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THE POET

ABOUT KUNWAR NARAIN

An outstanding presence in Indian literature, Kunwar Narain is regarded as one of the finest poets internationally and Hindi's leading living literary figure. He has written for over six decades now. Widely read, he is among the few intellectuals to blend a modern international sensibility and a thorough grounding in his country's cultural history. His work evolves continuously from a metaphysical engagement with language to a creative use of history and mythology, and from a visionary sense of beauty to the coarse ironies of socio-political reality. His poems embody a unique layering of the simple and the complex and, above all, a rare purity and a deep humanism. He writes in varied genres - poetry, epic poems, stories, criticism, translations, jottings and writings on world cinema, the arts, and areas of diverse cultural interest. Translated nationally and internationally, his honours include the Sāhitya Akādémi Award; Kabīr Sammān; Shalākā Sammān; Warsaw University's honorary medal; Italy's Premio Feronia for distinguished international author; India's civilian honour Padma Bhūshan; the Sāhitya Akādémi's Senior Fellowship; and the Jnānpīth, India's highest literary honour.

Born in 1927, he lived his early years in the twin cities of Ayodhya and Faizabad before moving to Lucknow. After over five decades there, where a major part of his writing was done and his house was a centre for literary and classical music meets, he moved to Delhi, where he now lives with his wife and son. Linked to the Nayī Kavitā in the sixties, he has expanded and inspired its frontiers since. Influences on him have been varied, from the Upanishads and epics to Kabir and Khusro, history and mythology to Buddhism and Marxism, Kafka and Cavafy to Ghalib and Gandhi. He gives formative value to his first visit to Europe, Russia and China in 1955 and meetings with poets like Nazim Hikmet and Pablo Neruda. Later, he translated the poems of symbolists like Mallarmé and Valéry, and then of poets like Cavafy and Borges.

A characteristically polite presence in the literary world, he is wary of orthodoxies and publishes selectively. His oeuvre began in 1956 with Chakravyūh, his first poetry collection. Ātmajayī, a short epic based on the Upanishadic character of Nachiketa, is a metaphysical work widely recognised as a classic of Hindi literature. In Apné Sāmné, political and social ironies found voice and, a long hiatus later, his much- awarded collection Koī Dūsrā Nahīn became a milestone. He was honoured with Italy's Premio Feronia in 2006, a first for any Indian writer, shared with authors like Grass, Coetzee, Adonis, Retamar and Darwish. In 2008, his acclaimed epic poem Vājashravā Ké Bahāné recalled Ātmajayī's memory of forty years ago, in a chain of island-like poems. An epic poem Kumarajiva, around the Buddhist scholar by the same name, is his latest book published in 2015. Journals like Yug Chétnā, Nayā Pratīk and Chhāyānat that he co- edited; and writings on cinema, music and the arts; form yet other facets of his repertoire. Writings, translations, and works and theses on the poet, have appeared in journals, anthologies and as independent collections. Book-length translations exist in Indian and foreign languages like Kannada, Dogri, Punjabi, Assamese, Odiya, English, Italian, Polish, Estonian, Spanish and Russian. A selection of poems in English translation, No Other World, by his son Apurva came in 2008, from which some translations are taken in the album. He continues to write, and a book of translations of foreign poets done over six decades, is now in publication.





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  • A reading of his own poem in Bengali by a stalwart of Indian poetry, Sankha Ghosh and the text of its English translation by Shubhrangshu Maitra.

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