09 August 2011

Some Very Civil Lines

Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

Partial Recall
Essays on Literature and Literary History


India’s poets have been among the finest writers of English prose—earlier, Henry Derozio and Toru Dutt; more recently, Nissim Ezekiel, A.K. Ramanujan, Dom Moraes, and Adil Jussawalla. Writers of this kind, representing the ‘common reader’ tradition of unpretentious and jargon-free writing about literature and life, are something of a rarity in India. Arvind Krishna Mehrotra—renowned poet, critic, translator, editor, and anthologist—enriches an uncommon stream with this brilliant collection.

The essays gathered here, rich in literary detail and accessible insight, were written over the past thirty years. Among them are Mehrotra’s homage to his friend and fellow poet Arun Kolatkar; a perceptive appreciation of A.K. Ramanujan; a scathing scrutiny of R. Parthasarathy; a radical redefinition of the modern Indian poem; a literary-historical view of Kabir; and a wide-ranging introduction to the entire corpus of Indian writing in English from 1800 to the present.

Mehrotra, who has lived much of his life in Allahabad, writes also about the provincialization of India’s middle-sized cities, the decimation of cultural heritage across urban north India, and the joys and pains of growing up in a small town where everyone knew everyone.

Forthright in manner and cosmopolitan in their references, Mehrotra’s writings are an exceptional mix of the autobiographical and the literary, an antidote to the everyday annihilation of English prose by journalists at one end and literary critics at the other.

This is a book to be enjoyed, savoured, dipped into, and read—again and again.

ARVIND KRISHNA MEHROTRA was born in Lahore in 1947 and educated at the universities of Allahabad and Bombay. He has published four collections of poetry, two volumes of translations, and edited several books, including An Illustrated History of Indian Literature in English. He lives in Allahabad and Dehra Dun. 


Paperback / 300pp / Rs 495 / World rights

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