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BIOGRAPHY POINT: AUTHOR GRAHAM GREENE

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    Henry Graham Greene (2 October 1904 – 3 April 1991), is better known by his pen name Graham Greene. He is regarded by many as one of the leading English novelists of the 20th century. Greene combined literary acclaim with widespread popularity. He acquired a reputation early in his lifetime as a major writer, both of serious Catholic novels, and of thrillers (or “entertainments” as he termed them). He was shortlisted, in 1966 and 1967, for the Nobel Prize for Literature. In his 67 years of writings, which included over 25 novels, he explored both, the ambivalent moral, and political issues of the modern world, often through a Catholic perspective.

    Although Greene objected strongly to his being described as a Roman Catholic novelist, rather than a novelist who happened to be Catholic, Catholic religious themes are at the root, of most of his writings, especially, in four of his major Catholic novels such as, Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter, and The End of the Affair. Several of his works, such as The Confidential Agent, The Quiet American, Our Man in Havana, The Human Factor, and his screenplay for The Third Man, also show Greene’s avid interest in the workings and intrigues of international politics and espionage.

    Greene was born in Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire into a large, influential family that included the owners of the Greene King Brewery. He boarded at Berkhamsted School in Hertfordshire, where his father taught and became headmaster. Unhappy at the school, he attempted suicide several times. He attended Balliol College, Oxford, to study history, where, as an undergraduate, he published his first work in 1925—a poorly received volume of poetry titled, Babbling April. He converted to a Catholic, in 1926 after meeting his future wife, Vivien Dayrell-Browning. Later in life he took to calling himself a “Catholic agnostic.” He published his first novel, The Man Within, in 1929. Its favourable response enabled him to work full-time as a novelist. He supplemented his novel’s income with freelance journalism, and book and film reviews.

    Greene originally divided his fiction into two genres (which he described as “entertainments” and “novels”). His thrillers often had notable philosophic edges—such as The Ministry of Fear. His literary works on which he thought his literary reputation rested was The Power and the Glory.

    Greene had a history of depression, which had a profound effect on his writing and personal life. In a letter to his wife Vivien, he told her that, he had, “a character, profoundly antagonistic, to ordinary domestic life,”

    Henry Graham Greene was born in 1904 in St. John’s House, a boarding house of Berkhamsted School, in Hertfordshire, where his father was a housemaster. He was fourth of the six children. His younger brother Hugh became the Director-General of the BBC, and his elder brother Raymond an eminent physician and mountaineer.

    Greene’s father, Charles Henry Greene and mother Marion Raymond Greene, were first cousins, both members of a large, influential family that included the owners of Greene King Brewery, bankers, and statesmen. His mother was the cousin of novelist Robert Louis Stevenson. Charles Greene, Graham Greene’s father was the second master at Berkhamsted School, where the headmaster was Dr Thomas Fry, who was married to Charles’ cousin.

    In his childhood, Greene spent his summers with his uncle, Sir Graham Greene, at Harston House in Cambridgeshire.

    In 1910, Graham Greene’s father Charles Greene succeeded Dr Fry as headmaster of Berkhamsted School. Graham also attended the school as a boarder. Bullied and profoundly depressed, he made several suicide attempts, that he even wrote in his autobiography, by trying the Russian Roulette (a practice of loading a bullet into one chamber of a revolver, spinning the cylinder, and then pulling the trigger while pointing the gun at one’s own head) and also by taking aspirin before going swimming in the school pool. In 1920, at the age of 16, he was sent for psychoanalysis for six months in London, after which he returned to school as a day scholar. His school friends included British journalist Claud Cockburn and Peter Quennel the historian.

    In 1922, Greene was for a short time a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and sought an invitation to the new Soviet Union, of which nothing came through. 

    Since Greene suffered from periodic bouts of depression while at Oxford, he largely kept to himself. His contemporary in Oxford, Evelyn Waugh noted that: “Graham Greene looked down upon us (and perhaps all undergraduates) as childish and ostentatious. He certainly shared in none of our revelry. He graduated in 1925 with a second-class degree in history.

    After leaving Oxford, Greene worked for a period of time as a private tutor and then turned to journalism—first in Nottingham Journal, and then as a sub-editor in The Times. While he was working in Nottingham, he started corresponding with Vivien Dayrell-Browning, who had written to him to correct him on a point of Catholic doctrine. Greene was agnostic at the time, but later when he began to think of marrying Vivien he started associating himself with Catholic faith.  Greene was baptised on 26 February 1926. They married on 15 October 1927 at St Mary’s Church, Hampstead, in North London.

    Greene’s first published novel was The Man Within in 1929. Favourable response emboldened him to quit his sub-editor’s job in The Times and work as a full-time novelist. The next two books, The Name of Action (1930) and Rumour at Nightfall (1932), were unsuccessful. He later disowned them. His first true success was Stamboul Train (1932) which was taken over by the Book Society and adapted as the film Orient Express, in 1934.

    He supplemented his novelist’s income with freelance journalism, book and film reviews for The Spectator, and co-editing magazine Night and Day. Greene’s 1937 film review of Wee Willie Winkie, for Night and Day—which said that the nine-year-old star, Shirley Temple, displayed “a dubious coquetry” that appealed to “middle-aged men and clergymen”—provoked Twentieth Century Fox successfully to sue Greene for £3,500 plus costs, and Greene leaving the UK to live in Mexico until after the trial was over. While in Mexico, Greene developed the ideas for his novel often considered his masterpiece, The Power and the Glory. By the 1950s, Greene had become known as one of the finest writers of his generation.

    As his career lengthened, both Greene and his readers found the distinction between entertainments and novels increasingly problematic. The last book of his oeuvre that Greene termed an entertainment was Our Man in Havana in 1958.

    Greene also wrote short stories and plays, which were well received, though he was known first and foremost as a novelist. His first play, The Living Room, debuted in 1953.

    Michael Korda, a lifelong friend of Greene and later his editor at Simon & Schuster, once observed Greene at work: Greene wrote in a small black leather notebook with a black fountain pen and would write approximately 500 words. Korda described this as Graham’s daily penance—once he finished, he would put the notebook away, for the rest of the day.

    His writing influences included Conrad, Ford, Haggard, Stevenson, James, Proust, Buchan and Peguy.

TRAVEL & ESPIONAGE

    Greene travelled far from England, to what he called the world’s wild and remote places. The travels led to his being recruited into MI6 by his sister, Elisabeth, who worked for the agency. Accordingly, he was posted to Sierra Leone during the Second World War. Kim Philby, who was later revealed as a Soviet agent, was Greene’s supervisor and friend at MI6. Greene later wrote an introduction for Philby’s 1968 memoir, My Silent War. As a novelist Greene wove the characters he met and the places where he lived into the fabric of his novels.

    Greene first left Europe at the age of 30 in 1935 on a trip to Liberia that produced the travel book, Journey Without Maps. His 1938 trip to Mexico to see the effects of the government’s campaign of forced anti-Catholic secularisation was paid for by the publishing company Longman, thanks to his friendship with Tom Burns. That voyage produced two books, The Lawless Roads (published as ‘Another Mexico’ in the U.S.) and the novel The Power and the Glory. In 1953, the Holy Office informed Greene that The Power and the Glory was damaging to the reputation of the priesthood, but later, in a private audience with Greene, Pope Paul VI told him that, although parts of his novels would offend some Catholics, he should ignore the criticism.

    Greene first travelled to Haiti in 1954, where his novel The Comedians (1966) is set, which was then under the rule of dictator Francois Duvalier, known as “Papa Doc”, frequently staying at the Hotel Oloffson in Port-au-Prince. And, in the late 1950s, as inspiration for his novel, A Burnt-Out Case (published in 1960), Greene spent time travelling around Africa visiting a number of leper colonies in the Congo Basin, and in, what were then, the British Cameroons. During this trip in late February and early March 1959, he met Andree de Jongh several times, a Belgian, resistance fighter, responsible for establishing an escape route for downed airmen from Belgium to the Pyrenees, somewhere between Spain and France.

    In 1957, just months after Fidel Castro began his final revolutionary assault on the Batista Regime in Cubs, Greene played a small role in helping the revolutionaries, as a secret courier transporting warm clothing for Castro’s rebels hiding in the hills during the Cuban winter. Greene was said to have a fascination with strong leaders, which may have accounted for his interest in Castro, whom he later met. After one visit Castro gave Greene a painting he had done, which hung in the living room of the French house where the author spent the last years of his life. Greene did later voice doubts about Castro’s Cuba, telling a French interviewer in 1983, “I admire him for his courage and his efficiency, but I question his authoritarianism,” adding: “All successful revolutions, however idealistic, probably betray themselves in time.”

    After falling victim to a financial swindler, Greene chose to leave Britain in 1966, moving to Antibes in France, to be close to Yvonne Cloetta, whom he had known since 1959, a relationship that endured until his death. In 1973, he had an uncredited cameo appearance as an insurance company representative in Francois Truffaut’s film, Day for Night. In 1981, Greene was awarded the Jerusalem Prize, generally awarded to writers concerned with the freedom of the individual in society.

    In the last years of his life he lived in Vevey, on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, the same town where Charlie Chaplin was living, at this time. He visited Chaplin often, and the two were good friends. His book Doctor Fischer of Geneva or the Bomb Party (published in 1980) is based on themes of combined philosophical and geographical influences. He ceased going to mass and confession in the 1950s, but in his final years he began to receive the sacraments again from Father Leopoldo Durán, a Spanish priest, who became a friend.

    In one of his final works, a pamphlet titled J’Accuse (which means a strong denunciation): The Dark Side of Nice (1982), Greene wrote of a legal matter that embroiled him and his extended family in Nice, and declared that organised crime flourished in Nice because the city’s upper levels of civic government protected, judicial and police corruption. The accusation provoked a libel lawsuit that Greene lost. But he was vindicated after his death when, in 1994, the former mayor of Nice, Jacques Medecin, was imprisoned for corruption and associated crimes.

    In 1984, in celebration of his 80th birthday, the brewery which Greene’s great-grandfather founded in 1799 made a special edition of its ‘St. Edmunds’ ale for him, with a special label in his honour. 

    In 1986, Greene was awarded Britain’s Order of Merit. He died in 1991 at age 86 of leukaemia and was buried in Corseaux cemetery.

Posted by Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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Share it if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

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Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

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ABOUT AUTHOR: NIRAD C CHAUDHURI

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    Nirad Chandra Chaudhuri – lifespan (23 November 1897 – 2001) was an English-language writer of Indian origin. He authored numerous works in English and Bengali. His oeuvre provides a magisterial appraisal of the histories and cultures of India, especially in the context of British colonialism of the 19th and 20th centuries. Chaudhuri is best known for ‘The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian’ published in 1951. Over the course of his literary career, he received numerous accolades for his writing. In 1966, his work ‘The Continent of Circe’ was awarded, the Duff Cooper Memorial Award, making Chaudhuri the first and the only Indian till date, to be given the prize. The Sahitya Akedemi, India’s national Academy of Letters, awarded Chaudhuri the Sahitya Akademi Award for his biography on Max Muller, Scholar Extraordinary.

    In 1990, Oxford University awarded Chaudhuri, who by then had become a long-time resident of the city of Oxford, an Honorary Degree in Letters. In 1992, he was made an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). Although, he was highly critical of the post-independence Congress party establishment, Chaudhuri was more sympathetic to the right-wing Hindu nationalist movement in India. He refused to criticise the destruction of mosques. He wrote “Muslims do not have the slightest right to complain about the desecration of one mosque in Ayodhya. From 1000 AD every temple from Kathiawar to Bihar, from the Himalayas to the Vindhyas has been sacked and ruined. Not one temple was left standing all over northern India. They escaped destruction only where Muslim power did not gain access to them for reasons such as dense forests. Otherwise, it was a continuous spell of vandalism. No nation with any self-respect will forgive this. What happened in Ayodhya would not have happened had the Muslims acknowledged this historical argument even once.”

    Chaudhuri was born in Kishoregunj, Mymensingh, East Bengal, British India (now Bangladesh), the second of eight children of Upendra Narayan Chaudhuri, a lawyer, and of Sushila Sundarani Chaudhurani. His parents were liberal middle-class Hindus who belonged to the Brahmo Samaj movement.

    Chaudhuri was educated in Kishorganj and Kolkata (then, Calcutta). For his FA (school-leaving) course he attended Ripon College in Calcutta along with the famous Bengali writer Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay. Following this, he attended Scottish Church College, Calcutta, where he studied history as his undergraduate major. He graduated with honors in history and topped the University of Calcutta merit list. At Scottish Church College, Calcutta, he attended the seminars of the noted historian, Professor Kalidas Nag. After graduation, he enrolled for M.A. at the University of Calcutta. However, he did not attend all of his final exams, and consequently was not able to complete his M.A. degree. From 1937 to 1941 he worked as a secretary to Sharatchandra Bose (Subhas Chandra Bose’s brother).

    After studies, he took a position as a clerk in the Accounting Department of the Indian Army. At the same time, he started contributing articles to popular magazines. His first article on Bharat Chandra (a famous Bengali poet of the 18th century) appeared in the most prestigious English magazine of the time, Modern Review.

    Chaudhuri left his position in the Accounting Department shortly after, and started a new career as a journalist and editor. During this period he was a boarder in Mirzapur Street near College Square, Kolkata, living together with the writers Bibhuti Bhushan Banerjee and Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumder. He was involved in the editing of the then well-known English and Bengali magazines Modern Review, Prabasi and Sonibarer Chithi. In addition, he also founded two short-lived but highly esteemed Bengali magazines, Sama-samayik and Notun Patrika. Fed up with Bengali insularity, he later left Calcutta to settle down in Delhi, and took up a government job there. He worked for All India Radio from 1941 to 1952. But sadly he found Delhi, too, was full of Philistines.

    In 1932, he married Amiya Dhar, a well-known writer herself. The couple had three sons.     In 1938, when Chaudhuri obtained a job, as a secretary, to Sarat Chandra Bose, a political leader in the freedom movement of India. He was able to interact with political leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the brother of Sarat Chandra Bose, Subhas Chandra Bose (also known as Netaji).

    Apart from his career as secretary, Chaudhuri continued to contribute articles in Bengali and English, to newspapers and magazines. He was also appointed as a political commentator on the Kolkata branch of the All India Radio. In 1941, he started working for the Delhi Branch of the All India Radio.

    He was a prolific writer even in the very last years of his life, publishing his last work at the age of 99. His wife Amiya Chaudhuri died in 1994 in Oxford, England. He too died in Oxford, three months short of his 102nd birthday, in 1999.         He lived at 20 Lathbury Road from 1982 until his death, where, a blue plaque is installed by the Oxfordshire Blue Placks Plaques Board in 2008.

    Student historian Dipayan Pal wrote some interesting things about Nirad C. Chaudhuri in The Statesman in 2016. Why was he always in love with England, though he had never visited the land before the age of 57? These questions perplexed me and the only answer I could decipher is that perhaps Nirad Chaudhuri was in search of a home that he could call his own. And perhaps this street in Oxfordshire of 1980s took him closer to the novels of Hardy and Austen. Lovers of literature not only see texts through their lives but also sculpt life through the texts they read. His textual affinity was coupled with the colonial aura he grew up with. We must remember that he spent his first 50 years in an empire where the sun never set.

    His England was a realisation of certain dominant sensibilities and visions he idealized but they were far from reality. Places like 20, Lathbury Road makes me wonder why people choose to migrate and why certain places receive more sanctity than others. For Nirad Chaudhuri, England was sacred as for some America is. The solution to this onerous puzzle cannot be found in better living standard or socio-economic conditions of higher wages.

    Furthermore, certain places celebrate certain people. Nirad Chaudhuri would have been immensely happy if he knew about the blue plaque as it would fit his sensibilities perfectly. Even Oxford County Council was happy enough to remember this person who was, “an original thinker, forthright in his opinions and an internationalist, in the sense of one who embraces the best of all cultures but never loses his own.”

    His masterpiece, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, published in 1951, put him on the long list of great Indian writers. Chaudhari had said that The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian is ‘more of an exercise in descriptive ethology than autobiography.’

    The book describes Kishanganj, the country town in which he lived till he was twelve. Bangram, his ancestral village, and Kalikutch, his mother’s village. A fourth chapter is devoted to England, which occupied a large place in his imagination. Later in the book he talks about Kolkatta, the Indian Renaissance, the beginnings of the Nationalist Movement, and his experience of Englishmen in India, as opposed to the idyllic pictures of a civilization he considered perhaps the greatest in the world. These themes remain his preoccupations in most of his works, as does his deterministic view of culture and politics. He courted controversy in the newly independent India due to the dedication of this book to the British Empire that said, ‘To the memory of the British Empire in India,
Which conferred subject hood upon us, but withheld citizenship. To which yet every one of us threw out the challenge: “Civis Britannicus sum.” Because all that was good and living within us was made, shaped and quickened by the same British rule.

    The dedication infuriated many Indians, particularly the political and bureaucratic establishment. “The wogs took the bait and having read only dedication sent up howls of protest,” commented Chaudhuri’s friend, editor, historian and novelist, Khushwant Singh. Chaudhuri was hounded out of government service, deprived of his pension, blacklisted as a writer in India and forced to live a life of penury. Furthermore, he had to give up his job as a political commentator in All India Radio as the Government of India promulgated a law that prohibited employees from publishing memoirs. Chaudhuri argued that his critics were not careful-enough readers; “the dedication was really a condemnation of the British rulers for not treating us as equals”, he wrote in a 1997 special edition of Granta a magazine. Typically, to demonstrate what exactly he had been trying to say, he drew on a parallel with Ancient Rome. The book’s dedication, Chaudhuri observed, “was an imitation of what Cicero said about the conduct of Verres, a Roman proconsul of Sicily who oppressed Sicilian Roman citizens, who in their desperation cried out: “Civis Romanus Sum.”

    In 1955, the British Council and the BBC jointly made arrangements to take Chaudhuri to England for eight weeks. He was asked to contribute lectures to the BBC, and wrote eight of these. His impressions of England and Europe were later collected in his book ‘A Passage to England.’ on the other hand ‘The Continent of Circe,’ published in 1965, traces Chaudhuri’s doggedly independent-minded ideas on the social, geopolitical, and historical aspects of sub-continental India across millennia. An extended sequel to his famous autobiography, titled, ‘Thy Hand, Great Anarch’ was published in 1988. His last book Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse, was published in 1997, coincided with his hundredth year.

    At the age of 57, in 1955 for the first time Chaudhari went abroad. After coming back he wrote a novel Passage to England (1959). In this novel he talked about his visits, and an account of five weeks in England, two weeks in Paris and one week in Rome.

    Chaudhuri was deeply distressed by what he saw as the deep hypocrisy in Bengali social life and in particular those that resulted from class and caste distinctions. His historical research revealed to him that the rigid Victorianesque morality of middle class Bengali women was a socially enforced construct, that had less to do with religion, choice and judgment, but more to do with upbringing, social acceptance and intergenerational transference of values.

    His prose was highly influenced by Sanskrit and the older version of the Bengali language, the Shadhu-bhasha. He had little respect for the proletarian language, Choltibhasha, which he regarded as being common in taste and scope. He avoided the use of words and very common expressions originating from Arabic, Urdu and Persian in modern Bengali.

Controversies

Nirad C Chaudhuri is accused of being in secret connivance with the British and leaked information about the whereabouts of Sarat Chandra Bose. This may have led to arrest of Sarat Bose in 1941. He was awarded DLitt from Oxford University in 1990. Sahitya Akademi Award in 1975.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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Share it if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

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Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

 

 

 

MARK TWAIN-DID HE DIE AS PER HIS OWN PREDICTION? FIND OUT

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Samuel Langhorne Clemens lifespan (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), was born in Florida, Missouri. Better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. He was lauded as the “greatest humorist the country had produced.” Nobel laureate William Faulkner called him “the father of American literature.” His novels include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), the latter often called, “The Great American Novel.”

   He was the sixth of seven children born to Jane and John Marshall Clemens, a native of Virginia. Mark Twain was a Cornish English and of Scots-Irish descent. Only three of his siblings Orion, Henry and Pamela survived childhood. His sister Margaret died when Twain was three, and his brother Benjamin died three years later. His brother Pleasant Hannibal (1828) died at three weeks of age.

    When Twain was four, his family moved to Hannibal Missouri, a port town on the Mississippi River that inspired the fictional town of St. Petersburg in his book ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ and the ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.’ Slavery was legal in Missouri at the time, and it became a theme in these writings. His father was an attorney and a judge, who died of pneumonia in 1847, when Twain was only 11. Thereafter, he went through a lot of struggle. Next year, Twain left school, after fifth grade, to become a printer’s apprentice. In 1851, he began working as a typesetter, contributing articles and humorous sketches to the Hannibal Journal, a newspaper that Orion his brother owned. When he was 18, he left Hannibal Journal and worked as a printer in New York City, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati, joining the newly formed printers trade union. He educated himself in public libraries in the evenings, finding wider information than at a conventional school.

    He served as an apprentice with a printer and then as a typesetter, contributing articles in the newspaper of his older brother Orion Clemens. Later on, a Steamboat pilot, adopted Twain, as a cub pilot, and taught him about the river between New Orleans and St. Louis. Twain studied, river Mississippi extensively, by learning its landmarks, how to navigate its currents effectively, and how to read the river and its constantly shifting channels, reefs, submerged snags, and rocks that could tear the life out, of the strongest vessel that ever floated. It was an ordeal of more than two years before he received his pilot’s license. Piloting also gave him his pen name of “Mark Twain.”     

    As a young pilot, Mark Twain served on the steamer. While working, he convinced his younger brother Henry to work with him, and even arranged a post of mud clerk for him on the steamboat. But on June 13, 1858, sadly the steamboat’s boiler exploded. Henry was badly injured. He succumbed to his wounds on June 21. Twain claimed to have foreseen his death in a dream a month earlier, which inspired his interest in para-psychology. He was an early member of the Society for Psychical Research. Twain was guilt-stricken and held himself responsible for the rest of his life. He continued to work on the river as a river pilot until the Civil War broke out in 1861, when traffic was curtailed along the Mississippi River. He later wrote a sketch “The Private History of a Campaign That Failed.” He then left for Nevada to work for his brother Orion, who was the Secretary of the Nevada Territory.

    Twain was raised in Hannibal, Missouri. This, provided the setting for his books, ‘Tom Sawyer’ and ‘Huckleberry Finn.’ His humorous story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” was published in 1865, based on a story that he had heard in Angels Camp, California, where he had spent some time as a miner. The short story brought international attention and was even translated into French. Mark Twain earned a great deal of money from his writings and lectures, but he invested it, in wrong ventures and lost most of it. He invested mostly in new inventions and technology, and also lost money through his publishing house. He later filed for bankruptcy in the wake of these financial setbacks, but he eventually overcame his financial troubles with the help of a financier Henry Huttleston Rogers and paid all his creditors in full, even though his bankruptcy relieved him of having to do so.

    Twain and Olivia Langdon his wife corresponded throughout in 1868. She rejected his first marriage proposal, but they were finally married in Elmira, New York in February 1870. She came from a “wealthy but liberal family.” Through her, Twain met abolitionists, socialists, principled atheists, activists for women’s rights and social equality. The couple lived in Buffalo, New York, from 1869 to 1871. He owned a stake in the Buffalo Express Newspaper and worked as an editor and writer. While they were living in Buffalo, their son Langdon died of diphtheria at the age of 19 months. Thereafter they had three daughters: Susy, Clara and Jean.

    Later Twain moved his family to Hartford, Connecticut, where he arranged for a home in 1873. In the 1870s and 1880s, the family summered at Quarry Farm in Elmira, the home of Olivia’s sister, Susan Crane. In 1874, Susan got a study room built, so that Twain could have a quiet place to write. Also, Twain was a chain cigar smoker, and Susan did not want him to do so in her house.

    Twain wrote many of his classic novels during these 17 years in Hartford (1874–1891) at Quarry Farm. They include. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and the Pauper (1881), Life on the Mississippi (1883), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889).

    The couple’s marriage lasted 34 years until Olivia’s death in 1904. All of Clemens family are buried in Elmira’s Woodlawn Cemetery.

    Twain’s journey ended in the silver-mining town of Virginia City, Nevada, where he became a miner. But he failed as a miner and went to work at the Virginia City newspaper Territorial Enterprise, working under a friend. He first used his pen name here on February 3, 1863, when he wrote a humorous travel account titled “Letter From Carson” and signed it as, “Mark Twain”.

    His experiences in the American West inspired him to write ‘Roughing It,’ which was published in 1872. Further, his experiences in Angels Camp (in Calaveras County, California) provided him material to write, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” (1865).

    Mark Twain moved to San Francisco in 1864, as a journalist, and met many distinguished writers there. He may have been romantically involved with the poet Ina Coolbrith.

    His first success as a writer came when his humorous tall tale “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was published on November 18, 1865, in the New York Weekly, The Saturday Press, bringing him national attention. A year later, he traveled to the Sandwich Islands (present-day Hawaii) as a reporter for newspaper ‘Sacramento Union.’ Where, his letters to the Union were popular and became the basis for his first lectures.

    In 1867, a local newspaper funded his trip to the Mediterranean and into the Quaker City (Philadelphia), including a tour of Europe and the Middle East. He wrote a collection of travel letters which were later compiled as, ‘The Innocents Abroad’ (in 1869). It was on this trip that he met fellow passenger Charles Langdon, who showed him the picture of his sister Olivia, with whom Twain fell in love almost at first sight.

    Upon returning to the US, Twain was offered honorary membership in Yale University’s, secret Scroll and Key society, in 1868. Twain was fascinated by science and scientific inquiry. He developed a close and lasting friendship with Nikola Tesla, and the two spent much of their time together in Tesla’s laboratory. In the process he patented three inventions—must say he was a genious.

    Twain was an early proponent of fingerprinting as a forensic technique. He featured it, in his tall tale, ‘Life on the Mississipi (1883) and as a central plot element in his novel Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894).

    Twain’s novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889) features a time traveler from the contemporary U.S., using his knowledge of science to introduce modern technology to Arthurian England.

    In 1909, Thomas Edison visited Twain at his home in Redding Connecticut and filmed him. Part of the footage was used in ‘The Prince and the Pauper’ (1909), a two-reel short film. It is, the only known, existing film footage, of Twain.

    There is a Plaque in Sydney Writers Walk, commemorating, his visit to Sydney, Australia, in 1895. Twain was in great demand as a featured speaker, performing solo humorous talks similar to modern stand-up comedy. He gave paid talks to many men’s clubs, including the Authors’ Club, Beefsteak, Vagabonds, White Friars, and Monday Evening Club of Hartford.

    In the late 1890s, he spoke to the Savage Club in London and was elected as its honorary member. He visited Melbourne and Sydney in 1895 as part of a world lecture tour. In 1897, he spoke at the Concordia Press Club in Vienna as a special guest, following the diplomat Charlemagne Tower Jr. He delivered a speech “The Horrors of the German Language”—in German—to the great amusement of the audience. In 1901, he was invited to speak at Princeton University’s Cliosophic Literary Society, where he was made an honorary member.

    In 1881, Twain was honored at a banquet in Montreal, Canada where he made reference to securing a copyright. In 1883, he paid a brief visit to Ottawa, and he visited Toronto twice in 1884 and 1885 on a reading tour with novelist George Washington Cable, known as the “Twins of Genius” tour.

    The reason for the Toronto visits was to secure Canadian and British copyrights for his upcoming book Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Publishers in Toronto had printed unauthorized editions of his books at the time, before an international copyright agreement was established in 1891. These were sold in the United States as well as in Canada, depriving him of royalties.

    He estimated that Belford Brothers edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer alone had cost him ten thousand dollars. He had unsuccessfully attempted to secure the rights for The Prince and the Pauper in 1881, in conjunction with his Montreal trip. Eventually, he received legal advice to register a copyright in Canada (for both Canada and Britain) prior to publishing in the United States, which would restrain the Canadian publishers from printing a version when the American edition was published. There was a requirement that a copyright be registered to a Canadian resident. He addressed this by his short visits to the country.

LATER LIFE AND DEATH

    Twain lived his later years in 14 West 10th Street in Manhattan. He passed through a period of deep depression which began in 1896 when his daughter Susy died of meningitis. Olivia’s death in 1904 and second daughter Jean’s death on December 24, 1909, deepened his gloom. As if this was not enough when on May 20, 1909, his close friend Henry Rogers too, died suddenly. In 1906, Twain began his autobiography in the North American Review (a lit magazine). In April, he heard that his friend Ina Coolbrith had lost nearly all that she owned in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and he volunteered a few autographed portrait photographs to be sold for her benefit.

    Twain formed a club in 1906 for girls whom he viewed as surrogate granddaughters called the Angel Fish and Aquarium Club. A dozen or so members in the age group from 10 to 16. He exchanged letters with his “Angel Fish” girls and invited them to concerts and theatre and to play games. Twain wrote in 1908 that the club was his “life’s chief delight”. In 1907, he met Dorothy Quick (aged 11) on a transatlantic crossing, beginning “a friendship that was to last until the very day of his death”.

    Oxford University awarded Twain an honorary doctorate of letters in 1907.

    Twain was born two weeks after Halley’s Comet’s closest approach to earth in 1835. He said in 1909 I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. Twain’s prediction was accurate; he died of a heart attack on April 21, 1910, one day after the comet’s closest approach to Earth. Twain and his wife are buried side-by-side in Elmira’s Woodlawn Cemetery.

(Part 2 about his writings in detail)

    Twain began his career, writing light, humorous verses, but he became a chronicler of vanities, hypocrisies, and murderous acts of mankind. At mid-career, he combined rich humor, sturdy narrative, and social criticism in Huckleberry Finn. He was a master in rendering colloquial speech and helped to create and popularize a distinctive American literature built on American themes and language.

    Many of his works have been suppressed at times for various reasons. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been repeatedly restricted in American high schools, not least for its frequent use of the word “nigger” which was in common usage in the pre-Civil War period in which the novel was set.

    A complete bibliography of Twain’s works is nearly impossible to compile because of the vast number of pieces he wrote (often in obscure newspapers) and his use of several different pen names. Additionally, a large portion of his speeches and lectures have been lost or were not recorded. Thus the compilation of Twain’s works is an ongoing process. Researchers rediscovered published material as recently as 1995 and 2015.

    Twain wrote for the Territorial Enterprise, a Virginia City newspaper in 1863, when he met lawyer Tom Fitch, editor of the competing newspaper Virginia Daily Union, known as the “silver-tongued orator of the Pacific”. 

    Twain became a writer of the Sagebrush School. He was later known as its most famous member. His first important work was “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” published in the New York Saturday Press on November 18, 1865. After a burst of popularity, the Sacramento Union, commissioned him to write letters about his travel experiences. The first journey that he took for this job was to ride the steamer Ajax on its maiden voyage to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). All the while, he was writing letters to the newspaper that were meant for publishing, and chronicling his experiences with humor. These letters proved to be the genesis of his work with the San Francisco Alta California newspaper that designated him as a traveling correspondent for a trip from San Francisco to New York City via the Panama isthmus.

    On June 8, 1867, he set sail on the pleasure cruiser Quaker City for five months. This trip resulted in completion of his travel book The Innocents Abroad or The New Pilgrims Progress, published in 1869. In 1872, he published his second piece of travel literature, ‘Roughing It’ as an account of his journey from Missouri to Nevada, his subsequent life in the American West, and his visit to Hawaii. The book lampoons American and Western society in the same manner that Innocents critiqued the various countries of Europe and the Middle East. His next work was The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, his first attempt at writing a novel. The book, written with his neighbour Charles Dudley Warner, is also his only collaboration.

    Twain’s next work drew on his experiences on the Mississippi River. ‘Old Times on the Mississippi’ was a series of sketches published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1875 featuring his disillusionment with Romanticism. Old Times eventually became the starting point for Life on the Mississippi.

    Twain’s next major publication was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which draws on his youth in Hannibal. Tom Sawyer was modeled on Twain as a child, with traces of schoolmates John Briggs and Will Bowen. The book also introduces Huckleberry Finn in a supporting role, based on Twain’s boyhood friend Tom Blankenship.

    The Prince and the Pauper was not as well received, despite a storyline that is common in film and literature today. The book tells the story of two boys born on the same day who are physically identical, acting as a social commentary as the prince and pauper switch places. Twain had started Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (which he consistently had problems completing—that included close to failure of nerves) and had instead completed his travel book A Tramp Abroad, which describes his travels through central and southern Europe.

    Twain’s next major published work was the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which confirmed him as a noteworthy American writer. Some have called it the first Great American Novel, and the book has become a must read in many schools throughout the United States. Huckleberry Finn was an offshoot from Tom Sawyer 

    Near the completion of Huckleberry Finn, Twain wrote ‘Life on Mississippi,’ which is said to have heavily influenced his novel on biography. The travel work recounts Twain’s memories and new experiences after a 22-year absence from the Mississippi River.

HIS LATER WRITINGS

    Twain produced President Ulysses S. Grant’s Memoirs through his fledgling publishing house. He also wrote “The Private History of a Campaign That Failed” for The Century Magazine. He next focused on ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, written with the same historical fiction style as The Prince and the Pauper. A Connecticut Yankee showed the absurdities of political and social norms by setting them in the court of King Arthur. The book was started in December 1885, then shelved a few months later until the summer of 1887, and eventually finished in the spring of 1889.

    His next large-scale work was Pudd’nhead Wilson, which he wrote rapidly, as he was desperately trying to stave off bankruptcy. From November 12 to December 14, 1893, Twain wrote 60,000 words for the novel. It was first published serially in Century Magazine and, when it was finally published in book form, Pudd’nhead Wilson appeared as the main title; however, the “subtitles” make the entire title read: The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson and the Comedy of The Extraordinary Twins.

    Twain’s next venture was a work of straight fiction that he called Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc and dedicated to his wife. He had long said that this was the work that he was most proud of, despite the criticism that he received for it. The book had been a dream of his since childhood, and he claimed that he had found a manuscript detailing the life of Joan of Arc when he was an adolescent. This was another piece that he was convinced would save his publishing company. His financial adviser Henry Huttleston Rogers quashed that idea and got Twain out of that business altogether, but the book was published nonetheless.

    To pay the bills and keep his business projects afloat, Twain had begun to write articles and commentary furiously, with diminishing returns, but it was not enough. He filed for bankruptcy in 1894. During this time of dire financial straits, he published several literary reviews in newspapers to help make ends meet.

    Twain’s wife died in 1904. After some time had passed he published some works that his wife, his de facto editor and censor throughout their married life, had looked down upon. The Mysterious Stranger is perhaps the best known, depicting various visits of Satan to earth. This particular work was not published in Twain’s lifetime. His manuscripts included three versions, written between 1897 and 1905. The so-called Hannibal, Eseldorf, and Print Shop versions.

    Twain’s last work was his autobiography, which he dictated and thought would be most entertaining if he went off on whims and tangents in non-chronological order. But some archivists and compilers have rearranged the biography into a more conventional form, thereby eliminating some of Twain’s humor and the flow of the book.

    Twain’s works have been subjected to censorship efforts. According to Stuart (2013), “Leading these banning campaigns, generally, were religious organizations or individuals in positions of influence. In 1905, the Brooklyn Public Library banned both The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer from the children’s department because of their language.

    Twain’s views became more radical as he grew older.

    From 1901, soon after his return from Europe, until his death in 1910, Twain was vice-president of the American Anti-Imperialist League, which opposed the annexation of the Philippines by the United States and had “tens of thousands of members”. He wrote many political pamphlets for the organization.

    During the Philippine-American War, Twain wrote a short pacifist story titled The War Prayer, which makes the point that humanism and Christianity’s preaching of love are incompatible with the conduct of war.

    Twain was an adamant supporter of the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of slaves.

    About India he said. “So far as I am able to judge nothing has been left undone, either by man or Nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Where every prospect pleases, and only man is vile.”

    He was also a staunch supporter of women’s rights and an active campaigner for women’s suffrage.

    He created a reverent portrayal of Joan of Arc, a subject over which he had obsessed for forty years, studied for a dozen years and spent two years writing about. In 1900 and again in 1908 he stated, “I like Joan of Arc, best of all my books, it is the best”.

    Those who knew Twain well late in life recount that he dwelt on the subject of the afterlife, his daughter Clara saying: “Sometimes he believed death ended everything, but most of the time he felt sure of a life beyond.”

    Twain was opposed to the vivisection practices (practice of performing operations on live animals) His objection was not on a scientific basis but rather an ethical one. He specifically cited the pain caused to the animal as his basis of his opposition:

    He used different pen names before deciding on “Mark Twain”. He signed humorous and imaginative sketches as “Josh” until 1863. Additionally, he used the pen name “Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass” for a series of humorous letters.

    While Twain is often depicted wearing a white suit, modern representations suggesting that he wore them throughout his life are unfounded. Evidence suggests that Twain began wearing white suits on the lecture circuit, after the death of his wife Olivia (“Livy”) in 1904.

Posted by Kamlesh Tripathi

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