Amita Bhose


Amita Bhose

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Iona

(Broadcast 29 May 1992, External service, Bucharest Radio)

Years ago, Marin Sorescu was asked by a reporter: What made you write the play Iona ? The author replied: In old Romanian, "io" means "I". The name of the biblical prophet Iona suggested to me the key of self-realization. Indian aestheticians would consider the idea as a typical example of dhvani - suggestivity of literary expression. This was the factor that made me translate the play into Bengali. The Bengali version, having the same title as the original, was recently published by the Sahitya Akademi.

Shortly after the revolution in December 1989, the senior Indian journalist Nikhil Chakravarty met Marin Sorescu in Bucharest. During the conversation, the Romanian poet-dramatist made an interesting ob¬servation. The censure in the communist regime obliged the writers to be cautious about their artistic expressions. As a result, there developed a style of imagery, of symbols, of suggestive words, which gave clues to the readers to guess the underlying meaning, to read between the lines. A number of Indian authors did the same during the British rule. In Romania, a tradition of ambiguous writing was created by Dimitrie Cantemir three hundred years ago. Tracing his steps, Sorescu perfected the art of symbolic language.

As a happy coincidence, I had the pleasure of handing over the author's copies of the bengali Iona to Sorescu at a new premiere show of the play at the National Theatre of Bucharest. Listening to the dialogue - rather the monologue delivered by the single character of the four-act play - I could realize the subtle political implications, the sarcastic remarks about the world behind the iron curtain, meta¬phorically presented as the belly of a whale.

Now that the curtain has gone for ever, will the play lose its intrinsic literary values ? Leaving the destiny of the political under- current of the play to the care of historians, let us look at it from the literary standpoint. As it is said in our Upanishads, the path of self-realization is as sharp as a razor's edge. This seems to be the central theme of Sorescu's Iona, treated in an apparently casual manner with the use of a simple but profound language. The author has achie¬ved this end by superimposing the image of the Biblical prophet Iona on a Romanian fisherman with the same name.

From the Indian perspective, the predominant sentiment - bhava - of the play is "wonder", which, in its turn, creates the aesthetic experience of fantastic or supersensitive -abhuta rasa. The text is full of strange, shocking remarks, for example, "I stood half an hour to look at the air. I could see all its cells, as if it was cracked all over." This sort of queer images, which Indian rhetoric might call vakrokti -deliberate deformation - is the characteristics of the author. Which is why he is commonly regarded as a humourist. Humourist he is, but his humour has its roots in the very depth of life.

Marin Sorescu, the wizard of words, came under the limelight of the stage as a dramatist and a director, but basically he is a poet. His plays, like Tagore's, spring from an inherent lyricism.

In 1981, I participated in a symposium held in the Romanian town Deva in connection with a festival of Sorescu's plays. In my paper on the Indian traits in Iona, I told the audience that the interpretation was mine, with which the author might not agree. Mr Sorescu told me after the meeting: At a time I read a lot of Indian Philosophy, but I did not think of them when I wrote the play. What I thought was reflected in your analysis. It seems Indian metaphysical ideas were hidden behind my subconscious.


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