Saturday, November 24, 2007

Table Talk

R.K.Narayan’s book, “Salt and Sawdust” has a selection called ‘Table Talk’, which according to RKN was a new form of writing, without the compulsion of an argument or conclusion on any theme and without too definite a form. As different from an essay which needed a structure. A precursor to what we now refer to as a personal blog.

Here he is, in one of his table talk sessions, responding to rumours that his name had been considered for Nobel Prize, in 1986, and then dropped.

“If my name did come up, and then was dropped, I speculate on the arguments one might have heard from the committee room before the decision of October 16th.

“For half a century Narayan has been building up a world of his own and peopled it with a variety of characters, who have ceased to be fictional, but are recognized and loved in any part of the world by Narayan’s readers…it is an achievement which should be treated as a contribution to world literature,” argued one.

“To a certain extent, yes” said the arbiter. “This author’s work is diverting, amusing and readable, but possesses none of the elements that go to make great literature.’

“What are those elements of great literature?”

“All great literature must echo the soul of man, The struggles, agonies and anguish in the soul of the individual must be reflected in the work, against the background of historical and social convulsions of the countries in which the individual finds himself tossed about as a helpless victim. All the grimness of existence must find a place in a writer’s work. Above all a certain degree of obscurity and difficulty of idiom in the text enhances the stature of a literary work”.

“Applying these tests, Narayan’s work fails. His writing is too simple and too readable requiring no effort on the part of the reader. Mere readability is not enough. A reader must be put to work and must labour hard to get at the meaning of the sentence; only then can he feel triumphant at having mastered a page.

“Narayan’s further defect lies in his light-hearted tone under all cirumstances. Humour is all very well up to a point, but it is not everything in literature. Humour has a tendency to stimulate frivolity. Our Founder and Benefactor, Alfred Nobel, you must remember, invented the dynamite, which is no joke, and it would be inappropriate to award the prize in his name to a writer who is uncommitted to the serious and sinister problems of existence.

“We hope some day Narayan will develop into a full-fledged writer deserving our serious consideration”.


Usha said...

Was it a "we are like this only" statement from R.K.?

Raj said...

usha, yes, RK was most certainly like that only.

catonthewall said...

the dynamite, which is no joke - LOL