The many facets of Premchand
Rakhshanda Jalil brings Premchand back to the centre-stage of literary discourses, says Atul Kumar Thakur
Munshi Premchand’s writings depict the ‘other’ world — a world which most of us see either as wretched, poverty-stricken or idealist, self-sufficient, depending on the side of the ideological divide we stand. In the process, this well-known Hindi writer too has become the other. A compassionate litterateur and visionary, Premchand strived for progressive ideals. But hardly many English-speaking, city-wallah Indians know him. And, even less people know that Premchand was only a pen-name adopted by Dhanpat Rai, who left behind more than a dozen novels and about 300 short stories.
Today, we don’t have a congenial milieu for translation works, thus hindering our indigenous literature from getting a larger audience. Imagine if Maupassant, Leo Tolstoy, Kafka and Milan Kundera had met the fate of Premchand, would they have been the international phenomena they are today. It doesn’t seem so. And, herein lies the importance of The Temple and the Mosque. The 17 stories of Premchand, selected and translated by literary critic Rakhshanda Jalil for this volume, introduces him as a literary genius. Unlike the usual translated works, there is no attempt made by the translator to force ‘transcreation’ while dealing with the natural ambience and characters of these stories. Jalil has done justice to her translation with this collection of Premchand’s stories and earlier with Phanishwar Nath Renu’s stories (Panchlight and Other Stories, Orient Blackswan, 2010).
In this work, the inclusion of stories like, Idgaah, Do Bailon ki Katha, Namak Ka Daroga, Mandir Aur Masjid, Budhi Kaki, Push Ki Raat, among others, gives ample chances for the first-time readers of Premchand to comprehend the other world. Also, the stories, in no way, seem dated. The villages of Premchand’s literary world may have changed today but the basic flaws that cause agrarian crisis remain as agitating as ever. In fact, the deprivation today is more acute in both relative and comparative terms. Yet, responses during the adversities have radically changed and they are closer of escaping the situation rather facing them the way a young Hamid did in Idgah. A new India with its consumerist strength has many avenues to hide its moral dilemmas.
Jalil has done a commendable job to get Premchand back to the centre-stage of literary discourses. In the changed time too, his works remain as relevant as they were before.
The Temple and the Mosque
Author : Premchand
Publisher: Harper, Rs 250