Mulkraj Anand in gripping conversations
Conversations in Bloomsbury, Mulk Raj Anand, edited, with introduction, Saros Cowasjee, Vision Books, Pp 192(HB), Rs 395.00
Mulk Raj Anand was a cult figure among the Indian writers in English. He went to England in 1925 and lived there for 20 years, first as a student and then as a writer. He got introduced to the celebrated writers of the time, including such eminent names as T S Eliot, Virginia Woolf, E M Foster and Aldous Huxley. Most of the writers of the time belonged to what came to be known as Bloomsbury Group.
Anand recorded these conversations as recollections under the title Conversations in Bloomsbury. Outside his novels, this is one of his important writings. He first published this in 1981. A revised edition, edited, with introduction by Saros Cowasjee has been brought out by Vision Books. Cowasjee was responsible for originally getting the book out of Mulk Raj Anand. The first edition was dedicated to him. But in a revised edition, Anand changed the dedication, to Leonard and Virginia Woolf, which Cowasjee has retained in this edition.
Anand admired all the writers whom he has recollected. He goes beyond their literary skills to “enlighten some of their more enduring qualities” says Cowasjee. T S Eliot occupies four of the twenty chapters in the book. “Anand not merely fictionalises his reminiscences of the Bloomsbury personalities but uses fictional techniques to maximise the effects of his narration. Note how he builds up TS Eliot and the mystery and suspense surrounding him.” There is one chapter on Uday Shankar and guest appearance of D H Lawrence.
In his introduction to the second edition, Anand said, the Bloomsbury group “almost deliberately avoided politics in their talk… they remained enclosed in their precious worlds, without guilt about their status as aristocrats having been achieved by the labour of generations of industrial workers in the Midlands and the colonies.” Anand says though he valued the contacts with the eminences of the group, he was nervous and on edge about the “undeclared ban on political talk” at a time when freedom struggle in India was at peak and the World War was on. Anand describes how he got his first introduction and his first conversation with various people almost with a child-like wonderment. He tries and fails to draw Eliot on a discussion on The Waste Land. Indian philosophy, thought and religion very much figure in his conversations with Eliot and Huxley.
Conversations in Bloomsbury is a very interesting book as it unravels not only the mind of Anand but also flashes light on some of the brilliant literary brains of the early 20th century, people who are venerated even today. Anand adding his imagination to these conversations has added an embellishment that is delightful. Its vintage Anand, at one of his best, read and re-read. Saros Cowasjee is Professor Emeritus of the University of Regina in Canada and has authored several fictional and non-fictional works.
(Vision Books, 24 Feroze Gandhi Road, Lajpat Nagar-3, New Delhi 110 024)—VN