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Collected & Arranged by Tridib Mitra
(Since 1961 when the Movement started, till date, there have been many articles written on the subject, in
Prof Howard McCord
Poetry of Chaos and Death
Every attitude has its poetry, and a small, neat nation may, in one age, present a singularly unified attitude and its poetry to the world, as did
India produces many kinds of poetry; I am familiar only with that in English, and it falls roughly into three categories. The first is simply bad: the sentimental outpourings of the young or heartsick; formal and bombastic occasional verse; a gauche and florid romanticism: grotesque prayers and pious exhortations, and such like, all of which suffer from banality, false emotion, and technical incompetence. The second is compromised and serious, often well-written poems which sometimes move me but most often seem too dependent on the poetic traditions of England a generation or more ago, and the bland and inoffensive taste of the upper middle class. These works exist in the limbo of the lukewarm, and represent a timid art that dares neither to hate nor love too much. Like our own academic verse, these poems reflect calm intelligence, tamed passion and the polite despairs of gentlemen born into a world they never made. The poems are cultured, introspective, sensitive, and are most true to the plight of the Indian estranged from his own culture by his mastery of English, but whose situation is tolerable, and who would not admit that poetry is a criminal occupation. These are sincere and harmless poems, and aside from a little local colour, could have been written in Leeds or
The poetic vision of the Hungry Generation erupted in Bengal five years ago, and has rapidly spread to such cities like
The energy of the poets is hysterical: the imagery of the poem is obscene. It is meant to be. But I take obscenity to be a just and natural reaction to a vile existence.. Obscenity is the desperate music of poets who dare speak out against the rape of mind and soul that marks our demented and vicious civilization. Obscenity is the last attempt by honest men to speak their agony to those who torture them. Obscenity is a moral weapon with which to attack the degrading and filthy use of power that characterizes our age, and assert contempt for the managers of our lives.
These poets say what poets and prophets have said for a hundred years---that our civilization is desperately sick, that our consciousness is polluted, our values murderous. They are outraged at the cruel and deliberate waste of beauty and intelligence that world culture represents, and sickened by the perversions of life our societies demand. Their poems record the ugly, numbing truth that most men delight in these horrors, lust after their own destruction, and fear life insanely. The poets are nihilists. They are pessimists. And most will die before their time. But each of them has a vision of what man ought to be, and should be, and their poetry stems from the sad knowledge of what he is. I value their work most because it is an honest response to the reality of life in
Malay Roychoudhury, a young Bengali poet, has been a central figure in the Hungry Generation’s attack on the Indian cultural establishment since the Movement began in the early sixties. The Indian press believes to this day that the group’s origins can be traced to the 1962 Indian visit of Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and Gary & Jeanne Snyder. But however stimulating the visit of these American poets, however inspired by such writers as Artaud, Genet, Michaux, Burroughs, Miller, and Celine, I believe the Movement is autochthonous and stems from the profound dislocations of Indian life.
There was little notice of the Movement in the United States until 1963 when City Lights Journal carried news of the group; In 1964 the Hungrealist Manifestoes appeared in KULCHUR#15, and EL CORNO EMPLUMADO and EVERGREEN REVIEW printed letters telling of the Movement’s legal difficulties. For in the autumn of 1964, as many learned from a November issue of TIME, six poets of the Hungry Generation, Malay Roychoudhury, Saileswar Ghosh, Subhas Ghose and Pradip Choudhuri, had been arrested and charged with conspiring to produce and distribute an obscene book in violation of Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code. The book was an anthology of their writings, and STARK ELECTRIC JESUS was Malay Roychoudhury’s contribution. At their arrest, all were suspended from their jobs, and when I saw them in June 1965, they had been out of work nearly ten months. Later that summer charges were dropped against five, but the prosecution of Malay Roychoudhury continued. On 28 December 1965 he was found guilty by a
In spite of prosecution and harassment, the Hungry Generation has continued to produce and publish poetry and prose. Acid, destructive, morbid, hallucinatory, nihilistic, outrageous, obscene, mad, shrill---these characterize the terrifying and cleansing visions that the Hungrealists insist Indian literature must endure. With few exceptions, contemporary Indian literature is school master’s stuff: pallid, otiose, and dull. It is timid and moralistic, and when it is not politely realistic, it is romantic and aimlessly and endlessly philosophical. Bhabani Bhattacharya and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala are among the exceptions, the one possessing a dank tartness like that of Albert Cossery, the other the lucid wit of Jane Austin. But only the Hungry Generation, excluded from the academies and the literary aristocracy, can the fullness of urgency and despair be seen, for they more than any other group have realized that there is very possibly no hope for India, that what lies ahead is chaos and collapse. They are not revolutionaries, only mourners. Revolution is pointless when betrayal has been so deep. All that remain is to protest, scream, love everything to foolishness---especially
(Courtesy: Tribal Press, Washington DC. 1965)
The Indian P.E.N.
The Hungry Generation
The Hungry Generation Movement in Bengali literature, which took
The major Hungry Generation writers and poets are in their late forties now: Subimal, Malay, Basudeb, Subhas, Saileswar, Pradip and others. They have always been at the receiving end from the media due to their uncompromising stand. Except for Debi Ray, who broke with the Hungries quite early, none of them are invited to participate in the national or regional TV and radio programmes, official workshops/seminars/recitals/readings.
The Hungry writers, better known as the Hungry Generation, are immensely popular among students and young writers today, as they are considered the voice of conscience in a Bengali society shattered by internecine political struggles of the post-partition years. Interesting, though, the Hungry Generation writers, poets and artists do not function as a group any more. But they remain the only avant garde figures in Bengali literature, always experimenting, always questioning, expressing themselves in ultimate terms. “The Movement”, as the renowned critic Dr Uttam Das has said, “is an important event in the history of
Malay Roychoudhury(b. 1939), the towering avant garde poet who pioneered the Hungry movement in Bengali literature, is a legend by himself. Still uncompromising, and therefore not supported by the Bengali media, all his collections have so far been published by his friends and relatives. Despite being hailed by TIME magazine as an outstanding poet, he remains as controversial as he was in 1961 when he entered the literary scene in
Malay had given up writing sometime in 1966 after some of his friends has betrayed and testified against him. But he returned with a vengeance in 1983, and took the Bengali scene by storm. His poems have been translated into almost all Indian languages as well as into Spanish, German, French, Russian and Italian. He has translated Ginsberg, Lorca and Neruda into Bengali. Malay’s collection of verse includes Shoytaner Mukh, Jakham, Kabita Sankalan, and the recently published collection revealing violence, fear and agony, in Medhar Batanukul Ghungur.
Although once the leader of the fierce Hungry Generation movement, Malay now lives the life of a recluse in
(Courtesy: Prof Nissim Ezekiel, Editor, The Indian P.E.N., Mumbai, 1987)
The Hungryalist Controversy
No other literary event has consistently remained as controversial in Bengali literature during this century as the Hungryalist movement since its eruption in 1961. This literary movement was launched by Malay Roychoudhury, Subimal Basak, Debi Ray, Saileswar Ghose, Basudeb Dasgupta, Tridib Mitra, Subhas Ghose, Falguni Ray and Arunesh Ghose who were in their early twenties at that time. They had coined Hungryalism from the word ‘Hungry’ used by Geofrey Chaucer in his poetic line In The Sowre Hungry Tyme. The central theme of the movement was Oswald Spengler’s idea of History, that an ailing culture feeds on cultural elements brought from outside. These writers felt that Bengali culture had reached its zenith and was now living on alien food.
The majority of Bengalies having almost an instinctive inclination for Marxist ideology during the post-independence era, Oswald Spengler’s prophecy of doom and disaster was the first salvo of controversy which made the Hungryalists unacceptable to leftist media and professors for almost two decades. It was the individual genius of such authors as novelist Subimal Basak and poet Malay Roychoudhury that the barriers were broken. Subsequent researchers such as Dr Uttam Das of Calcutta University, Prof Nandalal Sharma of Chittagong University and Prof Howard McCord of Washington State University, however, had explained that the social commitment in the Hungryalist writers over the years alleviated the fear of political leftists. The contribution of Prof Sankha Ghosh of
All of these poets and writers had a lower income-group background and the milieu contributed a special suburban nuance in their writings. The established Bengali critics being overtly and covertly being elitist in the 1960s, detested this milieu, and the Hungryalists became controversial. Even their habits, dress sense, choice of words, friends circle became controversial issues. However, over the years as these writers and poets became financially in a better position, things changed, and the tenor of such criticism gradually faded out. One of the Hungryalists, viz., Debi Roy, became Secretary of Indian Writers Association.
Another element of controversy has been the way of their expression which probably did not suit the sophisticated Bengali intelligentsia. Initially they used to publish handbills which carried their writings, and these used to be distributed in
The main controversy obviously relates to their writings. Subimal Basak’s Chhatha Matha is a novel written in the dialect of East Bengali tongawallas which captures the very essence of the street life of a decaying generation, of people who have lost their origin, of disaster and beyond. The language is difficult as it is not spoken by all. The raging controversy is whether such a work can be called a piece of Art. The amusing part of this controversy is that the book, when read out to the common man of East Bengali origin, is understandable to him because it is his language which the upper class people have taken care to forget.
Malay Roychoudhury is not only a controversial Hungryalist but probably is the most controversial poet among the Bengalies today. He was even arrested and sentenced for one of his poems by a lower court, although the High Court rescinded that order in 1966. But his poems remain at a distance from the general run of Bengali poets. As his publisher’s write-up says, if poetry can be deadly then he is the deadliest of Bengali poets; the designs of his poems are sinister, the images are violent and vicious. His poems are a bizarre world of flashing knife, midnight knocks, slaughtered rainbows and battered rivers, as if the poet is an antisocial character. In his poem Alo (Light) Malay has depicted the use of light in a torture chamber where light is not enlightening but is negative.
Basudeb Dasgupta in his collection of short stories Randhanshala had a remarkable idea of transplanting revolution. The hero of the story stirs the water in a glass with his finger, and cuts off the ripple of water with a blade for fixing it on the head of his friend to make the hair curly. This has been objected to by many critics as simplification of idealism. In his latest novel Mrityuguha, Basudeb has raked up the controversy again in which the hero washes utensils, and sings the ‘International’ with his pupils where he is a teacher.
The controversies do not end here. The Hungryalists insist that they are unable to forget their past. If you invite them for a dinner, they may belch and fart openly, sit cross-legged on the sofa,, make slurping-chomping sound while eating, laugh loudly, use incorrect English, talk in Hindi or Bengali, use shabby dresses and shoes, humiliate the bourgeois, get drunk, etc. A Hungryalist will try to prove that he is hundred percent Indian. Some of the major Hungryalists have even refused invitations to foreign universities or poetry readings. This might be one of the reasons why they are not invited by Doordarshan (Govt TV Channel), although Subimal Basak had been invited to attend seminars organized by Bharat Bavan of
The various controversies have actually strengthened the position of the Hungryalists authors, inasmuch as they have revealed the tenacity of independent thinking against all odds, which incidentally is in short supply among the present day Indian intellectuals who are always at the beck and call of the Establishment. Through these controversies the Hungryalist authors have proved their Indianness as well as their sincerity, that they are the only avant garde in Bengali culture today, that they are the voice of conscience, that they are the hope for the future. Controversy is essential for any living society. By being controversial the Hungryalists have consistently tried to capture and retain the centre-stage of Bengali culture, since various vested interests have been trying to dislodge them from that place during the last thirty years. But the Hungryalists are here to stay, and ignoring them will be crime towards Art and literature.
(Courtesy: U.S.Bahri, Editor, Language News, Shahadra, Delhi. 1988)
Dr Indrajit Bhattacharjee
The Hungry Generation Movement in Bangla literature and painting, also known as Hungryalism, Hungrealism, Hungry Andolon, Sarvagrasa, Khutkatar, Khsudharta, Bhukhi Peedhi, which shook post-colonial Bangla culture with an intensity comparable to the impact of pre-colonial Young Bengal social movement, was the brain-child of Malay Roychoudhury who, after his post-graduation, was working on an essay on ‘the philosophy of history’, when he came across the book The Decline of the West written by Oswald Spengler. Though Malay did not accept the Spenglerian philosophy, he was impressed with the argument that history should not be construed in a linear progression, but flowering of a number of cultural inclinations, each with a characteristic spiritual tone, or conception of the space within which they act. This was a decisive break with the Hegelian concept of history as a process governed by reason.
For 22 year old Malay, who had already conceived of a programme to launch a movement in Bangla literature and painting, Spengler cast a spell in view of the post-colonial and post-partition nightmare that had overtaken Bangla culture, especially when compared to the time and space of 19th century Bangla renaissance. Oswald Spengler’s metaphor was biological. That is, cultures go through a self-contained process of growing, reaching a crescendo, and withering away. This decay may be withstood if the culture feeds on alien diet. A culture is self-creative during ascendancy, but once the rot sets in, the culture, instead of creating from within, starts engulfing and assimilating contributions from outside. Its demand for outside elements becomes insatiable during descend. This process was termed as hunger by Malay when he came across Geoffrey Chaucer’s stunning line ‘In The Sowre Hungry Tyme’. In 1959-1960, post-partition Bangla polity was definitely on the downslide of sour time of putrefaction. Today, when we look at
Socio-cultural sarvagrasa, or devouring as a concept, that Malay was trying to put into a contemporary mould, had Indian puranic connotations inasmuch as lord Shiva became sarvagrasi when he drank the poison that up-welled in the aftermath of churning of the seas (samudra manthana) by gods and demons in order to protect the universe. Initially Malay had decided to use the term ‘Sarvagrasi Prajanma’ or the ‘Devouring Generation’. He felt, quite rightly, that such a term would not be authentically acceptable, and may even carry wrong signals. He opted for the words ‘Hungry Generation’.
The word Hunger or ‘Khaoa’ in Bengali is used as a signifier for various activities. For example, one may eat the breeze for a stroll, eat a somersault for a loss, eat money for bribe, eat happiness for a contended life, eat cannabis for incorrect message, eat broomstick for dismissal, eat the head for spoiling, eat fear to get terrorized, and many such images are commonplace with the word ‘Hungry’ in Bangla. Later, when a large number of writers, poets and painters joined the movement, ‘Hungry’ was open to interpretation in a manner that a particular participant preferred. This open-endedness would have been difficult with the words ‘Devouring Generation’. Nevertheless, the appellation had later been banalised by some participants, especially by those who were trying to re-root in
In the ‘Overviews’ which Malay wrote for Postmodern Bangla Poetry (2001) and Postmodern Bangla Short Stories (2002) both edited by his elder brother Samir (one of the founder member of the movement), he has elaborated upon the cultural, aesthetic, socio-political, literary-historical factors which forced the movement to burst upon the Bangla space in November 1961. I would prefer to draw on his arguments that, like in any other language, Bangla literary modernism had its own contradiction between radical disruption of form and traditionalism of content and ideology, as were exemplified in pre-Hungryalist literatre, inasmuch as Parichay(1931), Kallol (1932) etc periodicals were managed, written, defined and canonized within Kolkatacentric middle class values, and identified themselves with the occidental canons and discourses, whereas Krittibas (1953) and Notun Reeti (1958) adopted a mode of counter-identification by staying within the governing structure of above ideas, with a mix of Soviet discourse in case of some authors. They combined aesthetic self-consciousness and formalist experimentation. The Hungryalists wanted to go beyond the structure of oppositions and sanctioned negations of the discourse through de-identification. Krittibas and Notun Reeti poets and writers had ultimately degenerated into traffickers of immoral discourse which completely destroyed the achievements of 19th century reformers. The Hungryalist movement aspired to locate itself in an essentially adversarial relation to aesthetic realism.
Malay discussed his ideas with his friend Debi Ray, elder brother Samir, and Samir’s friend Shakti Chattopadhyay, and all of them agrred to launch the movement by publishing a weekly bulletin to be funded by Malay, and if required, by Samir. Shakti was requested to take up leadership, a decision later regretted by both Samir and Malay as a socio- aesthetic blunder, a decision for which they were criticized by participants who had subsequently joined the movement. Debi Ray, whose real name is Haradhon Dhara, was to be editor, and his
However, there were printing problems at the outset as the printing presses at
WEEKLY MANIFESTO OF THE HUNGRY GENERATION
Editor: Debi Ray Leader: Shakti Chatterjee
Poetry is no more a civilizing maneuver, a replanting of the bamboozled gardens; it is a holocaust, a violent and somnambulistic jazzing of the hymning five, a sowing of the tempestual Hunger.
Poetry is an activity of the narcissistic spirit. Naturally, we have discarded the blankety-blank school of modern poetry, the darling of the press, where poetry does not resurrect itself in an orgasmic flow, but words come out bubbling in an artificial muddle. In the prosed- rhyme of those born-old half-literates, you must fail to find that scream of desperation of a thing wanting to be man, the man wanting to be spirit.
Poetry of the younger generation too has died in the dressing room, as most of the younger prosed -rhyme writers, afraid of the Satanism, the vomitous horror, the self-elected crucifixion of the artist that makes a man a poet, fled away to hide in the hairs.
Poetry from Achintya to Ananda and from Alokeranjan to Indraneel, has been cryptic, short-hand, cautiously glamorous, flattered by own sensitivity like a public school prodigy. Saturated with self-consciousness, poems have begun to appear from the tomb of logic or the bier of unsexed rhetoric.
The bulletin, which appears quite innocent today, had taken Kolkata by storm, as Debi Ray had arranged to get it distributed in one single day at the intellectual joints, offices of periodicals and college campuses. There was no cultural precedence to this kind of literary behavior for people to relate to. The move had attacked all strata of the Establishment and annoyed anyone who mattered. However, Shakti felt disturbed because of references to the four poets named in the last paragraph. The bulletin was, therefore, reprinted in December 1961 wherein the last paragraph was changed, and an additional paragraph added, as under:-
“Poetry around us these days has been cryptic, shorthand, cautiously glamorous, flattered by own sensitivity like a public-school prodigy. Saturated with self-consciousness, poems have begun to appear from the tomb of logic or the bier of unsexed rhetoric.
Poetry is not the caging of belches within form. It should convey the brutal sound of the breaking values and startling tremors of the rebellious soul of the artist himself, with words stripped of their usual meaning and used contrapuntally. It must invent a new language which would incorporate everything at once, speak to all the senses in one. Poetry should be able to follow music in the power it posses of evoking a state of mind, and to present images not as wrappers but as ravishograms.”
The revised bulletin was again reprinted in 1962. In November 1963 it was printed for a third time under the heading ‘The Hungryalist Manifesto on Poetry’, and names of 25 participants printed on the flip-side. Meanwhile several other manifestoes and bulletins were published and distributed freely, which caused the number of participants to cross 40 in January 1964. Samir had brought in his friends Sandipan Chattopadhyay, Utpalkumar Basu and Binoy Majumdar; Malay had brought in his friends Subimal Basak, Sambhu Rakshit, Tapan Das, Anil Karanjai and Karuna Nidhan Mukhopadhyay; Subimal Basak had brought in his friends Tridib Mitra, Alo Mitra and Falguni Ray; Shakti had brought in Arupratan Basu, Pradip Choudhuri and Basudeb Dasgupta; Debi Ray had brought in Subo Acharya, Subhas Ghosh, Satindra Bhowmik, Haranath Ghose, Nihar Guha, Saileswar Ghosh, Amritatanay Gupta, Ramananda Chattopadhyay, Sunil Mitra, Shankar Sen, Bhanu Chattopadhyay, Ashok Chattopadhyay, Jogesh Panda and Manohar Das. Anil and Karuna, who were painters, brought in painters Subir Chatterjee, Bibhuti Chakrabarty, Arun Datta and Bibhas Das into the fold of the movement. Hungry Generation had become a socio-cultural force to reckon with.
In view of such a large and unwieldy gathering, and frequent one-page publications, certain events took place which never had happened earlier. Rajkamal Choudhry carried the movement into the domain of Hindi literature; Ameeq Hanfee into Urdu; ‘Pank Ghentey Pataley’ group in Assam; poet Parijat into Nepali literature; and a group in the then East Pakistan comprising of Rafeeq Azad, Abdullah Abu Sayeed, Abdul Mannan Sayad, Asad Choudhury, Shahidur Rahaman, Mustafa Anwar, Faruque Siddiqui, Mahadeb Saha, Shahnur Khan Kaji Rab carried the dynamics to Bangladeshi literature.
The movement gathered a decentering quality, inasmuch as each participant was free to publish a bulletin, which Shakti, Utpal, Binoy, Anil-Karuna and Rajkamal had done, though funded either by Malay or Samir. The handbill-type bulletins were also aesthetically anti-occidental, since they could not be preserved for an immortal space in history. More than 100 bulletins were published in the movement’s life-span between 1961 and 1965, out of which only a dozen or so are traceable.
Excepting for Debi Ray, Tridib and Alo Mitra, who were stationed at
From 1961 onward as the movement gathered momentum and participants, by 1963 it was on the verge of activating extrication from occidental canons and discourse, which was articulated in a trilingual (Bengali-Hindi-English) cylostyled bulletin by Subimal Basak and Rajkamal Choudhary, as under:-
4. Elite high-brow culture
8. Sex as known
13. Hatred as camouflage
14. Art films
16. Sugam sangeet( Tagore songs)
18. Tutored language
26. Conclusions inevitable
31. How am I
33. Accountants of prosody
34. Revising poems
35. Fantasy’s game
- Commoners’ culture
- Sex as Unknown
- Real hatred
- All films
- Any song
- Gut language
- Struck ethically
- No end to unfolding
- Thought provoker
- How are you
- Tattered and decanonised
- Continuous revision of life
At the peak of the movement, Binoy Majumdar developed schizoid problems. Shakti was pressurized by literary guardians to leave the movement and issue anti-Hungryalist statements. Sandipan Chattopadhyay was lured by a mass circulation
periodical with an assurance to publish his novel provided he leave the movement. Sunil Gangopadhyay, in his editorial in Krittibas, castigated the movement. As a result several fence-sitters were caught in an intellectual bind. These writers ultimately devoted themselves to prolific commercial writing. By the middle of 1964 only Utpal, Samir, Malay, Debi, Subimal, Subhas, Saileshwar, Pradip, Karuna, Anil, Tridib, Alo, Falguni, Subo and Ramananda remained in the movement.
The departure of fence sitters proved to be a positive factor. The process hastened the collapse of aesthetic realism, leading to gradual deconstruction and dissolution of high and subaltern cultural distinctions. Hungryalist texts developed subversive and multi-vocal semiotic and semantic features. The mono-centric correctness as demanded by the then ruling academicians were being constantly attacked by the participants. In case of prose writers such as Samir, Falguni, Subhas and Subimal, as well as in the dramas written by Malay, textual reality developed as complexities of heteroglossia.
The academic standards had started dwindling in
In order to denigrate the Hungryalist movement, the print-media based critics started comparing the Hungryalist movement with Angry Young Men of
It had become clear by the end of 1963 that three participants, viz. Malay, Debi and Subimal had become key figures of the movement who had picked up certain anti-establishment modules from stories about the activities of ‘Young Bengal’, Vidyasagar and Gandhi. They were being called the Hungry troika and cartoons on them started appearing in dailies such as Basumati, The Statesman and Jugantar.
Tabloids and glossy magazines such as Desh, Chatushparna, Darpan, Amrita, Now, Janata, Link, Anandabazar, Blitz, Naranari, Jalsa etc attempted to sensationalize news about the Hungryalists. The daily Jugantar wrote its main editorial, twice, for them. The daily Searchlight of
One evening Subimal was encircled and threatened in front of the College Street Coffee House (Albert Hall) by a literary group comprising of Bimal Raychoudhuri, Shankar Chattopadhyay, Pranabkumar Mukhopadhyay, Parbati Mukhopadhyay, Dipak majumdar, Sharat Kumar Mukhopadhyay, Belal Choudhuri, Bijon Ray, Rupendra Basu, Dhiresh Bagchi, Samir Sengupta, Tarapada Ray, Shanti Kumar Ghosh and Shakti Chattopadhyay. Sunil Gangopadhyay, who was in USA on a USAID funded trip, wrote a bizarre letter to Malay, a letter which has since gained special significance in Bangla literary history.
Meanwhile, the under-noted political manifesto created a great turmoil in the Bangla administration:-
- To depoliticize the soul of each solitary individual.
- To let every individual realize that existence is pre-political.
- To let it be noted historically that politics invites the man of the third quality, aesthetically the most lowest substratum of society, at its service.
- To make it clear that the conceptions of Elite and that of the Politician differ absolutely after the death of Gandhi.
- To declare the belief that all intellectual fakeries called political theory are essentially the founts of fatal and seductive lies erupting out of abominable irresponsibility.
- To demarcate the actual position of a politician in a modern society, somewhere between the dead body of a harlot and a donkey’s tail.
- To never respect a politician, to whatever species or organism he may belong to.
- To never escape from politics, and at the same time, neither let politics escape from the terror of our aesthetic being.
- To remodel the basis upon which political creeds are founded. __________________________________________________________________
Today, when we look at Indian politics we are stunned by this prophetic discourse delivered more than 40 years ago. The Hungryalists further confounded the situation by the slogan PLEASE REMOVE YOUR MASK printed on paper-masks of jokers, demons, animals, ghosts, Hindu gods/goddesses etc. and mailed to chief and other ministers, chief and other secretaries, district magistrates, police big bosses, commercial authors, newspaper editors, sundry politicians, that is, anyone who mattered. This action was a piece of sheer genius which has become a part of literary folklore. Another action comparable to actions of 19th century ‘Young Bengal’ was distribution of turmeric-smeared Hindu wedding cards complete with symbols of butterfly and palanquin wherein the ruling school of poetry was vehemently attacked, and the intellectuals indirectly called headless.
Manifestoes appeared regularly on short story, drama, religion, criticism, painting, discourse, obscenity, style, diction etc during the peak of 1963-64. Alongside, magazines edited by Hungryalists started appearing quite frequently. Malay edited Zebra; Tapan Das edited Pratibimba; Subimal edited Pratidwandi; Debi edited Chinho; Tridib & Alo edited Unmarga and Waste Paper; Shambhu edited Blues; Pradip edited Swakal/Phooo. The poems and fictions printed therein drew the attention of print-media writers who charged the authors to be swathed in sexual hunger. Literary and news-magazines whose hegemony was threatened, continued their tirade against the Hungryalists almost everyday.
Written and verbal complaints against the Hungryalists to the Chief Minister and Calcutta Police Commissioner continued pouring in. There were various allegations, including, conspiracy against the Establishment, corrupting the youth, defamation, violation of Press Act, obscenity, disruption of public decency etc. In the beginning of 1964 Kolkata was agog with rumours of an imminent action against Malay, Debi and Subimal, a scenario that even the Dadaists and Surrealists could not have contemplated. A Deputy Commissioner of Police who later became famous for Naxalite encounters was, incidentally, maternal uncle of a Krittibas group poet. Things obviously moved quite fast. Sunil Gangopadhyay had just arrived back from
On September 2nd, 1964 arrest warrants were issued against eleven Hungryalists on charges of conspiracy against the Establishment (Section 120 of Indian Penal Code) and obscenity in literature (Section 292 of Indian Penal Code). Samir, Malay, Subhas, Saileshwar, Debi and Pradip were arrested. Pradip was rusticated from Visva Bharati; Utpal was dismissed from his professor’s job; Malay and Samir were suspended from service; Debi and Subimal were transferred out of Kolkata by their employers. Samir and Malay had to present themselves before a specifically constituted ‘Investigating Board’ which interrogated them for several hours to find out whether they were really involved in any conspiracy.
This phase of the Hungryalist movement is the murkiest period in the history of Bangla literature. Shakti and Sandipan, who had moved out of the movement about a year back, volunteered and recorded testimonies against Malay Shakti on 18 February 1965 and Sandipan on 15 March 1965); Subo, Basudeb and Ramananda fled from Kolkata; Subhas and Saileshwar signed good-conduct bonds (on 2nd September 1964) indicating that they had nothing to do with the Hungry Generation movement, and that they will not associate with the movement in future. However, 40 years later when Hungry Generation movement became a legendary proposition,
obviously a salable one, these two brothers were the first to claim that they were the genuine Hungryalists! In view of the weak character of majority of the Hungryalists, who testified against Malay in Court, the movement withered away in May 1965. It was in May 1965 that Malay was charge- sheeted by Establishment police and all others were set free. (Case No. GR 579 of 1965, in the court of Presidency Magistrate, 9th court,
During the short span of 1961-65 the movement had created an indelible impact on Bangla literature. In an interview to Dhurjati Chanda, Malay had stated that Hungryalism was the first and the last iconoclastic venture in Bangla literature which in retrospect now appears to be a socio-political aesthetic triumph, that artistic freedom in which life was put at stake and the rules of which required brazen acts of impudence to be legitimized by manifestoes. In another interview he gave to Anadiranjan Biswas, Malay had said that the Hungryalist defiant ventures were attempts to wrest the power of definition, distinction and evaluation from those who claimed themselves to be authorities of literary discourse. The writers of West Bengal and Bangladesh who were called 50’s poet were writing pale and stale poems till 1959; they changed completely only after the implosion of the Hungryalist movement.
It is a different story that Malay had to go through a 35 month long ordeal of arrest, conviction by lower court ( on 28 December 1965) and ultimately exoneration by High Court of Calcutta. However, the movement did create a world wide stir that had brought Bangla literature in to international limelight again. Both English and Spanish versions of TIME magazine wrote about the movement. Periodicals in Europe, USA, Latin America, Australia and Asia such as City Lights Journal, SanFrancisco Earthquake, Eco, El Corno Emplumado, Kulchur, Klactoveedsedsteen, Burning Water, Intrpid, Salted Feathers, Evergreen Review, Panaroma, Trace, El Rehelite, Imago, Work, Iconolatre, Whe’re, Ramparts, Los Angeles Free Press, My Own Mag, Vincent etc either printed, reprinted or brought out special issues.
In Hindi, Sharad Deora wrote a novel titled College Street Ka Naya Masiha based on the Hungryalists; Phanishwarnath Renu wrote Ram Pathak Key Diary Sey; Dharmaveer Bharati and S.H.Vatsayan Ajneya wrote quite frequently about them in the periodicals they edited; Ashok Shahane, Dilip Chitre and Arun Kolatkar hailed them in Marathi; Umashankar Joshi introduced them to Gujarati readers; Ameeq Hanfee translated and introduced them to Urdu readers. The Bengali intelligentsia had not bargained for this unexpected international exposure. Reputed academicians of the time viz. Sukumar Sen, Asitkumar Bandyopadhyay, Haraprasad Mitra, Bhabatosh Datta, Ujjwalkumar Majumdar, Kshetra Gupta, Saroj Bandyopadhyay, Shashi Bhushan Dasgupta, Sukumari Bhattacharya, Debiprasad Bhattacharya, Bhudeb Choudhury, Tarapada Mukhopadhyay, Chinmohan Sehanabis and others preferred to ignore the movement. Some academicians even persuaded academicians of other languages to ignore the Hungryalist impact. Nevertheless, intellectuals from other countries, such as Octavio Paz and Ernesto Cardenal sought the Hungryalists when they visited
That the Hungryalist movement had shattered the colonial canons and had encircled the centre by a new epistemic periphery, became clear with emergence of powerful post-Hungryalist writers and poets such as Subimal Mishra, Arunesh Ghosh, Prasun Bandyopadhyay, Pradip Das Sharma, Atindriya Pathak, Kamal Chakraborty, Barin Ghoshal, Saswata Sikdar, Anuradha Mahapatra, Ajit Ray, Aloke Biswas, Pranab Pal, Sankarnath Chakraborty, Arun Basu, Sridhar Mukhopadhyay, Dipankar Datta, Debdas Acharya, Biswajit Sen, Achin Dasgupta, Bikash Sarkar, Abani Dhar, Nabarun Bhattacharya, Samiran Ghosh, Nitya Malakar, Manab Chakraborty, Aloke Goswami, Moulinath Biswas, Madhumay Pal, Koushik Chakraborty and a host of other writers. Any literary defiance, Hungryalism being the most potent in post-colonial Bangla literature, embodies the provocation of a literary code into a socio-cultural and political code. The ultra-leftist naxalite political explosion in Bangla polity occurred obviously immediately after the Hungryalist canonical implosion in literature and painting.
Some of today’s critics have opined that the main reason for aesthetic percolation of the spirit of the movement, and its power to withstand the steamroller of Establishment juggernaut, may be found in the range of experience and variety of erudition of the participants who refused to hang around vernacular newspaper offices or the joints of political masters as has been the case with most of the pre-Hungryalist writers, especially of Krittibas and Notun Reeti brands. Those wre also the contributory factors to Hungryalist texts which could gather propensities of hybridity, syncreticity, rhizomatism, heterogeneity, optativeness, disjunctiveness, immanence, irony, logical cracks etc; Hungryalist painting imbued de-layering, de-proportioning, multi-scaling, de-perspectivisation, de-structuring, fragmentariness and such other poly-hued mélanges. Poet Falguni Ray and painter Anil Karanjai have become underground cult figures after their death.
Two manifestoes of the Hungryalist movement which are quoted by critics either to argue for and against their texts are as under:-
1. To never imitate the reality of Aristotle, but to take the un-enameled whoring reality by surprise under the genital of Art.
2. To let speechlessness burst into speech without breaking the silence.
3. To let loose a creative furor, in order to undo the done-for world and start afresh from chaos.
4. To exploit every matrix of senses except that of a writer.
5. To disclose the belief that world and existence are justified only as an aesthetic phenomenon.
6. To accept all doubts and despairs rather than to be content to live with the sense made by others.
7. To lash out against the values of the bi-legged career-making animals.
8. To abjure all meretricious blandishments for the sake of absolute sincerity.
- The merciless exposure of the self in its entirety.
- To present in all nakedness all aspects of the self and things before it.
- To catch a glimpse of the exploded self at a particular moment.
- To challenge every value with a view to accepting or rejecting the same.
- To consider everything at the start to be nothing but ‘thing’ with a view to testing whether it is living or lifeless.
- Not to take reality as it is but to examine it in all its aspects.
- To seek to find out a mode of communication, by abolishing the accepted modes of prose and poetry which would instantly establish communication between the poet and his reader.
- To use the same words in poetry as are used in ordinary conversation.
- To reveal the sound of the word, used in ordinary conversation, more sharply in the poem.
- To break loose the traditional association of words and to coin unconventional and here-to-fore unaccepted combination of words.
- To reject traditional forms of poetry, and allow poetry to take its original forms.
- To admit without qualification that poetry is the ultimate religion of man.
- To transmit dynamically the message of the restless existence and the sense of disgust in a razor-sharp language.
- Personal ultimatum.
The reasons why these two manifestoes are referred to by critics while analyzing the movement in the perspective of preceding literary thinkers are that the arguments put forth were completely different from what Buddhadeva Basu, Dipti Tripathi, Abu Sayeed Ayub, Debiprasad Chattopadhyay, Al Mahmood, Shamsur Rahaman, Binoy Ghosh, Nirendranath Chakraborty, Shakha Ghosh etc had been articulating till then. The Hungryalists not only drew upon words, experiences, epithets, incidents, diction hitherto considered taboo by ‘bhadralok’ gentry, but they virtually dismantled the single dimension metropolitan domination of Bangla literature. They introduced grammatically prohibited ‘guruchandali’ in poetry and prose, that is, mixing of words used by Brahmins and Untouchables.
The Hungryalists were disgusted and impatient with the slothful, sluggish pace of change. When the famous ‘troika’ submitted a shoe-box for book review to the newspaper with largest circulation, an action that would have definitely been appreciated by Ramtanu Lahiri, Radhanath Sikdar and Pyarichand Mitra, the anti-Establishment luminaries of 19th century, the Hungryalists were waging war against canonical hegemony, and bombarding modernist boundaries.
The Hungryalist authors and painters nativised Bangla discourse. The above two manifestoes aspired to regain the pre-colonial philosophy of atman wherein culture and nature are not considered to be separate spheres. The two manifestoes refused to view culture as the product of traumatic self-extrication from nature. The pre-Hungryalist writers and painters reflexively depended upon the idea of culture as the formation of subjectivity out of the primitive unconsciousness of matter. The Hungryalists, on the contrary, were thrilled with an awareness of value immanent in the relations between the natural and the human as had been exemplified in the fictions Chhatamatha by Subimal Basak, Amar Chabi by Subhas Ghosh, Kather Phul by Falguni Ray, Randhanshala by Basudeb Dasgupta, prose pieces in Malay Roychoudhury’s Bhenno Galpo, and the poems Poper Samadhi by Utpalkumar Basu, Janoar and Aamar Vietnam by Samir Roychoudhury, Choushatti Bhuter Kheya by Pradip Choudhuri and Jakham by Malay Roychoudhury. All of these works are considered exceptional today.
After the movement withered away with the commencement of Malay’s trial, when Subhas, Saileswar, Sandipan and Shakti became police witness and testified against Malay in court, the writers and poets branched out of their own. Like most of the post-partition families, Subhas, Basudeb and Saileshwar joined the governmental leftists, participating in anti-people activities; Subo Acharya became devotedly religious and a disciple of god-man Anukul Thakur of Deoghar; Anil and Karuna joined the naxalite movement; Tridib and Alo gave up writing; Utpal departed for London; Pradip shifted his craft from Bengali to French; Falguni resorted to excessive drug abuse and died; Debi joined the Radical Humanists; Malay and Samir preferred to keep silent for more than a decade.
During the post-naxal period, 10-12 years after Malay’s trial, some literary aspirants in
With the re-emergence of Malay and Samir in the late 80s things have completely changed. A new generation of critics, academicians and readers has emerged for whom the Hungryalists are legends. Samir gave this observation a proper premise with his periodical Haowa 49. Malay, one may like to say, returned with a vengeance, and his novels, drama, poetry, essays, interviews, drew respectful attention of the earlier generation also who had once denigrated the Hungryalists. With the range of Hungryalist corpus, command over Bangla language, and the depth of knowledge and variety of experience of these authors, whose avant garde discourse and discursive practices had once created literary and social avalanche, they have made history. Researchers are doing their M.Phil. and Ph.D. on them. Several periodicals have published special issues on individual Hungryalist writers and painters.
(Courtesy: Prof Niraj Bakshi, Editor, Black Rainbow, Indore. 2003)
Statement of Saileshwar Ghosh against Hungry Generation movement.
My name is Saileshwar Ghosh, son of Biseswar Ghosh> One Debi Ray alias Haradhon Dhara asked me to contribute in poems in Hungry Generation magazine in the last part of September 1963 in Coffee House, College Street. After that I came to know most of the Hungry Generation contributors as well as other writers also. I personally know Sandipan Chattopadhyay, Shyamal Gangopadhyay, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Rabindra Dutta, Basudeb Dasgupta, Pradip Choudhuri and Utpalkumar Basu> The April last oneday I met Malay Roychoudhury in the Coffee House, and he requested me to give him some of my poems. From him I came to know that Hungry Generation is going to be published. A month ago I got a packet containing the copies of the same. I know malay Roychoudhury who is the creator of Hungry Generation. I contributed twice in poems in Hungry Generation. Malay had sent me some leaflets and 2-3 magazines but I got no instructions what to do with these papers. Usually these papers were kept in my room. Excepting this I know nothing of Hungry Generation. To write in obscene language is not my motto. I am a school teacher of Bhupendra Smriti Vidyalaya at Bhadrakali, Hooghly from 1962 on a monthly salary of Rs 210/-. After the publication of the recent issue of Hungry Generation, which was published without my knowledge and consent, I have cut off all relations from the said organisation. In future neither I shall keep relation nor I shall contribute in the Hungry Generation. I shall not write anything obscene and that is my literary intention. The booklet in question was published by Pradip Choudhuri
Signed by Saileshwar Ghosh
at Lalbazar DD Headquarters
on 2nd September 1964.
[ Because of Saileshwar Ghosh and Subhash Ghosh's testimony against Malay Roychoudhury at Bankshall Court, Kolkata, Malay was sentenced one month's imprisonment for his poem STARK ELECTRIC JESUS ]