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Adventures in Criticism

— Amal Kiran (K. D. Sethna)

Price: Rs 75

Soft Cover
Pages: 113
Dimensions (in cms): 14x22
Publisher: The Integral Life Foundation, U.S.A.

About Adventures in Criticism

Studies in poetic appreciation, focussing on the works of various poets such as Shakespeare, Spenser, Yeats, AE and Chesterton.


A Review of The Thinking Corner: Causeries on Life and Literature and Adventures in Criticism

      No two books of the same writer could be so different in form and content (form more than content), yet so similar in approach than the two under review. The first, as the sub-title indicates, is a series of Causeries (informal articles) on life and literature which appeared in the All India Weekly, a popular magazine in the nineteen-forties when the writer was also in his forties, "roaring forties", as one would say. The second is a collection of eight articles on literary topics, a few of which have appeared in Mother India, the monthly review of culture edited by our author and two of which have also appeared in a collection of essays brought out recently by the same publishers. There are as many as twenty-six causeries in the first work and it is impossible to do justice to them in a brief review. There are tributes and attacks and discussions of writers and theories. In the homage paid to Sri Aurobindo on his Seventy-Second Birthday, Amal makes it clear that the greatness of his guru is not human but divine, a God-like existence seeking to bring about the transformation of the matter. Though with a chosen bias towards the mystical in letters and life he is thoroughly acquainted with life and writers on "the Red Immortal" (Love), Havelock Ellis and Edith Lees, D'Anunzio and Charles Morgan. He has no admiration for modern poetry that decries the Romantic which he admires greatly, yet appreciates a passage from Edith Sitwell about an erstwhile beauty
    who gave the Lion's kiss [but]
   Has now all the Time's gap for her piteous mouth.

      Praising I.A. Richards as he does for his scientific criticism, he cannot approve of his rejecting the Magical view of the Universe and mysticism. He knows the value and the place of Gandhian Satyagraha but finds it to be futile before the diabolism of a Hitler. The use of the image of the game of cricket to describe the Satyagrahi is magnificent.

      Always an Adventurer — one of his collections of poems is called The Adventure of the Apocalypse in the realm of ideas or of higher and deeper experience, Amal in his second book under review highlights writers and ideas not popular. Who would praise (even read) Spencer today? Who would take Chesterton as a poet seriously? Who would consider Yeats's first phase of poetry more important than the second? Only the adventurous Amal can and does.

      In a remarkable essay, "The Poet and His Daimon", Amal develops a very original idea, not thought of by anybody before him: many speak of the Muse or the Power of Inspiration but Amal speaks of a Spirit or a daimon, an indwelling presence with whom the poet identifies himself. If the poet dies early or cannot embody fully what the daimon in him needs, the daimon expresses itself through a poet that succeeds. In the beautiful summary of Sri Aurobindo's Amal quotes at the end of the essay, the individual spirit of poetry migrates from one individual to another, several perhaps meeting in one poet who gives them all a full expression. Marlowe's daimon, for example, enters Milton and expresses itself fully in Satan.

      Another equally remarkable essay brings out the magnificent achievement of Shakespeare and using a line from one of his Sonnets
   "…the prophetic soul
   Of the wide world, dreaming on things to come…"
speaks of what Shakespeare has not achieved, the realms which he has not presented but has prepared for the things to come. Shakespeare is not, save in a couple of brief moments, the Word that was in the beginning. To be that an instrument as intuitive as Shakespeare must be found. Amal seems to imply that such an instrument is Sri Aurobindo though he does not say it in so many words.

      In the place of the essay on A.E. and the essay, "The Poet's experience" which have appeared in Inspiration and Effort yet to be anthologised could have been included.

Retired Professor
Annamalai University

July/December 1996