Tagores’ Lukochurihas been translated from Bengali as Hide and Seek by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.
These narratives are written by youngsters from the Nithari village who transcended childhood trauma and deprivation. The Story of Rajesh has been written by Yogesh Uniyal in a mix of English and Hindi, and translated fully to Hindi by Nirbhay Bhogal. Clickhere to read.
In An Encounter with the Monet on Naoshima, Suzanne Kamata writes of snacking on Claude Monet’s hundred year old recipes while savouring his art and that of the famed artist who makes bold art with polka-dots, Yayoi Kusama. Click here to read.
For when your troubles starting multiplying
And they just might
It's easy to forget them without trying
With just a pocketful of starlight
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Never let it fade away (never let it fade away)
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Save it for a rainy day
'Catch a Falling Star' by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss
Perhaps, it is time to find that fallen star popularised by pop singer Perry Como is 1957. Optimism glimmers faintly, sometimes even conceals itself, in a world passing through a dark phase in history. For instance, few of us would know that we might find more answers to tackle climate change as dinosaur fossils (from the time an asteroid hit the planet) have been unearthed recently. That sounds like solutions can be had to what was perceived as inevitable doom.
Another bit of news that perhaps will cheer some is the first anthology of Borderless Journal will soon be available in market. It has been accepted by a publisher, an old, trusted and reputed name from India, Om Books International. They have bookshops splattered all over — should make it easy for buyers to access the book. Hopefully, you can target the anthology for your Diwali or Christmas gift hampers. Om Books has one of the most iconic editors-in chief, Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri. A multiple award-winning editor, he has worked in Penguin and Harper Collins and is currently churning out wonderful books from Om with a fabulous production team, working with whom has been a pleasure. Ray Chaudhuri is an outstanding film writer and poet. He is part of a group that is creating a film archive online. To know more about him or his views on publishing, you can read our online conversation with him.
The energy one gets from optimism like starlight from a fallen star, lightens the darker shadows that create gloom with the war leading to rise in prices and threats of recession in a post pandemic scenario. Lesya Bakun, the refugee from Ukraine whose story we carried last month, finds her starlight by sharing updates of her story. She added to her narrative with the news that her cousin has been taken as a prisoner of war by Russia from the besieged factory in Ukraine. Though sharing does not alleviate suffering, Bakun’s ability to cling to hope and imagine a future where she gets her dream highlights the strength of her convictions. The other thing that is revealed by her narrative and media coverage is exclusivity and boxes of ideology split humankind, erase families, cities, countries, lives and sanity. The war can appease only the lust of warlords. Against this desolation caused by the devastation, what could be the starlight that would lead to a happier future?
Laughter. Unleashing the ability to laugh at oneself is as potent as laughter that generates relief and lightens our mood, so that we can view differences as whimsical, treat them with tolerance and compassion and not destroy the diversities that add colours to the world. Perhaps, that is why Tagore took to humour too. Somdatta Mandal has translated a series of humorous skits by Tagore. We are featuring one of these called the ‘Ordeal of Fame’. Yet another translation or transcreation of a poem called ‘Lukochuri’ or ‘Hide and Seek’ reflects the playful in Tagore’s oeuvre. These, along with Rhys Hughes humour on the pandemic in poetry and prose, bring good cheer into our journal. Hughes has also used his column to tell us why he curated a new humorous anthology of verses by seventeen poets called Wuxing Lyrical. I wonder if he is serious or joking!
As we trot around the globe, Suzanne Kamata tells us about a Monet museum in Japan where she ate madeleines made with the artist’s recipe! Meredith Stephens sails to Tasmania with her camera and gives us a glimpse of nature’s plenty. Ravi Shankar relates his trekking adventures among the Himalayas in Nepal, with awesome photographs of these mountains, while Kenny Peavy who lives in Indonesia dwells on the value of falling down and getting up in a light humorous vein against the backdrop of nature – though metaphorically perhaps the world needs to do that. We have G Venkatesh’s story about his stay in Johannesburg where he discovers that skin tones do not matter.
Ratnottama Sengupta makes the whole world look like a home with the story of a legendary screenwriter, Jean Claude Carriere, who wrote the script of Mahabharata for Peter Brook’s play (1985) of the same name and the subsequent film (1989) — with characters drawn from all over the world. Candice gives us an overview of the pandemic, with more focus on US where she lives.
Mike Smith travels back to another time when an ailment called World War II raged and has revived a writer from the past, HE Bates (1905-1974). We have another essay by Dan Meloche on a legendary book which turned 100 this year — Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. Rakhi Dalal revisits more than a century old translation by Devabrata Mukherjee of Tagore’s The Post Office which bears relevance to the present day as it shows how the human spirit endures over even the darkness of death.
Before winding up, I would want to extend my thanks not only to our team and contributors, but also to our publisher who is willing to republish our content with some tweaking. Thanks to our readers who, I hope, will be excited to have selected content between their palms as a hardcopy anthology with 49 of our most iconic pieces. We have more than a thousand published works. This anthology will be an iconic sample that you can carry anywhere with you even if there is no internet – that would include Mars and Moon!
I wish you happy reading, happy dreaming and hope… plenty of it.
Mike Smith uncovers the wonders of the world of H.E Bates
Waiting for the computer to load I turned to the bookshelf and noticed my set of The Saturday Book. Thirty-five of the eclectic annual volumes were published between 1941 and 1975, with a ‘Best of’ following in the early 80s.
I needed a reading project and decided to start at the beginning of volume one. I accumulated the set over many years having been given two as birthday or perhaps Christmas presents in 1959 and 1960, but I’d never read them all from cover to cover. Long after discovering one of my favourite short stories (H.E.Bates’ The Little Farm), I found I’d had for years it in Volume One of The Saturday Book. What I hadn’t found was a second piece by Bates in the same volume, or rather, a first piece by him, for it opens the book and the whole series.
‘Sea Days, Sea Flowers’ begins with recollections of summer trips to the Sussex and Kentish coast ‘as far as the white dunes of Sandwich bay’, and to ‘the flat wide shores beyond the Dymchurch sea-wall’ or to ‘Hastings and Rye’. I assumed at first that I was reading the opening to another short story, though it did cross my mind as odd that he should get two in the same volume. There are many short stories that start with such descriptions of rural England. Du Maurier’s ‘The Old Man’, Coppard’s ‘Weep Not My Wanton’, and Gallico’s ‘The Snow Goose’, all play heavily on the landscape in which their tales are played out.
But here Bates’ description seemed to go on for so long and was in such detail. It was a journey such as that Kipling took in his opening to ‘They’: a drive through England, to England rather than a mere setting for a tale. As that journey entered its second page the penny began to drop that I was reading what we would now call, I suppose, a piece of creative non-fiction.
The detail is astonishing: about the landscape, the topography, the architecture of the towns and villages, the working lives of the fish-hawkers and the fishermen, and the tourists who drive down for the summer to buy their fish; of the “smoke-stacks of ships steaming up the Channel as they come in close at Dungeness”; of the “coast that is full of Napoleonic memories”; of “the toy passenger train that peeps and shrieks across the flat marsh”. And, throughout it all, those flowers: “the tall mauve-pink marshmallows, like delicate wild hollyhocks…the clusters of reed and willow-herb and purple loosestrife…”
It’s a luscious, artist’s eyeful of this southern corner of England, and it goes on for pages. How can you make such a tour, packed as it is with such detailed description, and no narrative, and the only real character a fish-seller with whom Bates’ reminiscing narrator banters, how can you make it work, and over some thirteen pages of text? For it does work.
Scotland has always been a foreign country to me, but I know most of it far better than I know any of the so-called Home Counties, and the country that Bates describes in this piece is totally alien to me. Yet it made me want to visit, to see it, to see how much of that 1941 landscape still lives and shines under his summer sky. Of course, Bates is a superlative writer, but there’s more to it than that. And he knows a lot: about the flowers, about those childhood holidays, about the lives of working people. The piece is jam-packed with detail and keen observation. But there’s more to it than that as well.
The clue is in the date, and in the three words that open the piece, which, at eighty years’ distance you might have missed: ‘IN PEACE TIME’, and yes, they are in capitals too. For this lush description, redolent with nostalgia, elegiac for a lost world, was published in 1941, when World War Two, for England, was already two years old, and the beaches were sealed off to casual visitors, barbed wired and mined for defence, prepared for an invasion that never came. A couple of pages in, Bates gives us a reminding nudge, repeating the phrase, this time in lower case: “it was always so easy, in peace time, to find a light excuse [to make the coast journeys]”.
By 1941 Bates was already at the top of his game. Stories like ‘The Mill, The Kimono, and The Boxer’, had been written, stories that by his own account were more fully developed than those prompted by what he called ‘the facile devil inside’. And he was a master of the descriptive. The sense of heat that pervades the deserted farmyard and surrounding farmland in the story ‘A Great Day for Bonzo’is palpable, and that same intensity is present in many others of his rural tales, not least the often dubbed ‘bucolic’ Kent of The Darling Buds of May (1958). He was already putting those talents to the National Service, most famously in the stories of Flying Officer X. And this piece too, no doubt, had its propaganda purpose, for Britain, like other nations, was fighting for the survival not only of its lives and infra-structures nor merely for its political systems, but for the narratives of its physical homelands. This was one of the notional as well as real England that the majority of the British were fighting for, and here Bates is summoning a sense of loss that could already be felt as war took that landscape, albeit temporarily, away from the people.
Towards the end of his piece Bates makes this context more explicit. “It is a year since I was down on the coast.” And he lets the war intrude more specifically: “A mine was tossing a little out to seaward…”, where the fish-hawkers “would talk to you of the dead Nazi airmen that were washed up every day…”. Not for nothing did the Kent coast, in the days of the Battle of Britain, become known as ‘Hell’s Corner’.
Bates does not end on the war though, but returns us to nostalgia, to the seashore, “the scream of gulls”, and the “toy train, penny plaices, sea-flowers, peace-time world”. He ends on a reflective note, and one, I think, that carries a whiff of English comic irony: “But it’s no use getting sentimental now.” There was, after all, still a war to fight.
Mike Smith lives on the edge of England where he writes occasional plays, poetry, and essays, usually on the short story form in which he writes as Brindley Hallam Dennis. His writing has been published and performed. He blogs at www.Bhdandme.wordpress.com
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