Analysis the fact that all matters are made up

Analysis of any work of art does not complete without the assessment of the craft of the artist. The history of world literary criticism beginning from the dates of Plato and Aristotle to that of Derrida, Ferdinand de Saussure and Claude Levi-Strauss has accorded importance to the craft of the works. Compact Oxford Reference Dictionary defines the word ‘craft’ as “an activity involving skill in making things by hand.” In the present study, the word, ‘craft’ means ‘the method of story-telling and the narrative part of it.’ Narrative part forms the structure of the text. The structure is the fundamental unit of any literary work which studies the value of the craft. Structuralism takes its impetus from Aristotelian science and from the development in the field of chemistry and physics in the nineteenth century. These theories establish the fact that all matters are made up of atoms. In a literary text, the structural analysis starts with a structural examination of language itself. The supremacy of language in a work of art has been explained by Gerard Genette in an article, “Structuralism and Literary Criticism” thus:


Literature being primarily a work of language and structuralism for its part, being preeminently a linguistic method, the most probable encounter should obviously take place on the terrain of linguistic materials: sounds, forms, words, and sentences constitute the common object of the linguist and the philologist to such an extent that it was possible. (198)

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Amit Chaudhuri, though not a prolific writer, has a steady writing career spanning two decades since the 1990s. He has written five novels, many short stories and critical essays which testify his contributions to Indian English literature. His works have a steady progress both in respect of form and content. Educated in India, London and Oxford and dividing his time between Kolkata and Oxford he has written mostly about ‘being and becoming’ or commemorating ‘home’ in his novels. In A Strange and Sublime Address, it is returning to the native place namely Kolkata, in Afternoon Raag, it is the expatriate remembrance of home and in A New World, it is spending the vacation in Kolkata to overcome the blues of divorce. Thus as Nizzim Ezekiel in his poem, “Enterprise” said “Home is where we have to gather grace” Amit Chaudhuri celebrates the bliss of being in ‘home’ in all his works. The novel which is one of the genres of literature has come to be regarded seriously by modern critics who consider its form to be as complex and subtle as that of an epic or drama. The novelist assumes a close link with the characters and situations which are viewed through his eyes. Hence, while studying the narrative technique of a particular novelist one must view how form and content are interlinked and intermixed. On the other hand, the novelist must be on his guard without being obsessed by the rigours of form. Lionel Trilling justifies this view:


A conscious per-occupation with the form at the present time is almost certain to the novelist into limitation. Form suggests completeness and the ends tucked in; resolution is seen only as all contradictions equated and although form, thus, understood, has its manifest charm, it will not adequately serve the modern experience. (18)


An Indian novelist, writing in English sooner or later, encounters the problem of the form of expression which is ultimately two folds. Firstly, the type of English he is supposed to use and secondly the articulation of the native sensibility in an alien language. His creative output is expected to face the challenges of the responsibilities to search his own identity through a foreign medium or idiom. Amit Chaudhuri as an Indian novelist writing in English has taken up this challenge fearlessly to produce five novels to his credit. Bill Ashcroft believes that “A global language such as English, inflected with locally produced variations, can become a key mode of empowerment.” (20). In his essay “Commonwealth Literature does not Exist” Salman Rushdie embraces the creative energy of the English language; but he goes a step further, taking the language debate beyond the post-colonial debate. He says:


As for myself, I don’t think it is always necessary to take up the anti-colonial – or is it post-colonial? – cudgels against English. What seems to me to be happening is that those peoples who were once colonized by the language are now rapidly remaking it, domesticating it, becoming more and more relaxed about the way they use it – assisted by the English language’s enormous flexibility and size, they are carving out large territories for themselves within its frontiers. (64)


Amit Chaudhuri himself explains in one of his interviews to Sumana R. Ghosh about his use of English language rarely mixed with the Bengali language to express his Indian theme. In fact, only a few Indian writers are writing in English maintain the serenity of the language in the postmodern context. They do not use the chutneyfied English as Salman Rushdie does. Amit Chaudhuri is one of the Indian writers writing in chaste English. He is conscious of avoiding the hybrid English language. His sporadic use of Bengali words and phrases in his text highly suited to the situation and it never mars the beauty of the English language. Chaudhuri states:


SRG: How difficult is to narrate a Bengali/ Indian experience in a foreign


tongue? A Strange and Sublime Address you call the Bangla ‘jatee’ ‘a sharp and


dangerous implement’ for example.


AC: I liked the phrase ‘sharp and dangerous implement’. I did not translate it. I


translate things when I find words in English which to me aesthetically pleasing. They may be witty or they might sound nice to my ear. The ear is, for me, a very


important guide. ‘A sharp and dangerous implement’ sounded good to me. When


I think that the sound of the Bengali word is better, then I keep it there. In Freedom Song, there are many Bengali words. But it is quite arbitrary. It depends on what I feel. (Shukla 166-67)


While Salman Rushdie and Vikram Seth are concerned with the vernacularization of the English language Amit Chaudhuri, adopts entirely a different strategy in his representation of India and other localities. He dissociates himself from the kind of writing that originated with The Midnight’s Children and was used again in books by such writers as Vikram Seth, Vikram Chandra, or Rohinton Mistry, where India, the ‘huge baggy monster’ must be represented correspondingly by a large novel. Chaudhuri points his finger to the Indian writers in Bengali, such as Buddhadeva Bose or in Kannada, Anantha Murthy, who have endorsed the form of a novella or a short story to suggest India by ellipsis rather than by all-inclusiveness. In his view, “the large postmodernist Indian English novel, while apparently eschewing realism, pursues a mimesis of form, where the largeness of the book allegorizes the largeness of the country it represents” (Clearing a Space 114-15). Chaudhuri explains:


Rushdie’s style robustly extroverted, rejecting nuance, delicacy and inwardness


for multiplicity and polyphony, and moreover, the propensity of his imagination


towards magic, fairy tales and fantasy, and the apparent non-linearity of his narratives – all these are seen to be emblematic of the non-Western mode of discourse, of apprehension, that is at once contemporaneously post-colonial and anciently, inescapably Indian. Again, although the emphasis on the plural and the multivocal, in this reading, is postmodern, the interpretative aesthetic is surprisingly old-fashioned and mimetic: Indian life is plural, garrulous, rambling, lacking a fixed centre, and the Indian novel must be the same. Delicacy, nuance, and irony apparently belong to the domain of the English novel and to the rational tradition of the European enlightenment (Clearing a Space 115)


As Amit Chaudhuri has aimed at covering a wide range of reading public, he is possessed with a constructive power combined with a skill of organization which set him towards the inner vision which is so essential for a writer. E.M. Forster was among the few novelists who distrusted a rigid mechanical system of organizing the structure of plots in a novel and valued the compulsive soaring of imagination. Regarding the disadvantages of a rigid pattern he opines:


It may externalize the atmosphere but it shuts the door on life and leaves the novelist doing, exercise. Beauty has arrived but in too tyrannous a guise. (165)


On the other hand, there are other reputed novelists who lay great importance on the equipment of a writer. Feoder Dostoevsky, for example, is of the opinion that:


I have been driven to the conviction that an artist is bound to make himself acquainted down with the smallest details not only with the technique of writing but with everything. (127)


Looking to the two extreme opinions, it should be safe for a novelist to evolve a seemingly neutral and natural technique, for, ultimately art lies in concealing art. Amit Chaudhuri adapts naturalistic and realistic techniques in all his works. In this regard, it is worth quoting yet another Indian novelist writing in English, namely Nayantara Sahgal’s opinion here. She states in one of her articles about style (literary style) as:


The style is something so individual that one could not bear to change it at all. It has to come from inside and it has to suit the material. It is not something one would consciously influence the way one writes. There is an accretion of influences at the back of the mind which probably work subtly. (27)


Eschewing the surrealism of Salman Rushdie, Amit Chaudhuri opts for a narrative where the folk, the myth, realism, and symbol form a seamless whole. The sights and sounds of Indian metropolis namely Kolkata and Mumbai come alive and are real to the core and are not realistic in his novels. They carry in their unobtrusive orchestration an imminent simplicity and direct lyricism. Every detail in his novels has its proper place and is linked with the world-views of the protagonists’ which ultimately are juxtaposed by counter views. The author’s originality both in theme and technique has enabled him to carve a unique niche for him in the contemporary Indian English literature. Appropriately, in his search of the language of literary expression, Amit Chaudhuri associates himself rather with the pre-Rushdian mostly with the regional writers of Bengal because he feels that delicacy and nuances are conveyed with great skill and beauty in their works. Sound plays a prominent role in Chaudhuri’s works. Even the cry of birds, the chime of the clock, sound of the car engine, sound raised by washerwoman while washing clothes and the cooking sound from the kitchen become real in Chaudhuri’s description. In fact, sound adds musical quality to his narrative. As he wants to celebrate music in his works he allows many passages that describe classical music in a detailed manner.