Social Scientist. v 15, no. 164 (Jan 1987) p. 1.


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Editorial Note

THIS ISSUE of Social Scientist contains several articles discussing the works of some of the outstanding figures in the literary and artistic life of modern Bengal. But the focus of the issue is not on Bengal per se. Our intention has not been to put together a set of articles which between them provide some sort of an overview of the literary and artistic trends in modern Bengal. Each of the articles in this issue stands alone; and in discussing the work of a particular artist, each raises questions which are important and general, transcending the immediate regional context. While the commonness of the regional-societal background, shared by the artists discussed, provides a unifying thread to the articles, it is these general questions raised by the articles to which we wish to draw the readers9 attention.

Thus, Malini Bhattacharya, in discussing some of Manik Bandopa-dbyay's short stories of the 1940s, shows how the notion of class cas be used by a creative writer to make intelligible a variety of intricate human relationships in a manner which naturalist fiction, despite its rich accumulation of meticulous details, can never achieve. She draws on Manik Bandopadhyay's depiction of peasant women to provide a lucid critique not only of the portrayal of peasant life by bourgeois naturalism, but also of the portrayal of women^s consciousness in some of the feminist writings. If the former provide a reductive, abstracted presentation of peasant life, the latter turns the question of women's subjugation into an abstraction; both fail to perceive the complexity of power relationship in their concreteness, because the concretising principle constituted by class relations is missing in both.

Ratnabali Chatterjee's critical evaluation of Jamini Roy's art argues a related point. Jamini Roy's inability to come to grips with contemporary problems^ as exemplified for instance in his use of myths, which are not consciously re-woked and at the same time are divorced from the economic order which sustained them, imparted to his paintings a static quality. While his sincere exploration of popular art forms evoked admiration in Marxist circles, the dynamism which folk-art retained got increasingly lost in Jamini Roy's paintings which became ornamental. The paper also unravels the specific circumstances contributing to his growing popularity as an artist, as well as to the boom which has occurred in the market for his paintings in recent years; in the process it offers a number of perceptive observations on the phenomenon of commoditisation of art. Sibaji Bandyopadhyay in a companion article looks at three novels ofjibanan-danda Das published after a considerable time-lag. Few people know



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