Verma, Nirmal 1929-
VERMA, Nirmal 1929-
Born April 3, 1929 in Simla, India. Education: Attended St. Stephen's College; attended Oriental Institute, Prague, Czechoslovakia; Delhi University, M.A.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Rājkamal Prakasan, 1B Netaji Subhas Marg, New Delhi, 110 002 India.
Writer, journalist, and educator. Worked as a correspondent for Times of India until 1972.
Sahitya Akademi Award, 1985, for Kavve aura KālāPānī; Jnanpith Award, 1999, for outstanding contribution to the enrichment of Indian literature; International Institute for Asian Studies fellow; Indian Institute for Advanced Studies fellow.
Parinde, Rājkamal (New Delhi, India) 1958, translation published as The Hill Station and Other Stories, Writers Workshop (Calcutta, India), 1973.
Ve din, Rājkamal (New Delhi, India), 1964, translation by Krisna Baldev Vaid published as Days of Longing, Hind Pocket Books (New Delhi, India), 1972.
Lāl Tin Kī Chat, Rājkamal (New Delhi, India), 1974, translation by Kuldip Singh published as The Red Tin Roof, Ravi Dayal Publisher (New Delhi, India), 1997.
Kavve Aura KālāPānī, Rajakamala (New Delhi, India), 1983, translation by Kuldip Singh and Jai Ratan published as The Crows of Deliverance, Readers International (London, England), 1991.
Word and Memory, Vagdevi Prakashan (Bikaner, India), 1988.
The World Elsewhere and Other Stories, Readers International (London, England), 1988.
Dark Dispatches, translated by Alok Bhalla, Indus (New Delhi, India), 1993.
A Rag Called Happiness, translated by Kuldip Singh, Penguin Books India (New Delhi, India), 1993.
Such a Big Yearning & Other Stories, Indus (New Delhi, India), 1995.
India and Europe: Selected Essays, edited by Alok Bhalla, Centre for the Study of Indian Civilization and Indian Institute of Advanced Study (Shimla, India), 2000.
Indian Errant: Selected Stories of Nirmal Verma, translated by Prasenjit Gupta, Indialog Publications (Delhi, India), 2002.
The Last Wilderness, Indigo Publishing (Delhi, India), 2002.
WORKS IN HINDI
Cirō Par Cadnī (travelogue; title means "Moonlit Pines"), Rājkamal (New Delhi, India), 1962.
Jaltī Jhārī, Rājkamal (New Delhi, India), 1964.
Itne bare Dhabbe (title means "Such Large Stains") Rādhākrsna (New Delhi, India) 1966.
Pichlī GarmiyōMē (title means "Last Summer"), Rajakamala Prakasana (New Delhi, India), 1968.
Merī Priy Kahāniya, (title means "My Favorite Stories"), Rajpal & Sons (New Delhi, India), 1970.
Har B&aamacr;riśMē (title means "With Every Rain"), Rādhākrsna (New Delhi, India), 1970.
Bic Bahas Mē (title means "Discussions"), Sambhavna (Hapur, India), 1971.
Hara Barisamem, 1973.
Bica Bahasa Mem, 1973.
Śabd Aur Smrti, Rajakamala Prakasana (New Delhi, India), 1976, translation published as Word and Memory, Vagdevi (Bikaner, India), 1988.
Tīn Ekānt, (play; title means "Three Solitudes"), Rājkamal (New Delhi, India), 1976.
Dusrī Duniyā (title means "The Other World: Collected Essays"), Sambhavana Prakasana (Hapura, India), 1978.
Ek Cithrā Sukha (title means "A Patch of Happiness"), Rajakamala Prakasana (New Delhi, India), 1979.
Kālā Ka Jokhima, Rajakamala (New Delhi, India), 1981.
Meri Kahaniya (title means "My Stories"), Disa (Delhi, India), 1985.
Dhalāna se utarate hue, Rajakamala Prakasana (New Delhi, India), 1985.
Pratinidhi Kahāniya (title means "Representative Stories") Rajakamala Prakasana (New Delhi, India), 1988.
Rāta Kāa riportara (title means "Night Reporter") Rajakamala Prakasana (New Delhi, India), 1989.
Tina Ekanta, Rajakamala Prakasana (New Delhi, India), 1990.
India aur Europe, Rājkamal (New Delhi, India), 1991.
Itihās, Smrti, Akānkśhā, National Publishing House (New Delhi, India), 1992.
Dhunda se uthatī Dhuna: Dāyāri, Notsa, y Atra-Samsmarana, Rajakamala Prakasana (New Delhi, India), 1997.
Gyaraha Lambi Kahaniyam (short stories), Bharatiya Jnapitha (New Delhi, India), 2000.
Adi, Anta Aura Arambha, Rajakamala Prakasana (New Delhi, India), 2001.
Lekhaka ki Astha: Sahityika Nibanda, Vagdevi Prakasana (Bikanera, India), 2001.
A prominent figure in Hindi literature, Nirmal Verma first drew attention in the late 1950s with his short story collection, Parinde (published in English as The Hill Station and Other Stories). Verma's early work coincided with the growth of the "New Story" movement in Hindi literature. Although some critics have called Verma a pioneer of the New Story style, "he stands almost alone in the light and shade-play of language, reflective and self-reflexive mode of narration, metaphorical and imagistic composition, and sonorous yet deeply disturbing voice," wrote Girdhar Rathi in Contemporary World Writers. Verma acknowledges himself to be a writer of "poetic prose," Rathi remarked.
In college, Verma was a member of the Communist Party and subscribed to a Marxist ideology, wrote Rajes Ranjan in an interview with Verma on the Literate World Web site. But his literary influences were found in writers such as Anton Chekhov, T. S. Eliot, Ivan Turgenev, Ranier Maria Rilke, and Paul Eluard, Rathi wrote. "A long stay at Prague enabled Verma to settle accounts with his early Marxist leanings," Rathi commented, and by 1968 Verma had moved away from his Marxist influences.
Although Verma studied the English language as part of his education in India, he deliberately chose to write the bulk of his works in Hindi. "Hindi happens to be my mother tongue," Verma said in the interview with Ranjan. "I studied in English medium schools, but when I took to writing I knew I would not write in any other language except my own." He wrote some freelance articles, book reviews, and essays in English, "but I stuck to Hindi when it came to creative writing," Verma said.
"Among the contemporary Hindi writers, perhaps the most important figure is Nirmal Verma, whose novels and short stories try to grapple with the modern Indian sensibility, and whose essays amplify his vision through his critical observations," wrote Satish C. Aikant in World Literature Today. Akshaya Kumar, in a review of India and Europe: Selected Essays commented that "Nirmal Verma is an exceptional Hindi writer whose fictional works, both novels and short stories, do not easily fit into the stereotypes normally associated with Hindi fiction. There is no sentimentalism of rural poverty, nor is there any invocation of India as a pure and pristine cultural space." Instead, his work addresses "existential experiences of a native in the alien ambience of the western world." But even while embracing the healing power of modern experience, Verma does not forget his origins and the origins of his country. "If in his novels and short stories Verma is obsessed with the themes of loneliness, angst, and vacuity in human life, in his essays he emerges almost a fierce, if not rabid, advocate of India's sacred past," Kumar wrote.
Verma spent a considerable amount of time abroad, in England and in Czechoslovakia, where his novel Days of Longing and the travelogue Cirō Par Cadnī were published. These volumes "established him as an internationalist-modernist writer," Rathi commented. However, he did not find all international contact favorable, and in particular he was displeased with British colonialism. "For Verma, India's contact with the West was not a meeting among equals," Aikant wrote, but instead was considered by Verma a "violent culture rupture" affecting all aspects of Indian ways of life. The worst effects of colonialism were found in the "Indian psyche," and in order to recover from those ill effects, "this self needed to be decolonized not by harking back to a mythical past but by embracing qualified modernity," Aikant observed.
In The Crows of Deliverance, a collection of six short stories translated from Hindi, Verma presents stories of "human experience that crosses cultural boundaries into universality, while still affording the Western reader a glimpse at the particulars of life in the author's homeland," wrote Michael Cain in MultiCultural Review. In "Last Summer" an Indian architectural student finds he has to resist the cultural customs of his homeland. He has met and fallen in love with a fellow student in Vienna. But while visiting India during the last summer before returning to Vienna and marrying his beloved there, his parents attempt to arrange a marriage to a local girl. In "Morning Walk," which Susheela N. Rao called "a tragic story of loneliness in life" in a World Literature Today review, an old man faces the prospect of life alone after his son goes abroad, and makes the only choice he can. The title character of "The Visitor" is an academic who travels widely, and who becomes almost a stranger, an unwelcome visitor, to his wife and daughter in England. In Deliverance, the story which gives the collection its name, a man travels to a crow-infested mountain town in search of his brother, a holy man who has renounced the material world. The self-exiled brother's signature is required on a business document, a secular need at odds with the holy brother's retreat from the world. "The crows in the story are symbolic of a deliverance not quite delivered, with a lingering touch of the memory of Samsara, or worldly life," Rao observed. A Kirkus Reviews critic remarked on the "clear and deceptively simple prose" of the work.
Aamer Hussein, reviewing The Crows of Deliverance in Times Literary Supplement, noted the difficulties in translating Verma's Hindi works into English. "His mastery of succinct detail, controlled epiphany, and impressionistic evocation of setting is, however, virtually impossible to emmulate; it is equally difficult to convey in another language the careful cadences of his imagistic prose," Hussein observed.
Another of Verma's collections of short stories, The World Elsewhere and Other Stories, fared better in translation, having been "translated with intuition and sensitivity," wrote Maria Couto in Times Literary Supplement. The book "brings to the Western reader a glimpse of the variety of Indian literature, whose vibrant, multilingual profusion is virtually unknown outside the subcontinent." Navtej Sarna had similar remarks about Verma's novel, The Last Wilderness, writing in Times Literary Supplement that the book "points the way to the immense treasure that lies hidden in the literature of the Indian languages, awaiting a wider audience." The novel's narrator arrives in a sleepy mountain town to serve as secretary to civil servant Mehra Sahib. He was hired by Sahib's wife, Diva, to help the aging Sahib. The narrator strikes up a fledgling relationship with Tiya, Sahib's daughter by his first wife. However, tragedy befalls the community when Diva is stricken by cancer, leaving the narrator feeling like "a parasite whose very existence was contingent upon the extinction of another," Verma wrote. The grief of Diva's death is surpassed only when Sahib himself dies. "The novel itself becomes a gripping examination of the time before death: how memories jostle for space, how internal dialogue of the sprit take place, how man himself becomes fragmented into different time-spaces," Sarna wrote, until it becomes, Verma observed, "impossible to tell which is the last and final copy."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary World Writers, Girdhar Rathi, biography of Nirmal Verma, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1993.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1991, review of The Crows of Deliverance, p. 889.
MultiCultural Review, July, 1992, Michael Cain, review of The Crows of Deliverance, p. 54.
New York Times Book Review, August 21, 1988, Carolyn See, "Shame in Simla," review of The World Elsewhere and Other Stories, p. 35.
Publishers Weekly, August 9, 1991, review of The Crows of Deliverance, p. 53.
Times Literary Supplement, October 28, 1988, Maria Couto, "Threads and Shards," review of The World Elsewhere and Other Stories, p. 1212; October 11, 1991, Aamer Hussein, "Vision of India, Voices of Exile," review of The Crows of Deliverance, p. 22; October 25, 2002, Navtej Sarna, "Under a Sequined Sky," review of The Last Wilderness, p. 22.
World Literature Today, spring, 1992, Susheela N. Rao, review of The Crows of Deliverance, pp. 405-406; winter, 1997, Susheela N. Rao, review of Such a Big Yearing & Other Stories, p. 227; summer, 1998, A. L. McLeod, The Red Tin Roof, p. 688; winter, 2000, Prasenjit Gupta, "Refusing the Gaze: Identity and Translation in Nirmal Verma's Fiction,", critical essay on Nirmal Verma, p 53; winter, 2001, Satish C. Aikant, review of India and Europe: Selected Essays, p. 106.
Literate World Web site,http://www.literateworld.com/ (July 11, 2003), Rajesh Ranjan, interview with Nirmal Verma.
South Asian Literary Recordings Project,http://www.loc.gov/acq/ovop/delhi/salrp/ (July 11, 2003), biography of Nirmal Verma.
Tribune Web site (India), http://www.tribuneindia.com/ (July 8, 2001), Akshaya Kumar, "Reviving Indian Identity," review of India and Europe: Selected Essays. *