Rajan, Balachandra 1920-
RAJAN, Balachandra 1920-
PERSONAL: Born March 24, 1920, in Toungoo, Burma (now Myanmar); son of Arunachala (a civil servant) and Visalam Tyagarajan; married Chandra Sarma, August 29, 1946; children: Tilottoma (daughter). Ethnicity: "Indian." Education: Trinity College, Cambridge, B.A. (with first class honors), 1941, M.A., 1944, Ph.D., 1946.
ADDRESSES: Home—478 Regent St., London, Ontario N5Y 4H2, Canada. Offıce—Department of English, University of Western Ontario, Richmond, London, Ontario N6A 3K7, Canada.
CAREER: Trinity College, Cambridge, Cambridge, England, director of studies in English, 1945-48, lecturer in English, 1947; Indian Foreign Service, officer, 1948-61; University of Delhi, Delhi, India, professor of English and head of department, 1961-64, dean of faculty of arts, 1964; University of Wisconsin, visiting professor of English at Institute for Research in the Humanities, 1964-65; University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada, professor of English, 1965-66; University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada, senior professor of English, 1966-85, professor emeritus, 1985—. International Atomic Energy Agency, chairperson of administrative and legal committee of second general conference, 1959. United Nations Children's Fund, chairperson of executive board, 1955-57.
MEMBER: Modern Language Association of America, Renaissance Society of America, Milton Society of America (president, 1972).
AWARDS, HONORS: Research fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge; fellow and medalist, Royal Society of Canada; honored scholar of Milton Society; James Holly Hanford and Irene Samuel awards, Milton Society.
Paradise Lost and the Seventeenth-Century Reader, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1947.
The Dark Dancer (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1958.
Too Long in the West (novel), Heinemann (London, England), 1961, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1962.
W. B. Yeats: A Critical Introduction, Hutchinson (London, England), 1965, second edition, 1969.
The Lofty Rhyme: A Study of Milton's Major Poetry, University of Miami Press (Coral Gables, FL), 1970.
The Overwhelming Question: A Study of the Poetry of T. S. Eliot, University of Toronto Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1976.
The Form of the Unfinished: English Poetics from Spenser to Pound, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1985.
Under Western Eyes: India from Milton to Macaulay, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 1999.
Contributor to literary magazines in the United States and abroad, including Sewanee Review, University of Toronto Quarterly, Atlantic Monthly, Hudson Review, and American Scholar.
T. S. Eliot: A Study of His Writings by Several Hands, Funk (New York, NY), 1948.
Modern American Poetry, Roy (New York, NY), 1952.
(With A. G. George) Makers of Literary Criticism, Asia Publishing House (New York, NY), 1965.
Paradise Lost: A Tercentenary Tribute, University of Toronto Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1969.
(And author of introduction and notes) Sophocles, King Oedipus, translated by William Butler Yeats, Macmillan (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1969, Collier (New York, NY), 1970.
The Novelist as Thinker (new edition), Folcroft Library (Folcroft, PA), 1970.
The Prison and the Pinnacle: Papers to Commemorate the Tercentenary of Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, 1671-1971, Routledge & Kegan Paul (London, England), 1973.
(With Elizabeth Sauer) Milton and the Imperial Vision, Duquesne University Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1999.
(With Elizabeth Sauer) Imperialisms: Historical and Literary Investigations, 1500-1900, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2004.
Founder and editor of Focus (journal), 1945-50.
SIDELIGHTS: Balachandra Rajan was born in Burma, educated in England, and employed in India as an academic and a foreign service officer before he settled in the West. Not surprisingly, his novels explore the issues of cultural conflict in a variety of ways. The Dark Dancer is the story of a young man, V. S. Krishnan, educated in England, who returns to his Indian homeland and a traditional, arranged marriage. The conflict begins when an Englishwoman of his acquaintance visits India and refreshes his memories of the Western experience. The resulting threat to his marriage occurs in the midst of violent local rioting among Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. The bitter ethnic conflicts further disrupt Krishnan's relationships and the safety of the world around him, leading him ever closer to tragedy.
A Kirkus Reviews contributor described Rajan's theme as "the parallel struggles of individual and state." Lewis Gannett observed in the New York Herald Tribune Book Review that young Krishnan's problem is not his alone, but is shared by "the whole world. . . . Seldom, in the West, [however,] are such questions explored with such a combination of honesty and charm." Frederic Morton, writing in the New York Times, commented favorably though not unequivocally on Rajan's "rather neat narrative structure" and "lyric way with words," while Arthur Lall told readers of the Saturday Review: "For the most part he has written . . . with great beauty." M. K. Spears offered a strong recommendation of The Dark Dancer in the Yale Review: "Here at last is a novel that honestly confronts the dilemma of the Indian intellectual, caught between East and West, and instead of expounding some neat solution, explores it with magnificent intelligence and awareness," the critic noted.
Whereas The Dark Dancer is "concerned with racial division," according to a contributor for the Times Literary Supplement, Too Long in the West "is about the clash of Indian and American cultures." In this case, the main character is a young Indian woman, educated at Columbia University in New York City, who returns to her traditional village in order to be offered for marriage by her eccentric father. The ensuing parade of suitors for Nalini's hand become ingredients for what a Times Literary Supplement reviewer called "a comedy of the purest kind, for all its effects arise from the way in which the subject is seen, and laughter remains in its proper place—as a delicious byproduct of understanding." Not all critics recognized the humor or appreciated Rajan's characterizations, but several pointed with praise to his keen observations of place and his appropriate use of humor. Sharokh Sabavla summarized in the Christian Science Monitor that Rajan's own experiences in the East and the West "enable him to see his country and its people as they are, to laugh about their quirks and peculiarities . . . [and] to tell his endearing story with sympathy and under-standing."
Rajan told CA: "When I sent in my first novel my publisher asked me if it was complete in my mind before I put pen to paper. I replied that it was only complete after I had resigned myself by taking the pen off the paper. I am not sure if this was the answer expected but I think that ideally a novel should write itself in collaboration with the author, but not in deference to the editor's direction.
"Literary scholarship may seem a world apart from novel writing but the relationship is not dissimilar. The scholar approaches his text with a program or a methodology. A dialogue should follow in which the program is reinvented and the text is seen in a different light.
"My scholarly work is on English poetry from Spenser to Pound. It is Milton centered because I found Milton critical to an understanding of English literary history. My interest in imperialism and its discourse over the last fifteen years began as an effort to add concrete dimension to Milton scholarship. It has now assumed a life of its own. Neo-imperialism and globalism have become matters of conviction to me rather than ways of exercising academic methodologies."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July 15, 1958; March 15, 1962.
Chicago Sun, February 14, 1949.
Chicago Sunday Tribune, June 29, 1958, p. 3.
Christian Science Monitor, July 17, 1958, p. 7; March 8, 1962, p. 6.
Guardian (Manchester, England), May 12, 1961, p. 9.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1958; December 15, 1961.
Library Journal, February 1, 1962.
Modern Language Quarterly, March, 2001, Srinivas Aravamudan, review of Under Western Eyes: India from Milton to Macaulay, p. 74.
Modern Philology, May, 2002, Nandini Bhattacharya, review of Under Western Eyes: India from Milton to Macaulay, p. 626.
New Statesman, May 19, 1961.
New Statesman & Nation, April 3, 1948.
New York Herald Tribune Book Review, March 13, 1949, p. 2; July 27, 1958, p. 1; February 25, 1962, p. 9.
New York Times, March 27, 1949, p. 27; June 29, 1958, p. 6.
New York Times Book Review, March 4, 1962, p. 4.
San Francisco Chronicle, May 29, 1949, p. 10; March 1, 1962, p. 33.
Saturday Review, July 12, 1958.
Saturday Review of Literature, March 12, 1949.
Spectator, May 5, 1961, p. 655.
Times Literary Supplement, January 24, 1948, p. 52; May 19, 1961, p. 313.
Yale Review, September, 1958.