Before I touch upon the words in
praise by the Indian fabulators, I may as well point out that K.
Natwar Singh has also taken absolutely no notice of other
novelists on India, such as Kipling, John Masters, E.M.H. Myers,
Louis Bloomfield, Paul Scott, and Hesman Hesse. And he has
nothing to say on the most celebrated of all critical books on
Forster ó the one by the great cultural American critic,
Lionel Trilling. Of course, K. Natwar Singh had elected to do an
extremely limited job and, therefore, could not be faulted as
such. Only, the value of the book in question would have
increased immensely had he cared to widen his scope.
In my view,
Forsterís novels are narratives of what the Bloombury Ďphilosopherí,
Moore, called "states of mind". The events, persons
and places were needed to hoist a story, but they, in the end,
are important only insofar as they light up the inner landscape
of the characters. There is a feeling of movement in stillness,
of kinetics of ideal that keep baffling against the rigidities
of life. Forster is not a genuis of the first order, but his
superfine talents and craftsmanship make his novels a rare
phenomenon in English fiction.
In Part I, the
editor presents a bouquet of tributes by Forsterís friends and
fellow writers. Narayana Menon, for instance, highlights the
sophisticated nature of Forsterís period novels, and he adds
that they are to be read and re-read, and taken in slowly like
good wine. He can yet admire Forsterís celebrated
statement:"... If I had to choose between my country and
betray my friend, I hope I shall have the guts to betray my
country." This is what he said in "What I
Raja Rao himself
is the best philosophical novelist of India to date and his
novel The Serpent and the Rope is metaphysical fabulation
of a rare quality. His admiration for Forster, however, rests on
Forsterís purity of imagination. "To speak of Forster is,
in a way, to speak of a saint", he adds. Also, he admires
him for what Forster says on aristocracy:"I believe in
aristocracy.... Not an aristocracy of power based upon rank and
influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate
and the plucky."
Mulk Raj Anandís
tribute is in the epistolary form and excudes warmth and
consanguinity. "Perhaps your acceptance of the frank, open,
sophisticated cultures of the intelligentsia of India of your
time be taken as genuine regard for the fact that some of the
best values are inherited from a cultivated past,"
concludes Anand. He also admires Forsterís ĎHellenismí and
ĎRenaissanceí spirit of aesthetics and beauty.
Santha Rama Rau
converted A Passage to India into a successful Broadway
play and Forster acknowledges its skill. There is little else of
note in Santha Rama Rauís tribute. K. Natwar Singhís own
piece and his mentorís letters to him from Cambridge add to
the note of warmth that pervades all tributes.
Does Forster lean
toward Islam because of its rich Arabic heritage? He seems to do
so, though its "orderliness"(monolithic fundamentalism
in todayís lexicon) distresses him. Again, the amorphousness
of Hinduism and its archaic elements dismay Forster, though heís
keenly aware of "the Eternal India". Whether India is
a "mystery" or a "muddle" remains
unresolved. Forsterís meaningful ambivalence abides.