Gods and Godots
Review by Rumina
Beckett: Waiting for Godot/Endgame by Peter Boxall. Icon,
Cambridge. Pages 192. £ 9.99.
has not heard of the Theatre of the Absurd, particularly its
champion playwright Samuel Beckett, whose Godot became the
polysemic symbol everyone and no one could identify with, whose
arithmetic of pairs was baffling yet symmetrical, whose language
was pointedly Irish and also nightmarishly meaningless? Boxall’s
"Samuel Beckett" attempts to find the missing
link between these seemingly disjointed readings of Beckett. A
well-researched book, it offers less of traditional criticism
and more of analysis of the difficult relationship between
Beckett and his critics.
bold and hugely controversial play, "Waiting for Godot,"
arrived in the 1950s into a Leavisite Europe. Its major
criticism came from Martin Esslin, Ruby Cohn and Hugh Kenner who
continue to be widely read. "Godot" flouted
every conceivable dramatic convention and audience expectation
in its presentation of "trivia", and unfortunately
created a perplexing situation for its reviewers and critics who
found it difficult to pass an educated and sound judgement. For,
here was an uninterpretable play which radically denied the
processes by which theatre becomes meaningful. The locale was a
country road in the dusk; the stage props included a dead tree;
and for heroes, two disgusting tramps/clowns! Not surprisingly,
the critical terrain for "Godot" as much as for
"Endgame" the two flagships of the Beckett
oeuvre, is strewn with theoretical and political drama.
is placed at the centre of this rugged landscape. Esslin
concentrates a good deal on the formal qualities of Beckett’s
drama: he looks for beauty and symmetry, for qualities of vision
and redemption. The evident confusion of Beckett’s universe is
turned over to liberal humanist principles of organisation and
decorum to make his negativity life affirming.
Thus it is that
Esslin can say that Beckett’s work is "an act of
affirmation" which continues to confront the
"void": "The blacker the situation, the deeper
the background of despair against which this act of affirmation
is made, the more complete, the more triumphant must be the
victory that it constitutes. The uglier the reality that is
confronted, the more exhilarating will be its sublimation into
symmetry, rhythm, movement and laughter." Clearly, Esslin
is looking for accuracy, universality, and timelessness, and
more than all, for reason in the midst of linguistic anarchy.
And this shape
and symmetry, this balance, rhythm and weight is special and
artistic and can thus stave off or prevent the chaos that so
by which Esslin recasts Beckett’s negativity as affirmative is
reproduced repeatedly by a plethora of scholars who have
produced some of the best Beckett criticism because the
hegemonic critical field within which they wrote imposed its
demands on them. Boxall argues that the work of Ruby Cohn and
Hugh Kenner in the 1960s and 1970s, through John Fletcher, John
Spurling, Michael Robinson and Bell Gale Chevigny in the 1970s
and 1980s, to the exemplary work of James Knowlson and John
Pilling, which has been dominant in Beckett studies from the
1970s through to the 1990s, has been largely contained within
the boundaries of a liberal humanist critique".
Such defence of
the "human condition" is not confined to Beckett
studies alone. As Terry Eagleton shows us, Lawrence proved a
scapegoat for his critics too when he was absorbed into the new
critical canon of great authors of English fiction from Jane
Austen to George Eliot, Henry James to Joseph Conrad. Lawrence
was skilfully reconstructed as a liberal humanist who epitomised
thoroughly the undefineable quality of "life" even as
he had only contempt for liberal and democratic values.
too, had a rather chequered career at the hands of critics: his
admission into the "great tradition" of western
literature could succeed only when "Brecht the artist"
could ride over "Brecht the politician". In other
words, Brecht must be neutered in order to be saved for the
the reader’s attention to the recent expansion of critical
perspectives and directing the student of Beckett towards the
more valuable secondary materials. These are provocative
accounts of Beckett’s intricate doodles offered against the
"core" group identified above who take the Reading
archive as their special monolith. A recent study by Rabinovitz
(which Boxall does not mention) tends to be unsure of the
tonalities of Beckett’s fundamental sound and "deeper
meanings". Rabinovitz is comprehensive and clear and
rightly suspicious of truisms, but not very analytic. More
complex are Leslie Hill’s "In Different Words" and
Lawrence Miller’s "Samuel Beckett: The Expressive
Dilemma," both of which may be seen in the context of the
post-modernist movement so poignantly illustrated by the
oft-repeated sentence from "Godot": "Nothing to
And yet, a
post-structuralist reading is not so simple: Beckett is
studiously avoided by Foucault, Kristeva, Barthes and even
Blanchot. A notable exception is Derrida. Derrida writes in
"Acts of Literature": "This is an author
to whom I feel very close, or to whom I would like to feel
myself close; but also too close. Precisely because of this
proximity, it is too hard for me, too easy and too hard. I have
perhaps avoided him a bit because of this identification."
It is Beckett’s language which causes Derrida’s dilemma, for
Beckett "robs the critic of the moment of
The chief of
liberal humanism was to find a stable theoretical launguage, and
Beckett’s language strikes at the very heart of that language.
It has frequently been suggested that Beckett’s works
"are the closest we have to texts that deconstruct
themselves". "Waiting for Godot" and
"Endgame" constantly engage with the notion of
difference what with repetition, carnivalisation,
wordplay, lauguage games, circularity of structure, and so on.
"Endgame" constantly defers the consummation of
its ending while "Godot" may be seen as either
thelament for the loss of the grand narrative identified with
Enlightenment thought or the celebration of the absent
writing does not run contrary to the spirit of much of the post-structuralist
and deconstructive theory that was emerging in the 1970s and
1980s. While in Joyce, or Eliot, or Virginia Woelf, "the
signifier tends to float free of the signified in order to
develop alternative meanings, in Beckett the signifier tends to
rid itself of significance altogether". Thus Beckett’s
plays offer themselves quite willingly to the deconstructive
provocative part of the book is its post-colonial reading of
"Waiting for Godot." There is a sense in which
"John Bull’s Other Island" is itself the victim of
the vice of English compartmentalisation which it satirises. As
Declan Kiberd puts it, "Beckett’s essential character,
the Tramp, was a representative of the now rootless Anglo-Irish
middle class, neither English nor Irish, but caught wandering in
a no-man’s land between two cultures."
should have been a poet," says one of the tramps in "Godot".
The other, pointing to his own rags in the manner of an
Aogan O Rathaille, replies: "I was once. Isn’t it
The locales of
Beckett’s world remained recognisably Irish too, as did his
continuing love affair with Hibernian skies and landscapes, a
classic strategy of the Irish Protestant imagination which,
discomfited by its own history, sought to impatriate itself
through a heightened sense of geography.
Paris, indignantly critical of the censorship laws imposed in
Ireland, Beckett’s work is "undeniably Irish"
because the stage of "Godot" itself is a
"placeless void", an anonymous landscape, which would
naturally be Ireland colonised by the British, an Ireland
deprived of its history and identity. The silences may be
interpreted as a debasement of native culture and the outpouring
of words, as in Lucky’s torrential speech, the futile attempt
to write themselves back into history, to invent traditions when
the past cannot be remembered. Despite an empty landscape and a
meaningless language, the two tramps try their best to restore
their memories and recover what has been taken from them. But
there are just too many gaps caused by a life of poverty and
Undoubtedly these new
approaches are abrasive to the conventional critic but, as Peter
Boxall amply demonstrates, they are urgent reminders of the need
to dismantle long-standing ideological state apparatuses.
how do you relate
and respond to it?
Review by M.L.
Literary and Cultural Theories by Moyra Haslett. St Martin’s
Press, New York. Pages ix+323. $ 19.95.
Dematerialisation of Karl Marx: Literature and Marxist Theory
by Leonard Jackson. Longman, London and New York. Pages
viii+312. $ 35.25.
Politics of Literary Theory: An Introduction to Marxist
Criticism by Philip Goldstein. The Florida State University
Press, Tallahassee. Pages ix+242. $ 25.
system can become a prison: a tradition we have inherited, a
style we have adopted, an official terminology that tells us
what to think." — Dennis Donoghue.
was when we could invoke just Marx and Engles’s scattered
remarks on Greek sculpture, Balzac or Eugene Sue and Lenin’s
observations onTolstoy to put together a Marxist approach (not
theory) to literature and art. Then came Lukacs, Labriola, Max
Raphael, and Gramsci. They did not have a full-fledged theory
of art either. They used Marxist philosophy of historical
materialism to understand the historicity of art works and
their relationship to the society in which they were produced.
differed in their readings as well as their assumptions, they
shared a belief in the integrity of the work and its status as
a privileged creation. Unlike their successors professing to
build a "theory", the early historians and
aestheticians possessed taste, a flair that helped them
discriminate between good and bad art.
Now times are
dragon-ridden and the dragon stalking our lives is discourse.
Discourse is all there is. We are "constructed" by
it, are mere subject-positions and not fully conscious
subjects. We are only "texts" and Derrida, that wily
serpent in humanism’s underside, hisses that there is
nothing outside the text. The new university wits let loose
their Foucault at us, who screams that we do not speak but are
spoken, that the author of a text is a myth sedulously
cultivated by various discourse formations and that what we
thought was aesthetic value is a conspiracy by vested
interests to keep their hegemonic control over us.
Of the clutch
of books under discussion here Haslett’s is the least
satisfying. Not because it is not well-written but because it
does not add anything to our understanding.It is expository
and aims to make available to a first time reader all the
major issues that have come to dominate the debate on Marxist
The other two
books take definite positions on the issues that form the
subject of this debate. Goldstein looks at contemporary theory
from the Marxist angle. Jackson, perhaps the most combative of
the three, holds out on behalf of the founding fathers of
Marxist aesthetics. His defence of Christopher Caudwell
against the attacks of his detractors is a welcome feature of
In his 1933
study of Marxist aesthetics, "The Demands of Art",
Marxist Raphael attacks the simplistic conception of vulgar
Marxists in which art is represented as proceeding directly
from and on the same plane as the determinant level of
economic production. He was echoing the belief held by Marx
and Engels that art is not a one-to-one reflection of social
or economic reality. He was combating the deterministic
tendencies of the socialist realist hacks who would harness
art to production.
was more for a reflectionist model of art criticism, he saw in
the mediating power of all human endeavours a liberationist
potential. A stickler for critical realism for which Haslett
takes him to task, Lukacs did not reject the tradition of art
and literature coming down from antiquity. Indeed he regarded
Greek art as an integrated form compared with the novel which
he described as an alienated mode.
My quarrel is
not with the early aestheticians such as Lukacs and Caudwell
(who also comes in for considerable flak in Haslett and
Goldstein). Their deficiencies are attributable to the
insufficient development of a Marxist aesthetic in their time.
It is the way the later Marxists appropriated this tradition
of aesthetic thinking that needs a response. Those of us who
hold the belief that art works have their own hierarchies of
value must not allow these to be usurped by the cold-historicising
of Althusserian Marxist like Terry Eagleton, the
straw-targeting of ultra-Left movements such as those in Cuba,
or the dumbed-down philosophising of post-structurialists,
post-modernists and deconstructionists.
reproves Lukacs for what she calls his "despotic"
versions of critical realism.French and German Marxists had
already recognised this failing. One has to read Roger Garaudy’s
classic "Realism without Walls" or the "realism
debate" among Brecht, Adorno and Ernst Bloch to note the
Marxist concern for a broader concept of realism. Haslett’s
tacit underwriting of Althusserian Marxism, however, calls for
a fitting response.
Marxists, taking their cue from the master’s apocryphal
"Ideological State Apparatus" essay discover three
types of ideologies in the texts of art: general ideology and
textural ideology and in the case of Egleton authorial
ideology. As to any hierarchy of artistic value, which would
distinguish one work from another. Pierre Macheray and Terry
Eagleton as good as deny it. For them artistic value has to be
sought within the interactions of general, textual and
Althusserian Marxists we are all "interpellated"
within ideology and are "constructed" by it, any
ethical consideration of value are also constructions. What
makes us culture-specific constructions is language. Any
artistic text, apart from being "produced" rather
than created by an individual, is caught in the prison of its
own language or medium. This is another way of saying with
MacLuhan that medium is the massage.
On this view
substantive ethical and aesthetic discourse about an artistic
text is dissolved in the anti-humanist rejection of art as
having ethical content. We are caught in a new formalism that
discounts artistic content as nugatory compared to the
fetishising of the medium as a generator of value. If, as
Macheray claims, a characteristic of literary language is
"that it deludes", there can be no criterion which
would guarantee the significance of an artistic text. It is
not the delusion or "fictiveness" of art that makes
it a radical departure from raw reality in the sense of
Aristotle’s imitation. It is that the delusions of art are
created by the reflexiveness of the medium itself and cannot
be wished away. Thus art as a creative activity is thrown
difficulty in accepting Althusserian Marxists’s contention
is what Leonard Jackson calls the "Raymond Williams
disease". Though I would not include Williams with his
deep sense of tradition among the neo-Althusserians, it was
his thesis in "Keywords" that literature as a
separate category is the creation of the bourgeois epoch. This
leads to a strange dilemma for the Althusserians. If
literature and art as separate categories are a late
insertion, should we discard Greek and Indian epics,
Aeschylus, Shakespears, Kalidas and others who belong to
struggles to make a strong case in "Criticism and
Ideology" as well as in "Ideology of the
Aesthetic" for the uselessness of aesthetics and
literature as distinct categories with their intrinsic
qualities that make them valuable to us as humans. Here he may
have been answering Kant’s arguments for the existence of
aesthetics as a separate quality. By making literature and art
part of a whole complex of material practices in society.
Eagleton and his fellow cultural materialists deny any
intrinsic quality to literary and artistic texts.
Here it is
relevant to aver that every work of art can be understood
within its own cultural context or practice as anthropologists
understand it. But it is quite another thing to say that art
works as such just don’t exist or that the artist as an
individual with his or her established identity or signature
is a bourgeois myth. As Jackson puts it, cultural materialists
such as Eagleton "dematerialise" Marx by taking away
the Hegelian basis of his understanding of culture and art.
literature and art as separate entities do not exist in the
Althusserian Marxist programme, it is a natural next step to
dethrone canons. True, canons are not god given. They are
created by critical practice. Thus in the critical
market-place artists go bullish and bearish in turn. We may
throw away one writer for another depending on what passes for
critical practice at a particular time. But we do this for
political, social and other non-artistic reasons. The
discarded artists keep coming back in prominence.
by rejecting canons (Williams is less willing to jettison the
cultural canon altogether, hence his acceptance by non-Althusserians)
have not been able to account for the continued acceptance of
the classical writers in all epochs. The new university wits
rail against the canon but continue to teach it, as is shown
by the great books programme at American campuses. I don’t
think it is all a capitalist conspiracy!
are no universal rules that fix canons permanently. There are,
however, discriminating practices that determine the staying
power of a work of art. These discriminating practices derive
their persuasiveness from the capacity of a particular critic
to reveal the verbal and artistic structures that, in spite of
the artists’ conscious intention, account for the peculiar
salience of their work. One has only to mention Williams on
the English pastoral tradition and even Edward Said (not my
idea of a satisfying critic) on "Kim" to prove the
point. They read their texts ideologically but do not fail to
delve into the particular configurations of form in them.
phenomenon in contemporary literary theory has been the
emergence in the eighties and nineties of last century of what
is called cultural studies. Moyra Haslett’s exposition of
the new trend raises critical issues that any Marxist
aesthetic theory (or theories) has to reckon with. Whereas
Althusserian Marxism is concerned with the production of
texts, culture studies focus on their consumption. This
naturally leads to a discussion of popular and mass culture,
fields that the Frankfurt School Marxists had already
denounced as pacificatory and conformist.
the new university wits show the same lack of ethical
discrimination that characterises their rejection of art as a
separate category. Marxism as a liberationist practice may
have been defeated, as the adulators of capitalism proclaim
with glee. But Marxism’s utopian aspirations still remain in
tact. Mass culture, far from enhancing our resistance to the
existing order, makes us simply conform to its undeclared
canonical texts with soap operas, television serials and other
forms of mass entertainment, we are simply abetting in a
sociological inquiry rather than furthering a literary or
aesthetic cause. We are surrendering the primacy of artistic
effort to the blandishments of pseudo-democratic non-elitism.
We are becoming willing victims of bourgeois ideology that we
are supposed to combat by breaking cultural barriers. The
proponents of cultural studies have meekly gone under to the
post-modernist project of abolishing demarcations between
various forms of cultural artefacts.
Hoggprt, Raymond Williams and E.P. Thompson, pioneering the
study of working class mores, rightly laid emphasis on
cultural rather than on ideology. Like the Frankfurt School
Marxists, they saw canonical texts as permeated by popular
forms and modes (Thompson on Blake, for instance). The new
orthodoxy of cultural studies programme, on the other hand,
neither offers such an accommodation between modes nor is able
to justify the disproportionate attention being lavished on
everything new or newfangled. Haslett claims that culture
studies have saved us "from the condescension of vulgar
Marxists". She seems silent on the consequences of that
charity. Far from saving us, cultural studies have duped us
into assenting to the capitalist order.
Marx was basically a humanist
and he recognised in art and literature an instance of human
expressivity. He would certainly not apologise to the Luddites,
as is clear from his defence of Greek art. He would have
endorsed Frederic Jameson’s rebuke to the latter-day
Luddites in the last paragraph of "Marxism and
Form": "Even if ours is a critical age, it does not
seem to me very becoming of critics to exalt their activity to
the level of literary creation, as is being done in France
today." For France, read America.
notings, no insight
Review by Parshotam Mehra
Diary: Zahir Shah to Taliban by J N Dixit. Konarak Publishers,
New Delhi. Pages xviii + 525. Rs 500.
at the best of times, Afghanistan has been a troubled land. And
for a variety of reasons. On the physical plane, its rugged,
inhospitable, barren hills have made communications an awesome
task. And the few fertile valleys that traverse its largely
hilly terrain just about produce enough to feed its sparse
population. Oil or other mineral resources are conspicuous by
their absence; industry non-existent.
completely landlocked country with no opening to the sea,
Afghanistan is heavily dependent on its not always friendly
neighbours, both for trade as well as normal human intercourse.
Nor are the
neighbours easy to deal with. To Afghanistan’s north and west
stretch the Central Asian Republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
and Turkmenistan which until about a decade ago, and for the
best part of the 20th century, were part of the mighty Soviet
Union. And to its east, the huge if empty landmass of the fabled
Chinese Tartary, or Chinese Turkestan. Now, more prosaically,
the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic
Farther to the
south, there is Pakistan and India. And to the west, beyond
Herat, Shiite Iran.
Situated as it
is in the very heart of Asia, each of these lands — Russia,
China, India and Iran — have impinged directly or indirectly
on Afghanistan’s historical evolution. And the impact has been
the more profound in that the Afghans do not by any description
constitute a cohesive ethnic group. For even though the
Pakhtoons predominate in and around Kabul, the north and the
west have in and around Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat, large and
powerful Uzbek and Tajik minorities. As if it were not already
obvious enough, one should hasten to add that Afghanistan is an
artificial construct brought into being by a military
adventurer, Ahmad Shah Abdali, towards the last quarter of the
Was it any
wonder then that for Afghanistan the 19th century was witness to
decades of mounting political uncertainty? For even as the
Czarist Russian empire from the north moved in, slowly if
inexorably, to fill the power vacuum in the rickety khanates of
Khiva, Bokhara and Samarkand, the British Empire in India felt
not a little concerned. For it hated to think of a common land
frontier with the men who ruled in St. Petersburg.
the Raj argued, because the Cossacks were so thoroughly
unreliable. In the event, the British built barricades.
Bolstering up Iran on the one hand and coaxing or cajoling the
Chinese on the other to fill in the vast empty spaces of the
heart of a continent.
An important if
integral part of the exercise was to persuade the rulers of
Kabul to accept a modicum of British tutelage. A pliable
Afghanistan, Whitehall reasoned, was the best guarantee for
halting the Russian advance as far as could be managed from the
frontiers of its Indian empire.
Sadly for the
British, the Afghans were invariably not willing to oblige. And
after almost a hundred odd years — from the mid 1830s to the
early 1920s — in the wake of three bloody wars with their
heavy toll in men, money, munitions, and human misery, the Raj
drew a complete blank. Afghanistan remained factious, poor,
hungry but singularly stubborn and resilient. And refused to
kowtow to the British, much less become thier protege or
By the time the
Raj began to wind up in the aftermath of World War II (1939-45),
the global balance of power had undergone a complete
metamorphosis. Briefly, Uncle Sam took over and, in the process,
reduced John Bull to the position of a second-rate power. While
with the demise of Nazi Germany in Europe and the virtual
eclipse of the Japanese co-prosperity sphere in Asia, the Soviet
Union emerged as a mighty power that bestrode the world almost
as a colossus.
In the cold war
that was to rage at white heat in the later half of the 20th
century, the two super powers fought hard at their nearly
interminable bouts of attrition. But, mercifully, and for most
part, through proxies.
In the early
1970s, Afghanistan overthrew its ramshackle monarchy and after a
rash of short-term coups, graduated to a half-baked communist
regime in the wake of the "Great Saur Revolution"
(1978). Moscow calculated that a good opportunity had presented
itself to bring Kabul into its fold and with a modest investment
in material resources, reap a rich harvest.
December, 1979, the Soviets moved in, initially to prop up a
fractious Afghan political outfit, the People’s Democratic
Party of Afghanistan. Its rivalries more ethnic than
ideological, the PDPA sadly enough was not able to garner
sizeable popular support. In the event, the more troops and
armour the Russians poured in, the weaker and increasingly
unstable the Afghan regime became.
Even as the
Soviets had planned to use an outer Afghan facade which they
sedulously fostered, the Americans pitched in with vast
quantities of their latest weaponry and a liberal supply of
greenbacks. And armed and sustained a not-always popular but
well-fed, if badly faction-ridden, militia in Afghanistan. And,
across the border in a not-unfriendly Pakistan.
surely the Afghan Mujahideen, despite all their bickerings
gained an upper hand. And this harsh ground reality forced the
Russians to rethink strategy. There was little room for
manoeuvre and even less that was retrievable from a near
debacle. In sum, after almost a decade, Moscow had beaten a
retreat (February, 1989) with little to show for its massive
investment in manpower and weapons of mass destruction.
"Diary" recaptures the story of the Russian
intervention during the years 1982-85 when the going was still
good. He arrived in Kabul while the Afghan regime of Babrak
Karmal was yet politically viable and wielded considerable
authority not only in Kabul and its environs. By the time his
tenure drew to a close, the Russians still held the upper hand
but reading between the lines, it was apparent that however
imperceptibly, the scenario had begun to change. And for Moscow
so much for the worse.
A few random
entries from his massive tome help illumine the Afghan scene
during Dixit’s brief, if eventful, tenure. Thus, just before
he left for Kabul, the Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi,
try to increase Indian presence and influence in Afghanistan. If
not all over the country, in Kabul at least in selected fields
of activities....You must assure the Afghan leadership that we
are not going to go overboard with Pakistan regarding the
forthcoming No War Declaration dialogue. There is still a long
way to go before we accept Pakistan’s bona fides.
Had a long
conversation with Russian ambassador. ..The main point he made
was: "We have come here to stay. We would not allow the
Pakhtoons to dominate the other tribes of Afghanistan who have
linkages with the people of Central Asian Republics of the
Soviet Union. We will maintain necessary force levels to keep
this country under control; we will achieve initial
consolidation of our position, both military and civil, by
28-December 31 (1982)
I checked with
Delhi. Foreign Minister Rao said that we share Soviet
apprehensions and that Karmal not leading the delegation would
contribute to lessening of disharmony at the conference... (Karmal)
asked me whether he himself should lead the Afghan delegation. I
played wooden and said that the invitation is addressed to him
personally. He said: "I am giving deep consideration to
this question and will let you know." I kept a straight
face. Zille Ilahi Tabeev (the Russian Ambassador) already having
decided that Karmal should not go. All this pretence was
redundant. Ambassadors should have compulsory training in
playing possum and straight guy in all diplomatic comedies.
April 18 (1983)
The government carried out
successful operations against insurgents in Balkh,
Mazar-e-Sharif and Badakshan. Anti-insurgent operations
continued in Paktia, Gazhni, Kandahar, Pakhtika and Nangarhar.
Soviet and Afghan forces faced greater resistance in the
southern provinces. An additional handicap affecting these
operations is the conflict between the soldiers of Khalqi and
Parchamite affiliations. It is
Khalqi-Parcham differences even turned violent in some army
units operating in Paktia and Gazhni. As a Soviet official put
it, the Afghan army at times finds it difficult to make up its
mind whether it should fight the counter-revolutionaries or
Karmal returned to Kabul after a five-week absence from
Afghanistan on August 15. .. Though the internal conflict in the
party has been tenuously patched up, the controversies simmer.
President Karmal faces the prospect of presiding over a
fractious party affected not only by Khalqi-Parcham difference
but also by divisive tendencies within each faction.
Charge d’Affaires here, Garner’s comment on this interview
was interesting. He said, "that fellow Hikmatyar is a
bounder. I don’t know why the BBC interviewed him instead of
some other opposition leader. Nobody will believe Hikmatyar’s
exaggerated claims of success." .....
Having seen the
violence that afflicts Afghanistan at the end of nearly two
years of my stay here, I can only say about the present
generation of youth of Afghanistan regardless of their political
affiliations, what T S Eliot said to the young people of Europe
at the end of First World War: "After such knowledge, where
is the place or mood for forgiveness."
May 25 (1984)
operations in and around Panjsher Valley continue with
approximately two divisions of the Soviet army and one division
of the Afghan army deployed for the purpose. High altitude
bombing of the side valleys also continues. The rebel forces of
Masood are certainly in disarray and on the defensive. .. The
casualties on both sides have been heavy though precise and
reliable figures are difficult to ascertain.
May 3 (1985)
from Peshawar that a fight between the followers of insurgent
leaders Hikmatyar and Rabbani resulted in Hikmatyar’s
followers destroying a large military arms and ammunition dump
at a place called Rangali near Peshawar belonging to Rabbani.
One should tentatively conclude that from this the recent
attempts at unifying insurgent groups has again run into
criticisms may be in order. One, a grossly misleading title.
Dixit’s "Afghan Diary" spans the period January,
1982, through May, 1985, nearly three and a half years; no more,
no less. King Zahir Shah abdicated in 1973, on the morrow of
Daud’s coup and the Taliban do not come into their own until
1996. In other words, out of almost a quarter century, 1973
through 1996, the "Diary" relates to a little over
Nor is the
device of using a brief prologue or an equally sketchy
postscript take the place of a record of events to which one
bears witness. Short surveys are useful in their own way. But
they do not, and, in fact cannot, stretch the "Diary".
Sad to say, the unwary reader has been taken for a ride!
in the process of stretching its canvass, the "Diary"
itself has been a major casualty. Its wealth of date and any
number of useful insights by an observer of Mr Dixit’s
maturity and knowledge has remained a closed book, untapped and
unexplored. Here too, it is the reader who has been denied his
"Diary" could have made an excellent study if its
author had taken time out to essay a broad summary as well as a
detailed analysis of all that was happening in Afghanistan
during those fateful 40 odd months that he had the privilege to
be in the midst of such momentous events.
assessment of the Soviet offensive as it was in the process of
developing only to taper off so soon after he left; the gradual
withering away of the PDPA under the weight of its own
Above all, the
slow if steady rise of the Mujahideen despite their endless
internecine quarrel and conflicts.
an enviable observation post while New Delhi’s close rapport
with the Soviets as also the Afghan leadership was unparalleled.
Few could have enjoyed the vantage point that the Indian
"Diary" provides the raw material; it would have been
ideal if its author had sat down to assess its value and its
import — in the larger perspectives of Afghanistan’s
fast-changing political scenario.
in Army: an insight
Review by Rajindra Nath
Written and published by Army Training Command, Shimla. Pages
248. Rs 150.
Army Training Command (ARTRAC) was raised on October 1, 1991.
The aim, as the charter of the command says, is to develop and
disseminate concepts and doctrines for current and future
warfare scenarios and to be the nodal agency for institutional
training in the Army.
authorities normally publish manuals which are well written and
useful for military personnel but do not make interesting
reading for the public. However, the Army Training Command has
done commendable work by producing a very intersting and
instructive book on a subject which is equally important for
both military and civil personnel.
leadership as a subject is being given great importance in
industrial houses as well as in the management field all over
India. The corporate sector is of the view that the role of a
leader itself is changing. "There is nothing called a
proven leader. Each day you are proving yourself again,"
Gopala- krishnan, Director, Tata Sons, has been quoted in an
article. The command and control leader who had his roots in
family business culture has become obsolete now. "Today a
leader is someone who is willing to give up to lead," he
managers of large companies and groups like Tatas, Birlas and
multinationals are furiously putting together detailed
procedures to identify, track and develop future chief executive
officers. The future and potential leaders are being selected at
various levels, well in advance, so that they can be given
specialised training as well as out of turn promotion to guide
the destiny of the companies at the highest level.
experts, after eager enthusiasm about management being the
ultimate skill to run industry and its organisations, have thus
realised the importance of leadership. As they say, "we
manage things but have to lead people" in order to achieve
decisive results against all odds. If so much importance is
being given these days to the leadership aspect in the business
world in India, the armed forces, which attach the highest
importance to leadership, have to study the subject in a very
The Army has an
excellent system of training, grooming and education to impart
knowledge, skill, tools and techniques about the art of war to
its future leaders. The nation is no longer sending the best
officer material to the armed forces, particularly to the Army,
due to a variety of reasons. So the future leaders have to be
trained with greater care. That is where this excellent book on
leadership produced by ARTRAC comes in handy for the Army in
particular and the public in general.
The purpose of
maintaining a military force by any country is that it should
always be ready to go to war and win. War veterans tell us that
this capability depends to a very large extent on the quality
and morale of leaders at all levels of the service. Finest arms
and equipment are useless unless unit and formation commanders
have trained their men to be skilled, cohesive and highly
motivated outfits. To achieve this goal, every officer in the
Army should understand the unique human capability called
necessary strength of character so as to act effectively needs
long and careful preparation. But what is character? There are
many definitions of character given by various commanders.
General Ridgeway of the US Army has given an apt answer.
"Character stands for self-discipline, loyalty, readiness
to accept responsibility, and willingness to admit mistakes.It
stands for selflessness, modesty, humility, willingness to
sacrifice when necessary and, in my opinion, faith in God."
It is a
difficult question to measure good leadership. One yardstick is
the culture of enduring excellence which a leader leaves behind
after he is long gone from the scene. The book breaks new ground
when it states that leadership is a byproduct of spirituality.
This thoughtful book brings out in detail the difference between
management and leadership, as stated by the doyens of management
in the USA. "Management is a bottom line focus. How can I
best accomplish certain things? Leadership deals with the top
line. What things I want to accomplish? Management efficiency is
in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether
the ladder is leaning against the right wall." In the words
of both Peter Ducker and Warren Bennis, "Management is
doing things right, leadership is doing the right things."
Field Marshal Slim, "the real test of leadership is not if
your men will follow you in success, but if they will stick by
you in defeat and hardship. They won’t do that unless they
believe you to be honest and to have care for them." The
best type of leadership is to lead by personal example; to
practise what one preaches. Of course style is the reflection of
the substance of a man. Character and knowledge, in balance, are
the important sources of leadership.
heritage "only a man whose thoughts, words and deeds are
pure and in harmony can become a good and effective leader.
Purity means that those are not triggered by lust, anger,
jealousy, greed or conceit. He says what he thinks — there is
no insincerity or hypocrisy in his deeds. In brief, he is a
transparent and straightforward person in speech and
conduct." The book also quotes the well known religious
leader Satya Sai Baba who states "leadership is idealism in
The manual then
cites interesting cases of military leaders whose qualities
helped them achieve their goals in the most difficult
circumstances. It also narrates the various events in the life
of commanders where operations failed due to lack of leadership.
emphaises the point that an individual has the power to improve
himself if he makes a genuine effort to develop his qualities,
as emphasised in ancient scriptures. This is in keeping with
modern thinking that leaders are made and not born. Field
Marshal Slim has remarked that there is nobody who cannot
improve his qualities of leadership by a little thought and
practice. The self-development diary well illustrated in the
manual is a very useful guide for all of us who want to improve
ourselves. It is based on the concept of the Upanishads which
state, "If you can change your habits, you can be the
master of your destiny."
chapters of the book deal with the essential qualities of
character, the necessity of sound professional knowledge,
capability for dealing with people, motivation for
self-development, spirit de corps, the higher leadership
requirements and one’s duties towards the nation.
The manual ends
on a healthy note when it states that a very large majority of
army officers have a sound and positive outlook on life and the
profession. They are a vibrant, upright and dedicated segment of
our society. It is their duty to assist the small minority who
at times get disheartened, mostly by self-generated doubts and
The well-written and reflective
book should be read by both military personnel and the general
public and is a useful addition to any library. Considering the
immense inputs available in the book, the price of the book is
very reasonable. It shall provide civilians with an excellent
insight into the culture of the Army and its specialised
requirements — in war as also in peace — will enable them to
realise that at the broader end, the techniques and tools of
leadership are the same.
Adrift on fund crisis
Review by Randeep Wadhera
Ocean as a Zone of Peace; Problems and Prospects by Kamal
Kumar. APH Publishing, New Delhi. Pages xii + 387. Rs 800.
Kargil crisis brought home a lesson — if at all it was
needed to be brought home — that we can never afford to
lower our guard. International relations are increasingly
becoming a struggle for the planet’s ever-dwindling
resources, which becomes inexorably vicious. The Shiv Shakti
and Tri Amph military exercise involving the Indian Army, Navy
and the Air Force concluded on December 7, 1998. Though the
Navy played its role in the amphibious operations well, it
goes without saying that the main emphasis was on land-based
concerns with the north-west frontier are justified. But it
would be myopic to allow the southern front — the Indian
Ocean — to take a backseat in our threat perceptions. This
raises a whole lot of questions. One is aware that attempts
are being made to bring about a greater cohesion among the
three arms of our defence services, yet certain doubts
Can we take
the surface calm of our seas at face value? Do we have enough
deterrent power at our command to send the right message to
other naval powers in the region and the world? During a
future war can the Indian Navy acquit itself well on two or
more theatres simultaneously? Is the Chinese threat imaginary,
as some doves would have us believe? Is it hawkish to talk of
strengthening our defences vis-a-vis unforeseen or even
gained independence the Indian Navy was perhaps the weakest of
the three arms. Unfortunately it remained so for such a long
period that our national interests were almost jeopardised.
During peacetime foreign vessels could infiltrate into our
territorial waters with impunity, both for illicit
exploitation of our marine wealth and gathering strategic
information. Thanks to the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan
and the growing presence of foreign navies, especially the
Chinese in the Bay of Bengal, "Indian authorities have
realised the folly of having an emaciated naval force."
Nevertheless, there is a lot of leeway to be made up.
the Chinese navy has already acquired blue water status. It is
further strengthening its fleet by building the Luhu class
destroyers fitted with the latest missiles and other combat
systems. It has acquired an unspecified number of Kilo class
Russin submarines and is also building them under licence. Its
future plans include the acquisition of two more aircraft
navy is also on a modernisation mode. The Tariq class frigates
have been fitted with Harpoon missiles. The latest radar and
sophisticated EW systems too have been installed in the
warships. The China-Pakistan cooperation in this regard is a
direct threat to India. Moreover it is inducting an
unspecified number of French submarines which are far superior
to anything that India has. Thus the Pakistan navy has gained
a strategic edge over the Indian Navy.
Australian Navy is perhaps the most modern fleet in the
eastern hemisphere. By 2004 it is projected to operate two
squadrons of state-of-the-art submarines. The Adelaide class
frigates have been upgraded with enhanced air defence
capabilities. Similarly, the other combat vessels — the Meko
200 types, for example — too have been fitted with powerful
surveillance radars; and combat-system softrware have added to
its formidable punch. Helicopter ships and antimine vessels
too are being inducted into the Australian navy. No wonder it
has a considerable blue water presence now.
navies too are fast acquiring considerable muscle. It is
interesting to note that the naval strength of this region’s
countries was no match to that of even the depleted Indian
Navy till as late as the 1960s.
Thanks to the
shortsighted policies of the powers that be, we started
lagging behind while Indonesia emerged as a formidable force.
Communist China and Taiwan too started building their
repective fleets to secure their shores. In the Arabian Sea
under Reza Shah Pahlavi Iran had developed into a formidable
oceanic power. In fact the West considered Iran as its
policeman in the Indian Ocean region.
The ASEAN and
the Australians certainly do not pose any threat to us today
thanks to our cordial relations. But when circumstances change
and chips are down every vessel ranged against us multiplies
the threat several times over. In this context the Indian Navy
cannot ignore the increasing strike power of the navies of
Indonesia, Taiwan and Singapore in the east and of Iran,
Pakistan and other littoral states of the Arabian Sea in the
It is indeed
a shame that fund constraints have been allowed to undermine
our defence, especially naval, preparedness. A major portion
— 50 per cent, according to some estimates — of our
vessels are due for mandatory refit. Building of warships in
our dockyards has fallen beihind schedule by as many as two
years and more. If funds do not become available in time, the
surface fleet will be reduced to about one-third of its
present size. Thus our vast indigenous shipbuilding
infrastructure and skills will remainunutilised. No nation,
much less a poor one like India, can afford such profligacy.
commissioning of the INS Delhi and the INS Mysore the aging
Indian Navy has certainly perked up a bit. In 2001, three
Godavari class frigates are scheduled for commissioning.
Moreover, the sea versions of recently developed missiles like
the Trishul and the Prithvi may be deployed on some selected
vessels. Some of these missiles will have a range of about 250
agreement with Russia has enabled us to acquire one aircraft
carrier. The Kiev class vessel, the Admiral Gorshkov, is
basically a replacement for INS Vikrant. However, it has yet
to enter the service with our Navy. But these additions are
really not enough to maintain the navy’s present
capabilities, let alone prime it for a bigger role in the
Indian and Pacific Oceans region. Ideally, a country of India’s
size and coastline should have a minimum of seven aircraft
carriers equipped with the latest modern warfare equipment.
One of the lessons of the recent Anglo-American attack on Iraq
is that aircraft carriers lend both punch and reach to a navy.
We should be
able to react quickly to any challenges coming from the seas.
Let us remember that the Chinese navy has a presence in our
neighbourhood and its intentions cannot be totally benign.
There is a lot at stake for India, in the form of our overseas
territory, underwater minerals, and other marine wealth for
the country to remain complacement. The talk of increasing the
defence allocation is heartening. But would it translate into
a stronger Indian Navy? There is a proposal for building more
warships, especially air-defence ships or the downsized
version of aircraft carriers, in our own docks. This is a
welcome development. It would generate jobs for our educated
and skilled youth, make us self-reliant in a vital area of
defence preparedness and, in the bargain, save foreign
exchange that could be used for development projects.
will have to be taken that every rupee spent on building our
defence capabilities is accounted for so that cost overruns do
not become an euphemism for pilferage and corruption. If India
wants to play its appointed role in international affairs, it
must make its presence felt both economically and militarily.
To protect its trade routes and the marine wealth a strong
navy is a prerequisite.
suggestion for a confidence-building measure among the
littoral states of the India Ocean will fructify only if India
takes the initiative from a position of strength. Towards this
end we should be adequately prepared, both militarily and
tome is worth reading for its thought-provoking thesis.
* * *
Social Problems and the Law by Prabhat Chandra Tripathi. APH
Publishing, New Delhi. Pages viii + 272. Rs 700.
is based on various articles written by the author and
published in several national and international law journals
over a period of time. Its main thrust is on the socio-legal
problems facing our society, especially in relation to women.
Needless to say, the level of a society’s civilisation is
appreciated by the status enjoyed by its women. So how does
India perform by this yardstick?
minutes somewhere in India a woman becomes victim of criminal
offence committed against her person. The author points out
that every 26 minutes a woman’s modesty is outraged and
every 54 minutes a female is raped. A dowry death every 42
minutes, a kidnapping every 51 minutes...the picture is sordid
enough to shake any civilised society’s conscience.
victims of dowry deaths, rather plain murders, within the
first seven or eight years of marriage. This phenomenon
manifests itself as much in the lower middle classes as in
upper middle classes and the stratum in between. The killers
get acquitted due to wrong reporting or faulty FIRs. Most of
these crimes happen in the husband’s house and thus can be
proved only by gathering circumstantial evidence. The author
suggests eliminating in the delay in investigating
dowry-related offences. He advocates literacy drives among
women and building a strong social opinion against this evil.
also deals with such issues as environmental degradation,
corruption, social justice for all, child labour,
criminalisation of politics, etc. These essays can be very
useful for students, especially those who are preparing for
* * *
Disabilities — Challenges for Their Rehabilitation by Keya
Sengupta, Rakhal Kumar Purakyastha and Digvijoy Nath Pandey.
Reliance Publishing House, New Delhi. Pages xii+212. Rs 295.
Here is a
comprehensive collection of erudite expositions on the
challenges facing the physically and mentally challenged
people, with a close look at ways and means of rehabilitating
out in the introduction, in order to improve the quality of
human life, a creative relationship should exist between
people and their physical environment. It is also important
that not only the physical environment is preserved but also
all groups are provided equal opportunity for growth through a
healthy social environment. This is where the focus needs to
be sharper on the problem of providing a social environment
conducive for fuller development of the disabled persons at
par with other members of society.
family system provides adequate emotional support, material
support is not within the average Indian household’s
capacity. This is where a society’s role needs to be defined
and activated. It is not easy to rehabilitate a handicapped
Panda points out that there are many types of disabilities. He
defines disability as "want of ability (to discharge any
office or function), inability in capacity, and
impotence". He also enumerates other definitions such as
legal inabilities, etc. He then goes on to explain ecological
issues and their influence on disabilities.
avers that disability is a condition or a state that
incapacittates or makes a person incapable of performing
activity — both physical and mental. He then tells us how
genes play a role in disabling a person. M.N. Karna says that
a handicapped person requires special training to avail of
employment opportunities. He makes an interesting declaration
that prevention of disability and rehabilitation go hand in
complains that the criteria of success has over the years
centred on some economic yardsticks, irrespective of the
living conditions and assets. "It has always been very
naively assumed that benefits of economic growth will
automatically be transferred into better living conditions of
its people. It was therefore considered unnecessary to make
man, including the disabled persons, the main focus of
dwells upon the rights and status of the disabled in India and
comes to none too happy conclusions. S.N. Bhargava presents a
note on the Disabilities Act of 1995. The other contributors
like Tyagi, Choudhary, Jyrwa, Kumar et al dwell on different
facets of this intriguing problem that requires a huge effort
at the national level to be tackled.
No matter what profession one
might be pursuing, if he ignores books like this one, he is
doing a great disservice to his society as well as to the
coming generations. A thought provoking effort and a must read
Kaun banega crorepati?
The reader of this book
India 2001 Quiz Book by Gopa Sabharwal and others. Penguin
Books, New Delhi. Pages 222. Rs 200.
Ramakrishna and His New Philosophy by H.N. Sarkar and
Manmathanath Roy. Sri Krishna Kendra, Howrah. Pages 160. Rs
Transparent Mind: A Journey with Krishnamurti by Ingram Smith.
Penguin Book, New Delhi. Pages 199. Rs 200.
Autobiographical Guide to Self-God-realisation by Ravindra
Kumar. Sterling Publisher, New Delhi. Pages 231. Rs 150.
to the Holy Quran by Abdal Rahmani. Pages 174. Rs 150.
Rainbow by Aroti Dutt. Pages 172. Rs 150.
Fire: an Infotech Entrepreneur’s Vision by Bikram Dasgupta.
Pages 138. Rs 300.
All four by
Sterling Publishers, New Delhi.
Coping: The Indian Experience by D.M. Pestonjee. Pages 321. Rs
and Human Resource Management: Challenges for the Corporation
of Tomorrow by Arun Monappa and Mahrukh Engineer. Pages 217.
Happen: Learning from First-Generation Entrepreneurs by S.J.
Phansalkar. Pages 230. Rs 195.
All the three
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Concern with Environmental Crisis and Gandhi’s Vision by
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Resource Development in Universities by Shakeel Ahmad. Pages
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Management by Mohammad Akbar Ali Khan. Pages 252. Rs 500.
Police in a Changing Society by Aparna Srivastava. Pages 291.
Pandits: Looking to the Future edited by M.K. Kaw and others.
Pages 296. Rs 500.
Assault by Chitra Kanungo. Pages 314. Rs 700.
by D.K. Sudha. Pages 265. Rs 600.
All the eight
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Immigrants in United Kingdom by K.S. Dhindsa. Concept
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Language as Communication (Intercultural Context) by Trilochan
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in Industry: A Rational Approach by K.M. Phadke and Rita Khar,
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Resource and Managerial Perspectives for the New Millennium
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Marketing (including Export Management) by Francis Cherunilam.
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All the four
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Medicine: A Handbook of raditional Remedies by Paul Joseph
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Insurgents: Walking Through Burma by Shelby Tucker. Pages 386.
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Time: Monuments of the Millennium by Achala Moulik. Pages 209.
The Gods of
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Both four by
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How to apply
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Banking in Transition: Issuse and Challenges edited by T. Ravi
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Vision Books, New Delhi.
Financial Management by G.P. Jakhotiya. Pages 376. Rs 395.
Enterpreneurship by K. Sasikumar. Pages 204. Rs 295.
of Enterprise Flexibility by Sushil. Pages 544. Rs 595.
Trinity by S.P. Ruhela. Vikas Publishing, New Delhi. Pages
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254. Rs 150.
All five by
Vikas Publishing, New Delhi.
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Stars by Gopal Raj. Viking Pengiun Books, New Delhi. Pages
352. Rs 395.
Nine days to
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Child (with Historical Background) by Pramila Pandit Barooah.
Cencept Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 396. Rs 500.
Contribution to Management by Pravir Malik. Sri Aurobindo
Institute of Research in Social Sciences, Pondicherry. Pages
162. Price not mentioned.
Participation in Sustainable Human Development (a Unified
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Government and NGOs: Issues, Strategies and Ways Forward
edited by D. Rajasekhar, Ashok Kumar Mittal. Pages 178. Rs
Technology Media Policy And National Development by V.S.
Gupta. Pages 242. Rs 300.
All the three
by Concept Publishing, New Delhi.
Seven Stories from India by R.H. Bhanot. Pages 117. Rs 120.
Danny L. Travasso. Pages 229. Rs 240.
Companion by Raja David and Apparao Bahadur. Pages 154. Rs
All three by
Minerva Press, New Delhi.
Einsteinian Limits by Javed Jamil. Mission Publications, Quazi
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Domestic Workers by A.N. Singh. Pages 144. Rs 380.
and Prevention by Gracious Thomas. Pages 252. Rs 495.
Slum in a
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Democracy and Development in South Asia edited by N.N. Vohra.
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Tryon Edwards. Crest Publishing House (A Jaico Enterprise),
Delhi. Pages 734. Price not mentioned.
The ABC of
Chakra Therapy: A Work Book by Deedre Dremer. Motilal
Banarasidass, Bangalore. Pages 174, Rs 125.
— Compiled by Manjit Singh