REVIEW: Vishav Sahit De Shahkaar Novel-A new genre in Punjabi literature


Gurdial Singh

‘Vishav Sahit De Shahkaar Novel ‘, a book in three volumes written by Jung Bahadur Goyal , a retired IAS Officer of Punjab, is a unique work of its own kind in modern Punjabi literature. The third volume of the book recently hit the stalls whereas the first and second volumes were published in 2007 and 2010, respectively. It goes to the credit of the author that otherwise inaccessible world classics have been made easily accessible to the general readers of Punjabi.
Before I delve upon the book, I would like to share my views on kinship between the book and the reader. At the outset I would like to state candidly that had the trials and tribulations of life not compelled me to be a writer of some merit (or just ordinary one), I would have preferred to live my life as a good reader. I earnestly feel that without books we cannot comprehend the meaning and define purpose of our existence on this planet. Life spent without the company of great books is a life wasted.
I am reminded of a couplet by renowned Urdu poet Zauk:
“Layee hayat aaye kaza, le Chali Chale
Apni Khushi se aaye , na apni khushi Chale”
The moral of the couplet is obvious: “Our coming and going in the world is not determined by us. But it is in the destiny of each one of us to give a meaning to our Being through the deeds during our life span”.
I do not know much about the reading habits of young writers (unfortunately I could not get enough opportunities to interact with them.) But I wish to remind them the words of Leo Tolstoy who said, “Good writing can be learnt only through good writings.” Jung Bahadur Goyal has taken upon himself the onerous task of revisiting and retelling the timeless classics in his book which will be of immense value to all the readers in general grasping the meaning of life and young writes in particular for learning the art of fiction.
As many as fortysix classic novels of the world figure in the three volumes-25 in first volume, 11 in second volume and 10 in third volume. It is indeed a stupendous task to make a selection of the very best out of plethora of novels written throughout the world in different languages. Such a selection could only be made after tireless labour of going through hundreds of novels. Jung Bahadur has included such works of fiction which are undisputably the universally acknowledged world classics, to name few ‘war and peace ‘, ‘Crime and Punishment’, ‘Brothers Karamazov’, ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘ The Mother’, ‘The Old Man and the sea’, ‘David Copperfield’, ‘ The Grapes of Wrath’ and ‘Gone with the wind’ etc. This monumental work of Jung Bahadur Goyal is indeed a new milestone in Punjabi literature. A work of such magnitude has been accomplished for the first time in the history of Punjabi letters.
Goyal’s work is neither the abridged version of the original novels nor the translation of some selected excerpts, he reconstructs and re-creates the edifice of a novel with dexterity and diligence and with all the attributes of a novelist without compromising with the soul and spirit of the original novel. On this account I have no hesitation in saying that he has created a new genre in Punjabi literature. The technique adopted by him encompasses a deep insight into the life and times of the great masters of fiction. Concise story line highlighting the main protagonists masterly comments interwoven with personal touches.
While creating a new genre Jung Bahadur Goyal has also evolved an authentic prose style. His diction demonstrates the richness and freshness of our language. He tells the story in simple and intimate style. The book can be read for the sheer beauty and lustre of its prose. His is not the language of a critic his tone and temper is that of a sensitive reader who not only reads but converses with the book.
Ten novels contained in the third volume are ‘Vanity Fair’, ‘Jane Eyre’,  ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘ Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, ‘Animal Farm’, ‘Yama (the pit)’, ‘All Quiet on the western front’, ‘Devdas’, To kill a Mocking Bird , ‘And Quiet flows the Don,’ cast a magic spell on the readers. I am particularly tempted to make a special mention of a great Russian Classic ‘And Quiet flows the Don’ written by Nobel Laureate Mikhail Sholokhov. I read this novel some forty five years ago and re read it many a time. It is a voluminous novel of two thousand pages and is spread in four volumes. But Jung Bahadur Goyal has re constructed this novel in 115 pages .While going through these pages , I felt as if Sholokhov himself had written the novel in this fashion only and that too just in 115 pages. (the same is true for rest of the novels as well.)
It would be a matter of great personal satisfaction for me if the readers after going through the three volumes of ‘Vishav Sahit de Shahkaar novel’ are motivated to read the original ones. They will feel illumined as novel is a bright book of life.
(The author is a renowned novelist and a recipient of Jnanpith Award)

Sunday, December 23, 2012