Mukhopadhyay, Aju. The World of Sri Aurobindo’s Creative Literature. New Delhi: Authors Press, 2013. ISBN: 978-81-7273-696-5. (HB) pp. 161. Price: Rs. 600.
The World of Sri Aurobindo’s Creative Literature is one of the finest books written on Sri Aurobindo. The book is a comprehensive study of the seer-poet’s literary creations which are the gems in Indian English Literature. The book has total twelve chapters divided into four sections: Introduction, Poetry, Dramas and Short Stories.
The introductory part has detailed description of Sri Aurobindo’s life and works. From his being a true poet since his childhood to dour days in his education and qualifying in the ICS examination for the satisfaction of his parents. The author discusses “the Himalayan heights of his personality” and justifies him as “a classical scholar” like Dante.
Sri Aurobindo was inspired by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Anandmath and PB Shelley’s The Revolt of Islam as well as Swami Vivekanand. Being a voracious reader, Aurobindo studied the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and India’s all sacred texts. It was the influence of these scriptures and his time that he believed in “Spiritual Nationalism”. It is his highest order of spiritual perception that he “lives in the minds of the people mainly as a yogi and philosopher, at the most as a great thinker.”
The author illustrates various poems of Sri Aurobindo (nature, romantic and mystic). By thorough study of his poetry, the author finds that Sri Aurobindo was greatly attracted by the English poets like Shelley, Keats, Coleridge, Matthew Arnold, Lord Tennyson, Swinburne, Stephen Phillips and the Greek poetry.
Besides his first volume of poetry, Songs to Myrtilla, having fine poems written between 1890 and 1892, the present book has a detailed analysis of Aurobindo’s greatest creation Savitri. The author makes comparison between Savitri and The Life Divine and asserts that “One is a poem and the other is a philosophy in prose.” Savitri has “spiritual content in poetic form, … , it is really not poetry in the usual sense but spiritual poetry of the future.”
There are various references of different writers and critics: AB Purani, Ann Margaret Robinson, P Lal, Keki N Daruwala, KD Sethna, Satprem, KR Srinivasa Iyengar, Nissim Ezekiel, Sisir Kumar Ghose, Ronald Nixon, James Cousin, Sir Herbert Read, Peter Heehs, Prema Nandakumar, Bernard M Jackson and some more in which Ann Margaret Robinson hails Sri Aurobindo as “A supreme master of English poetic expression and the greatest innovator in this language since Shakespeare.” Being honest to his work the author does not forget to put the criticism on Sri Aurobindo’s literary creations in which P Lal stands first.
Among dramas Perseus the Deliverer, Rodogune, The Viziers of Bassora, Eric and Vasavadutta have been discussed in depth and detail. The author describes that the first two plays have Syrian background and they are the results of Greek influence. The third play has the story from the Tales of the Arabian Nights told by Shahrazad in six nights to the king. It is a story that made the king spellbound, forgetting to kill the teller for her stories which continued for a long time. Eric, a romantic comedy, has setting in Norway and deals with different small kingdoms and earldoms fighting with each other for supremacy without paying heed to national unity. In the play Eric emerges as the most powerful king. In all these plays love and fate play a dominant role.
Vasavadutta is also a romantic play but this has setting on Indian soil. In this play “love triumphs against the regal power. It is a very sweet love story where the hero and heroine win against all ods by the force of love. It is taken from Somadeva’s Sanskrit storehouse of stories, Kathasaritsagara, a favourite source of Indian romance and drama.”
The last section of the book “Short Stories” covers a number of stories written by Sri Aurobindo. Some of them are: “Svapna” (A Dream), “Kshamar Adarsha” (The Ideal of Forgiveness), “Karakahini” (Tales of Prison Life), “Golden Bird”, “The Phantom Hour”, “The Devil’s Mastiff” and “The Door at Abelard”.
The author, Aju Mukhopadhyay has done a good job by producing such book, The World of Sri Aurobindo’s Creative Literature, which is comprehensive on its subject. He has approached every aspect of Sri Aurobindo’s literary world with plenty of relevant references that make the book a must read for the teachers and researchers interested in exploring Sri Aurobindo’s life and works in particular and Indian English literature in general.
Reviewed by Dr. Vijay Kumar Roy
A bilingual poet, writer, editor and critic
New Delhi, INDIA.