Shyamata A, Narayan
EZEKIEL AS BOOK REVIEWER*
The critic assessed
Nissim Ezekiel is a familiar name in the book review columns of the Indian press; his reviews have appeared in newspapers like The Times of India ^ The Statesman and The Hindu^ mass circulation magazines like The Illustrated Weekly of India 3 and journals with a more literary readership such as Quest and Imprint. He has been regularly reviewing books since 1947 when he obtained his M.A. in English from the University of Bombayo A large number of reviews appeared in Thought^ a Delhi weekly^ in the nineteen-fifties.
From 1961 to 1968 Ezekiel wrote the entire book reviews section of Imprint monthly -- a total of more than 300 reviews. He has also broadcast book reviews from the Bombay station of A11 India Radio, and continues to do so. The books he nas reviewed cover a wide range of forms and subjects, reflecting the multiplicity of his interests: poetry, fiction, drama, non-fiction, travel, biography, autobiography and literary and art criticism. Books as diverse as Kenneth Walker's The Unconscious Mind^ Tyrone Guthrie's A Life in the Theatre^ Otto Benesch's book on Munch the painter, Marianne Moore's poems, Krishna Baldev Vaid's translation of his own Hindi novel, Keki N. Daruwala's Under Orion and Apparition in April, Sri Aurobindo's The Future Poetry, and Sisir Kumar Ghose's Aldous Huxley: A Cynical Salvationist have been reviewed by him.
Ezekiel has said that he does not intend to collect his reviews in book form or to allow them to be republished unless the context and the occasion justify it. The only review-article to be reprinted so far is "Naipaul's India and Mine," which was originally published in Imprint (see pJ95 of this issue)c It has been included in New Writing in India^ a Penguin anthology edited by Adi01 Jussawata, published in 1974,
Ezekiel has a distinctive prose style; the language of the reviews is sample and dear,, This clarity springs from a clarity of thought, as well as the poet's sensitivity to wordSo There is a total avoidance of jargon. With a few terse phrases he gets to the heart of the matter. Consider, for instance, this passage from his review of Naipaul's An Area of Darkness^ "Naipaul's India and Mine"; after analysing the hysterical note in Naipaul's account of his unfortunate experiences in India, Ezekiel comments:
A pathetic rather than a tragic situation. Unfortunate Mro Naipaul. Unfortunate Indiať That much I feele But not: How right Mr Naipauto How wrong India. And that is what, no doubt, he expects the reader to feel. It is a pity. For I share most of his ideas and problemsŤ But I see India in my own way ^
*The author expresses gratitude to Mr, Ezekiel for his help in collecting material for this study, and for patiently answering all my questions regarding his book reviews.