Category Literature

Why did Jean Paul Sartre and Boris Pasternak refuse the Nobel Prize?

Sartre postulated that past awarded winners did not represent equally all ideologies and nations, and was concerned that his work would be unjustly and undesirably misinterpreted by rightist circles who would criticize “certain past errors.”  Sartre, himself, disagreed with particular laureates of past awards, including, interestingly enough, Boris Pasternak who also refused the Nobel Prize in literature in 1957, though for different reasons.  

But the refusal was not a theatrical or “impulsive gesture,” Sartre wrote in a statement to the Swedish press, which was later published in Le Monde. It was consistent with his longstanding principles. “I have always declined official honors,” he said, and referred to his rejection of the Legion of Honor in 1945 for similar reasons. 

There was another reason as well, an “objective” one, Sartre wrote. In serving the cause of socialism, he hoped to bring about “the peaceful coexistence of the two cultures, that of the East and the West.” (He refers not only to Asia as “the East,” but also to “the Eastern bloc.”)

Boris Pasternak, the Russian author, said to-day that he had “voluntarily” changed his mind about accepting the Nobel Prize and had done so without having consulted even his friends. He told me at his villa ten miles outside Moscow that he had thought over the reaction to the award and decided fully on his own to renounce it.

This morning he wrote in pencil a brief telegram of explanation to the Swedish Academy, carried it himself to the local post office, and so informed the world. The telegram read:

“Considering the meaning this award has been given in the society to which I belong, I must reject this undeserved prize which has been presented to me. Please do not receive my voluntary rejection with displeasure. – Pasternak.”


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Who won the Nobel Prize in Literature 2020?

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2020 was awarded to Louise Glück “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”

Born in New York City in 1943, Glück grew up on Long Island and from an early age was drawn to reading and writing poetry. Her parents read her classical mythology as bedtime stories, and she was transfixed by the tales of Greek gods and heroes — themes she would later explore in her work. She wrote some of her earliest verses when she was 5, and set her mind to becoming a poet when she was in her early teens. She struggled with anorexia as a teenager, a disease she later attributed to her obsession with purity and achieving control, and almost starved herself to death before eventually recovering through therapy.

She began taking poetry workshops around that time, and attended Sarah Lawrence College and later Columbia University, where she studied with the poet Stanley Kunitz. She supported herself by working as a secretary so that she could write on the side. In 1968, she published her first collection, “Firstborn.” While her debut was well received by critics, she wrestled with writers’ block afterward and took a teaching position at Goddard College in Vermont. Working with students inspired her to start writing again, and she went on to publish a dozen volumes of poetry.

Glück’s verses often reflect her preoccupation with dark themes — isolation, betrayal, fractured family and marital relationships, death. But her spare, distilled language, and her frequent recourse to familiar mythological figures, gives her poetry a universal and timeless feel, said the critic and writer Daniel Mendelsohn, the editor at large for The New York Review of Books.


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Who was the youngest to win the Literature prize?

To date, the youngest Literature Laureate is Rudyard Kipling, best known for The Jungle Book, who was 41 years old when he was awarded the Literature Prize in 1907.

Kipling’s father, John Lockwood Kipling, was an artist and scholar who had considerable influence on his son’s work, became curator of the Lahore Museum, and is described presiding over this “wonder house” in the first chapter of Kim, Rudyard’s most famous novel. His mother was Alice Macdonald, two of whose sisters married the highly successful 19th-century painters Sir Edward Burne-Jones and Sir Edward Poynter, while a third married Alfred Baldwin and became the mother of Stanley Baldwin, later prime minister. These connections were of lifelong importance to Kipling.

Kipling returned to India in 1882 and worked for seven years as a journalist. His parents, although not officially important, belonged to the highest Anglo-Indian society, and Rudyard thus had opportunities for exploring the whole range of that life. All the while he had remained keenly observant of the thronging spectacle of native India, which had engaged his interest and affection from earliest childhood. He was quickly filling the journals he worked for with prose sketches and light verse.

In 1907 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first Englishman to be so honoured. In South Africa, where he spent much time, he was given a house by Cecil Rhodes, the diamond magnate and South African statesman. This association fostered Kipling’s imperialist persuasions, which were to grow stronger with the years. 


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Who was the first woman to win the Literature prize?

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1909 was awarded to Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf “in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings.”
Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940) was born in Östra Emterwik, Värmland, Sweden. She was brought up on Mårbacka, the family estate, which she did not leave until 1881, when she went to a teachers’ college at Stockholm. In 1885 she became a teacher at the girls’ secondary school in Landskrona. She had been writing poetry ever since she was a child, but she did not publish anything until 1890, when a Swedish weekly gave her the first prize in a literary competition and published excerpts from the book which was to be her first, best, and most popular work. Gösta Berlings Saga was published in 1891, but went unnoticed until its Danish translation received wide critical acclaim and paved the way for the book’s lasting success in Sweden and elsewhere. In 1895 financial support from the royal family and the Swedish Academy encouraged her to abandon teaching altogether. She travelled in Italy and wrote Antikrists mirakler (1897) [The Miracles of Antichrist], a novel set in Sicily. After several minor works she published Jerusalem (1901-1902) [The Holy City], a novel about Swedish peasants who emigrated to the Holy Land and whom she had visited in 1900. This work was her first immediate success.


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Who is the first Indian to win the Nobel Prize?

The board of Bengal, Rabindranath Tagore was the first Indian to receive a Nobel Prize, one of the highest honours in the world. He won the prize in the Literature category in 1913 for his poetry collection “Gitanjali”.

Born in 1891 in Calcutta (now Kolkata), Tagore was well known for his poetry, songs, stories, dramas, which included portrayals of people’s lives, philosophy and social issues.

Born in a wealthy family, Tagore was home-schooled, but went to England to study further. A few years later, he returned to India without a formal degree. While managing his family’s estates, he got a closer look at the impoverished rural Bengal. A friend of Mahatma Gandhi, Tagore participated in India’s struggle for independence. In fact, the national anthem that we sing today is one of the many stanzas of hymn composed by Tagore.

While he originally wrote in Bengali, Tagore reached out to a wider audience by translating his works into English. “Gitanjali” is a collection of more than 150 poems, which includes Tagore’s own translations of some of his Bengali poems. It was originally published in Bengali in 1910 and in English in 1912, with a preface by English poet W.B. Yeats. Some of Tagore’s acclaimed works include “Ghare Baire” (“The Home and the World”); “Sesher Kabita” (“Farewell My Friends”). “Kabuliwala”, “Gora”, “My Boyhood Days”, “Gitabitan, “and “The Post Office”.

Following the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in 1919, Tagore returned his Knighthood for Services to Literature, which g=he was awarded in 1915.

Through his ideas of peace and spiritual harmony, the Nobel Laureate paved a new way of life based on his ideals of Brahmo Samaj. His contribution to education too is unparalleled. He founded the Visva Bharti University in Santiniketan, focusing on developing the child’s imagination and promoting stress-free learning.

Tagore passed away in 1941 at the age of 80.


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Baileys launches ‘Reclaim Her Name’ campaign

Although the year 2020 turned to be an unfortunate one in many ways, female authors around the world were able to find a silver lining. It marked the beginning of a movement to help them their voice. Yes, we are talking about the ‘Reclaim Her Name’ campaign.

For breaking into male-dominated genres or to escape gender bias, throughout history many women have published their books under male or gender-neutral pseudonyms. Much has changed since then, but these books continue to be published under their male pen names.

In a bid to rectify it, Women’s Prize for Friction, along with its sponsor Baileys, re-released the books of 25 female authors with their names for the first time. The book covers too were revamped and illustrated by women.

The series known as “The Reclaim Her Name’ marked the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Prize for Friction. It is aimed at initiating conversations regarding the reasons many female authors had to hide their real names.

One of the books that has been re-released is the classic “Middlemarch”. More than 149 years since its publication, many still do not know that George Eliot was actually the pen name of author Mary Ann Evans.

Born in 1819, Evans adopted a male pseudonym when George Henry Lewes – the English philosopher and critic – encouraged her to take up writing fiction. Evans believed that a male pen name would help her overcome gender bias.

Ironically, “Middlemarch” is a story about women stifled by a patriarchal society.

Some of the books:

  • “Middlemarch” Mary Ann Evans (pseudonym George Eliot)
  • “Marie of the Cabin Club” – Ann Petry (Arnold Petri)
  • “Indiana” – Amantine Aurore Dupin (George Sand)
  • “The Life of Martin R. Delany” – Frances Rollin Whipper (Frank A. Rollin)
  • “Keynotes” Mary Bright (George Egerton)
  • “Attila, My Attila!” – Edith Cooper and Katherine Bradley (Michael Field)
  • “Painted Clay” – Doris Boake Kerr (Capel Boake)
  • “For Our Country” – Fatemeh Soltan Khanum Farahami (Shahein Farahani)
  • “Atla – Story of a lost Island” by Ann Smith (J Gregory Smith)
  • “Twilight” – Julia Frankau (Frank Danby)
  • “The Silence of Dean Maitland” – Mary Tuttiett (Maxwell Gray)
  • “The Head of Medusa” – Julia Constance Fletcher (George Fleming)
  • “Cecilia De Noel” – Mary Hawker (Lanoe Falconer)
  • “Echoes from Mist-land” – Aubertine Woodward Moore (Auber Forestier)
  • “Valerie Aylmer” – Frances Tierman (Christian Reid)
  • “A Diplomat’s Diary” – Julia Cruger (Julien Gordon)
  • “The Roadmender” – Margaret Fairless Barber (Michael Fairless)


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Who was Mah Laqa Bai?

Mah Laqa Bai of Hyderabad Deccan wore many hats during her lifetime. She was an archer and an expert javelin thrower, and accompanied the Nizam in wars dressed in male attire. Valued for her intellect, she was consulted in court about political affairs. She travelled with a parade of 500 soldiers when she met officials. As per her wish, after her death, her wealth, including jewellery and land, was donated to homeless women.

Born to Raj Kunwar and Bahadur Khan, Chanda Bibi (her birth name) was adopted by Raj Kunwar’s sister Mehtaab Mah, a courtesan. She grew up being exposed to literature and culture. By the time she was a teenager, she was an expert at horse riding and archery. A talented musician and poet, she also mastered Deccani kathak.

She was a courtesan in the Nazim’s court and held a position of respect and power. For her contributions as a warrior she was rewarded pieces of land from the Nizam from time to time. She was bestowed with the title ‘Mah Laqa Bai’ or ‘moon-faced madame’. During her time as  courtesan, she made considerable wealth, which she used to build libraries, sponsor artists and poets and also commission the Mahanama (history of the Deccan).

A staunch feminist, Mah Laqa also built a cultural centre where she educated and trained young girls. He had a walled compound built to hold mushairas (poetic symposiums) every week. It was here that she was buried after her death in 1824.

There were many courtesan during the Deccan Nizam period but none could parallel the strength and authority of Mah Laqa Bai. She was among the first women whose poems were published posthumously – the ‘Gulzar-e-Mahlaqa” is a collection of Urdu ghazals.

Mah Laqa Bai’s works were hard hitting and articulate here’s an example:

Who has the power to praise God, should a tongue try to speak

It’s as if this world were nothing but silent and weak

To tell Muhammad’s virtue, who needs a poet’s glittering gathering?

Keep the tongue from babbling, like a candle’s flowing wick.

Maha Laqa Bai gained ‘Omrah’ status I the Nizam’s court, which is rarely provided to women. As an Omrah, she could attend the Nizam’s durbar and advise him on state policies.


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Why is Mirabai famous?

Mirabai was a little late to the Bhakti movement but embraced it so fiercely and with si much devotion that her name and her poems continue to awe people even today. Mirabai, who had devoted herself to Lord Krishna from an early age, struggled for many years to be an ardent devotee to her favourite god. Her battle against society has eventual life as a wandering poet is an example of resilience and quiet strength.

Historical records don’t reveal much about the life of Mirabai (also Meera or Meerabai), the bhakti saint whose songs about Krishna continue to be sung today. Many of the stories we know of her now were pieced together from secondary literature and oral traditions.

Mirabai was born into n aristocratic Rajasthani family and it is said that her family were ardent devotees of Lord Krishna. Mirabai became one too, and her devotion was so deep that she considered herself married to her beloved god. When she was old enough, Mirabai was forcefully married to the crown prince of Mewar, and his family did not take too well to her devotion. It is also said that she refused to pray to their family goddess.

Five years into her marriage, her husband died at war. The story goes that Mirabai refused to jump into the funeral pyre of her husband, customary of Rajasthani women during her time.

In the end, Mirabai left her in-laws and became a wandering poet of the Bhakti movement. She left Mewar and travelled to places considered sacred – especially those associated with Krishna – such as Vraj (near Mathura) and Dwaraka. It is uncertain how and when she died.

Even though Mirabai was seen as a rebel and a revolutionary of her time, scholars often point out that it did not reflect in her work, because in her poems, she was always a dutiful wife to Krishna.

A legend surrounding Mirabai’s life is that Emperor Akbar heard of her and visited her in disguise. It is believed he even presented her a necklace. But the historical accuracy of this incident has been heavily contested because of the time periods they lived in.

Mirabai’s poems were often emotional and intense, especially when she wrote about being separated from Krishna.

Having taken up this bundle of suffering, this body,
How can i throw it away?
I belongs to Ranchodrai Sheth
It belongs to Shamalsha Sheth,
How can I throw it away?
The hot sand burns my feet,
The scorching wind of summer blows,
How can I throw it away?
Mira’s Lord is Giridhar Naagar,
I am longing to reach the ultimate,
How can I throw it away?
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Who was Sanchi Honnamma?

Sanchi Honnamma has the distinction of being one of the earliest women writers to emerge from a humble background at a time when established poets and noblemen were the only ones with accomplished written works to their name. Legend has it that Sanchi worked for the palace of King Chikadevaraya as a helper, and particularly specialised in rolling betel nuts in leaves for the royal family. Court poet Singaracharya spotted her love for words and taught her to read, write and create poetry. He is even said to have called her Sarasahityada Varadevata or ‘goddess of poetry’.

Honnamma was also a favourite of the queen Devajammanni, and grew to be well respected in the Mysore court. She wrote about the lives of common women and often about the pain they went through in life. She was a seemingly traditional thinker and upheld the values of her time. She was also very loyal to the kingdom.

“Haddibadeya Dharma” spoke on the virtues of women. And while this was a traditional form of literature and Honnamma by no means spoke up strongly for women’s rights, her position in history itself is an achievement, given her background.

Nothing else is known about Honnamma’s personal life.


“Garathiya Haadu” (Song of a Married Woman)

…Wasn’t it woman who raised them,

Then why do they always blame woman,

These boors…

In the womb they’re the same,

When they’re growing they’re the same,

Later the girl will take, with love, what’s given,

The boy will take his share by force.

In “Hadibadeya Dharna”, Honnamma is caught between her feelings and the values of her time. There is some veiled feminist angst but nothing is ever outspoken. Honnamma does make some remarkable points such as identifying that there is gender bias and that it isn’t a loss if a daughter is born to a family.


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Is literature or functional English better?

I have just finished my Std. XII board exams. I would like to pursue B.A. degree in English. Is literature or functional English better?

A course in English literature is designed for academic study of English as well as language skills at the workplace. It trains students to pursue higher studies in English literature and language.

The main focus of Functional English is on how English is used in real-life situations. Its curriculum is designed for perfection in reading, writing, listening and speaking. The emphasis is on building vocabulary and enhancing reading abilities. The course includes intensive drilling in listening and producing English sounds, English stress pattern, intonation.

Both courses are offered at the undergraduate level. The duration of the course is three years. Go for B.A. in Literature if you want to go for higher studies in English.


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