarship. These are days when everyone after post graduation in English frantically searches for topics to write dissertations for the award of M.Phil. or Ph.D. degrees. They will find ample scope here in these short comparative studies of Dr. Ghosal for he leaves enough clues for further research in various fields of comparative criticism.

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