Nandy, Pritish

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NANDY, Pritish

Nationality: Indian. Born: Bhagalpur, Bihar, 15 January 1947. Education: La Martiniere, Calcutta; Presidency College, Calcutta. Family: Married 1) Rina Mumtaz in 1966 (divorced), two children;2) Rina Biswas in 1977, two children. Career: Publicity and public relations manager, Guest Keen Williams Ltd., Calcutta, 1969–82; since 1982 publicity director, Times of India Group, Bombay; since 1968 editor Dialogue Calcutta, later Dialogue India; poetry editor, Illustrated Weekly of India. Named Padmashri, 1977. Address: 5 Pearl Road, Calcutta 17, India.



Of Gods and Olives: 21 Poems. Calcutta, Writers Workshop, 1967.

I Hand You in Turn My Nebbuk Wreath: Early Poems. Calcutta, Dialogue, 1968.

On Either Side of Arrogance. Calcutta, Writers Workshop, 1968.

Rites for a Plebeian Statue: An Experiment in Verse Drama. Calcutta, Writers Workshop, 1969.

From the Outer Bank of the Brahmaputra. New York, New Rivers Press, 1969.

Masks to Be Interpreted As Messages. Calcutta, Dialogue, 1970; as Masks to Be Interpreted in Terms of Measure, Calcutta, Writers Workshop, 1971.

Madness Is the Second Stroke. Calcutta, Dialogue, 1971.

The Poetry of Pritish Nandy. Calcutta, Oxford University Press, 1973.

Dhritarashtra Downtown: Zero. Calcutta, Dialogue, 1974.

Riding the Midnight River: Selected Poems. New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1975.

Lonesong Street. Calcutta, Poets Press, 1975.

Songs of Mirabai. New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1975.

A Stranger Called 1. Calcutta, Poets Press, 1976.

In Secret Anarchy. Calcutta, United Writers, 1976.

Nowhere Man. New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1977.

Pritish Nandy, Thirty. New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1978.

Anywhere Is Another Place. New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1979.

Tonight This Savage Rite: The Love Poetry of Kamala Das and Pritish Nandy. New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1979.

The Rainbow Last Night. New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1981.

Short Stories

Some Friends. New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1981.


Editor, Getting Rid of Blue Plastic: Poems Old and New, by Margaret Randall. Calcutta, Dialogue, 1967.

Editor, Poetry from India. Calcutta, Dialogue, 1970.

Editor, Indian Poetry in English 1947–1972. Calcutta, Oxford University Press, 1972.

Editor, Indian Poetry in English. New Delhi, Sterling, 1973.

Editor, Indian Poetry in English Today. New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1974.

Editor, Modern Indian Poetry. New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1974;London, Heinemann, 1976.

Editor, Bengali Poetry Today. East Lansing, Michigan State University Press, 1974.

Editor, Strangertime: An Anthology of Indian Poetry in English. New Delhi, Hind, 1977.

Editor, Modern Indian Literature. New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1978.

Editor, The Vikas Book of Modern Indian Love Stories [Poetry]. New Delhi, Vikas, 2 vols., 1979.

Editor, The Lord Is My Shepherd: Selections from the Psalms. New Delhi, Vikas, 1982.

Editor, Tales of Romance and Valour from Rajasthan. New Delhi, Vika, 1982.

Editor, Krishna, Krishna: The Devotional Songs of Mirabai. New Delhi, Vikas, 1983.

Editor, Love, The First Syllable: The Mystic Songs of Kabir. New Delhi, Vikas, 1983.

Translator, I Had You in Turn by Nebbuk Wreath. Calcutta, Dialogue, 1969.

Translator, Some Modern Cuban Poems. Calcutta, Satyabrata Pal, 1969.

Transcreator, The Complete Poems of Samar Sen. Calcutta, Writers Workshop, 1970.

Translator, Subhas Mukhopadhyay: Poet of the People. Calcutta, Dialogue, 1970.

Translator, Poems from Bangladesh. New Delhi, Perspective, 1971.

Translator, The Prose Poems of Lokenath Bhattacharya. Calcutta, Dialogue, 1971.

Translator, Bangladesh: Voice of a New Nation. Calcutta, Dialogue, 1971.

Translator, Shesh Lekha: The Last Poems of Rabindranath Tagore. Calcutta, Dialogue, 1973.

Translator, The Songs of Mirabai. New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1975.

Translator, The Poetry of Kaiff Azmi. New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1976.

Translator, The Giraffe Flames (poems) by Sunil Gangopadhyaya. New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1976.

Translator, Modern Indian Stories. New Delhi, Vikas, 1985.

Translator, Snake and Other Stories, by Premendra Mitra. Calcutta, Seagull, 1990.

Translator, Unchained Melody. New Delhi, Rupa, 1994.

Translator, Untamed Heart. New Delhi, Rupa, 1994.

Translator, Careless Whispers: Pritish Nandy Recreates the Best of Sanskrit Love Poetry. New Delhi, Rupa, 1994.


Critical Studies: The Poetry of Pritish Nandy, Calcutta, Writers Workshop, 1969, and "Workpoints for a Study of Pritish Nandy's 'In Transit, Mind Seeks'" in Banasthali Vidyapith Magazine, 1969, both by Satyabrata Pal; Pritish Nandy, New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1975, and "Politics and the Poetry of Pritish Nandy," in Contemporary Indian English Verse: An Evaluation, edited by Chirantan Kulshrestha, New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1980, both by Subharanjan Dasgupta; "Magic of the Midnight Mist: A Study of Pritish Nandy's Poetry" by Niranjan Mohanty, in Living English Poets, edited by Madhusudan Prasad, New Delhi, Sterling, 1989; "Quest for Perennial Values in Pritish Nandy" by Ashley E. Myles, and "Pritish Nandy: Quest for Being" by A.K. Awasthi, both in Creative Forum (New Delhi), 5(1–4), January-December 1992.

Pritish Nandy comments:

Trying to achieve an entirely new breakthrough in form and evolve a new language to characterize Indian writing in English. Feel that creative writing in English by Indians is generally imitative in both form and approach. What is required is a new language that will be characteristic and structurally powerful, with a logic of its own. It is this Indian English that must be worked out, and that is what I am trying to do. Also trying to discover/build a tradition for Indo-Anglian poetry, the fusion of a modern language with the myths and symbols we have. Indian writers in English till now have ignored this quest for a tradition, which I consider vital for a living poetry. Finally a personal quest; a secular, politically involved poet has his own peculiar problems.

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Pritish Nandy's early poems are often in short-line free verse; others form typographical pictures or use e.e. cummings's style of spacing. Nandy skeptically mingles Indian, classic, and Christian imagery, with gentle irony toward gods who "have aged and are not aware" or toward Christ, who "came third in the contest / with death / and wrote a poem on the cross." The poet indeed pities those who have to live with him, for he "shreds their magic faith into a million assumptions." He is equally skeptical about such rationalists as a recluse found dead: "having read too much of / Salinger / he had checkmated himself in one / man chess." Indeed, "to understand by cataloguing is like / splitting hairs on a bald head."

Perhaps this is why Nandy thinks that English poetry stopped at Auden (American "never began"). He most frequently alludes to Spanish-language poets, notably Lorca. His own effort is to combine and symbolize: "What you cannot explain in terms of symbols is lost forever like blind totems and ruins in an old man's face." Words are only "masks to be interpreted in terms of messages."

Nandy was long preoccupied with the frustrations of penetrating to realities or of saying anything meaningful if he did. He praised a friend for seeking "a new level of communication" and compacted his own images so as to make surreal sense: "your eyes bled like a violet tiger / as I watched the winds strangle / whispers of the apocalypse." But certain themes are clear: death, loneliness, and suffering and the mitigations of love, sex, and friendship.

In Masks to Be Interpreted as Messages, Nandy changed to short statements in rhythmic prose, and in his best-known poem, "Calcutta, If You Must Exile Me," he states in brutally direct style the cruelties that revolt him. The horrors in Bangladesh then jolted him into plain, moving statements of sympathy with all victims of hate, whether in India, Vietnam, or Colombia—"the marauders changed their name but the sufferers each time were the same." At times he despairs—"blood is a country you and I have loved in vain"—but he no longer thinks of leaving—"Dark city I shall not disown you again." Though he writes for those who cannot read the language he uses, "my voice is the voice of my people, for I speak of their loves and ambitions and secret shames."

Nandy later found consolation in translating Tagore's last poems, a "devastating confrontation with death." The message, of "haunting simplicity," is that "death is but a new birth of the spirit into the great unknown." Modern Indian poetry, Nandy says, draws "strength from the bedrock of our tradition," yet it is violent, anguished, brutally contemporary." His own certainly is.

—George McElroy