In September-October, 2017, Coldnoon celebrated six years of publishing, and travelling with you. To mark our anniversary, we got together with writers, intellectuals and stalwarts of the art of thinking (and travelling). Here is an interview with Rupen Guha Mazumdar.

 

We believe, in making travel arrangements, we subconsciously tend to eliminate possibilities which we deem unfit to perceived etiquette or norms, or occasions. Our understanding of travel is based on premises that define what travelling is not. Is writing for you a similar activity, where you are conscious of what writing is not? If so, what according to you is not writing?

Not writing is, simply, not becoming. Yet paradoxically, ‘becoming’ can also engender the seeds of metabolic and psychic annihilation. To be or not to be is the question that involves the words, words, words which may pull the questioner — as Hamlet realized — in either direction, life or death…or the twilight area in between…

I try starting to write or continuing to write at any given point with a positive rather than a negative rationale and impulse, even though despair and discord may be  predominant tropes in the prevalent universe; even though I may be speaking of death  or its aftermath in poignant elegies, even though that rough beast of the Gaelic poet still slouches towards Bethlehem to be born. I would say the same for travel and not agree entirely that it is based on premises that define what travel is not. The wander lust of travel is only the persistent , peripatetic echo of the wonder lust of writing! Or vice versa. Inspiration thrives with demoniacal fervor. A forest fire burns itself out , negates itself, but its presence rather than its absence of being illuminates the imagination in the wake of fleeing antelopes and birds and locusts. I do not have wisdom enough to affirm what writing is not since I have not been groomed with the knowledge of absolute parameters of inarticulation , as Edward Munch shows us in his painting, The Scream of Nature; but I’d prefer to identify with the maelstrom of writing to the impasse of its dark and dubious antithesis.

 

In 1794, the French author, Xavier de Maistre, wrote the renowned book, Voyage Around my Room, during a month and a half of solitary confinement, in consequence of a duel. Besides being a satire on the contemporary literary culture of voyages and adventures of colonial sailors to prospective new worlds, the book proved to be a demonstration of how an individual is almost always travelling, but perhaps does not recognize the value of their domestic travels, mobility or even touristic acquisitions. How do you see or understand travelling? Do you think it is a necessary activity for a writer?

Besides writing (poetry, prose and drama), I’d like to be known for the art that I have embodied, aligned with and upheld since early childhood. I began to sketch surrounding objects and figures, conflicting representative ideas of progress and beauty — using soft lead pencils, ink  and water color,  when I was about six years old.

Much later I used oil paint on canvas and also the medium of soft-stone, wood and bronze to give shape and strength to sculptures. I also feel the importance of interpreting with illustrations literary texts in acts of recreation and belief.

I think it was the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who pointed out about the phenomena of continuous flux in the universe, atomic particles and molecules are in a constant state of motion between separate coordinates in space and time. Such inexhaustible trajectories of motion endorse the necessity and reality of travel. But one would like to believe that travel, like writing, is not an end in itself; it is not an endgame that inevitably matures, ripens and falls following a foreseen or not so foreseen denouement. Travel, also incorporates its introspective pause, the necessary halting at overcrowded inns at the penultimate points of the births of saviours or upholders of the word. Motion and motionlessness, potential and kinetic energy, Purusha and Prakriti, are the dual attributes of a fundamental dialectic of creation. Travel is not only a question of necessity. It is the primordial, paradoxical present continuous tense that was instilled on the seventh day of creation! Implying, the present, the now; and the continuous, the onward.

 

Your favorite or most striking lines by another author; or if you will, any composed by yourself?

Prospero is amazed that his daughter Miranda remembers the particular details of her childhood so remarkably, after being exiled along with him beyond the shores of royal Milan for so many years. He asks her with surprise:

But how is it
That this lives in thy mind? What seest thou else
In the dark-backward and abysm of time? (Shakespeare, The Tempest, I.Sc.ii, 48-50)

This is surely one of my favourite quotations from world literature.

 

Do respond to the following words:

“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.”— Philip K. Dick

From Cervantes to Goya, Artaud and right down to Peter Weiss and Philip K. Dick — the fundamental tension existing between the irrational and the rational dimensions of cognition within our urban predicament and in nature, has sought to express the latent and incorrigible dichotomy across millennia through a host of literary , artistic and dramatic forms and symbols — magic realism, science fiction, surrealism, cubism ,the absurd, the supernatural, even the post-modern

The fable of Don Quixote de la Mancha has surely transcended the absurdity of his delusions, his warped, Andalusian, jousting indulgences, his histrionic challenge of windmills he imagines to be giant antagonists seeking his annihilation.  Goya’s Pesadilla in ‘Witches and Old Women Album’, Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom,  internalizes  the tropes of the lunatic asylum  in graphic or hysterical terms and provides the basis of Peter Weiss’s contemporary view on the subject in The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade.

Likewise Antonin Artaud’s vision of a mythic cruelty geared through the body’s dismemberment in Spurt of Blood and his adaptation of Shelley’s Cenci with it’s post Jacobean revival  of the nightmare of incest, move in the same direction , as does Huysmans, in a lighter, nineteenth century, self righteous, Parisian decadence, in A Rebours (Against Nature).  Henry Fuseli (The Nightmare) and his friend, William Blake (The Ghost of a Flea)  have been known to solicit the irrational presence of subterranean, Gothic monsters who straddle the breathless chests of innocent dreamers in lace draped gowns , while in another locale takes place the  Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

Kafka’s series of twisted and imposed acts of metamorphoses (In the Penal Colony; The Trial)  Aldous Huxley’s drug-induced, concupiscent,  psychedelic images  of urbanity(Island ; Eyeless in Gaza) floating upwards into the murky , smoke filled sky of modernism between the two World Wars, viewing through the looking glass the invidious Holocaust — all portray the crucial intertextuality of the sane and the insane as a dialectic which cannot so easily be disengaged from each other without  the immediate price of bloodshed, terror and alienation.

If there is a text, there is a sub-text; if there is a human world, there is an underworld, if there is decorum, there is chaos, closely related in special, interrogative ways— as epic heroes like Odysseus, Aeneas, Dante discover when they descend to the underworld, in order to complete their knowledge, in their catabasis,  to proceed meaningfully in their worldly journeys ahead. Each of them return to the surface of the rational world following their itinerary across chaos and the River Styx in a passage that  amounts to, ostensibly, a divine comedy.

Philip K. Dick in The Man in the High Castle (1962)  attempts through science fiction to reconcile the apparent antinomies of the rational and irrational perceptions of modern  history just like his predecessors have tried before him. And when battle worn George finally asks his wife, Martha, “Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” she answers  on behalf of both, the day after their walpurgisnacht, the long night of the witches dance, as Goya might have visualized, “I am George, I am…”


What do you think of Coldnoon?

I think of Coldnoon as an excellent and enterprising journal, fulfilling the significant role of travelling across unknown and refracting the landscapes of culture and the mind of the multitude…bringing together…what else? The sane and the insane in a robust anniversary moment of self awareness!

 

Rupendra Guha Mazumdar

Rupendra Guha Mazumdar

Dr. Rupendra Guha Majumdar retired as Associate Professor, Department of English, Delhi University in 2016. A Visiting Fulbright Fellow in the English Department at Yale University (1981-82 and 1992-93) and Scholar-in-Residence in Suffolk University, Boston (2014-15), his book, Central Man: The Paradox of Heroism in Modern American Drama, was published by Peter Lang (Brussels) in 2003. He has published four books of poetry in English between 1971 and 1990 (Blunderbuss, Apu’s Initiation, Tomcat, The Hiroshima Clock); he has contributed articles to the Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama, (2007), and to several anthologies and journals in India and abroad; he has translated Rabindranath Tagore’s play, Roktokorobi (Red Oleanders) into English for The Essential Tagore (Harvard University Press,2011). His other active interests include painting, sculpting, photography, Indian folk music (especially East Bengali, Goalporiya and Rajasthani), theatre, architecture and traveling. While hailing from Bengal, he has been living in the city of Delhi over the last four decades since his MA days.

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