Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Guerrillas in the mist

At the height of the first Naxal movement, reflections of the revolution could be seen in the works of writers from Kerala, Bengal, Andhra and other “affected” states. Some romanced the gun, some romanced the revolutionaries; some were fiercely anguished works that are still read, if only in the college library.

It is unwise to expect the conflicts of the day to draw an immediate response from writers, but the Maoist conflict in India over the last few years has begun to leave its mark on writing in English. You may or may not be among the ranks of Naipaul believers, but give him credit for his sharp instincts.

In 2004, four years before Red Sun, Sudeep Chakravarti’s non-fiction exploration of Salwa Judum and the Maoists, was published, Naipaul came out with Magic Seeds, in which his protagonist Willie Chandran joins a revolutionary movement in India. Like C P Surendran’s 2006 Iron Harvest, Magic Seeds illustrates the pitfalls of writing about revolution. Ideological debates seldom make for strong plot points, and it requires the cynical eye of a Graham Greene to turn calls to the barricades into good writing. Naipaul flourished his own brand of cynicism: “Murders of class enemies — which now meant only peasants with a little too much land — were required now, to balance the successes of the police.” But if Iron Harvest was imbued with an excess of revolutionary fervour and disillusionment, Magic Seeds exuded listlessness.

Full report here Business Standard

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