Issues of Literature

During the era of Progressive Writers’ Association writers in the thirties and forties debated the question of Art for Art’s Sake and treated literature as reflection of class ideology. They rejected the concept of total autonomy of creative literature and various trends of formalism. After Independence the new generation of creative writers in Hindi and Urdu were swayed by the modernist literature of the West which harped on man’s alienation and loss of identity and suggested that a creative writer cannot be part of any political struggle that submerged the creative being in the slush of madding crowd. The concept of total autonomy of creative writing and uniqueness of writer’s existence were the main trends of thought of the modernist writers. Although Progressive Writers’ Association got disintegrated after 1953 because of the qualitative change in the correlation of class forces after Independence, yet there was still a current of progressive writers such as Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh and Yash Pal who were fighting ideologically against modernist and formalist trends in Hindi literature. But the modernists were dominant force during the fifties and sixties. The cynicism of the ‘anti-poetry’ movement and ‘angry young generation’ of the sixties was an extension of the same modernist trend in Hindi literature; although the anger was directed towards the forces of the status quo. During the sixties also some democratic writers such as Raghuvir Sahay did not get swayed by cynical thoughts of nihilism that dominated the literary scene in Hindi.

It was during the first half of the seventies that witnessed a fierce battle of ideas in Hindi literature between the progressive and reactionary ideologies. At the social level this was the period of mass movements against the authoritarian regime led by Congress (I) which represented the interests of big bourgeoisie and big landlords. Writers in Hindi and Urdu literature raised their voice against exploitation, tyranny and repression once again and upheld the view that literature should side with the toiling people. There emerged a strong wave of democratic writing during that period and could not be suppressed even during the Emergency. All the progressive writers of the older generation too became active and began to contribute to the movement once again. The democratic literature became dominant force after the seventies and continued to be so during the eighties also. It was during the nineties that some new trends assimilating the ideological strains of ‘postmodernism’ emerged in Hindi and Urdu literature. Democratic writers have to wage an ideological struggle against the nihilistic trends espoused by postmodernism which propagated the ‘end of ideology’, ‘end of history’, ‘end of aesthetics’ and end of all reason and all values of the period of Enlightenment and all scientific thoughts of the subsequent periods of human history. The rise of communal fascistic ideologies during the same period coincides with the emergence of irrational strains of cynicism in the garb of postmodernism in Hindi literature which reflects the changes in the social consciousness of the middle classes. But the end of the 20th century is witnessing the gradual decay of postmodernism which cannot explain the social reality by ignoring class antagonism in a class divided society like India. The new millennium will once again witness a fierce battle of class ideas when exploiting classes will not be in a position to resolve their crisis by fooling people with propaganda of false consciousness for all the ages to come.