Nirad Babu and his legacy

The remarks about Nirad Chaudhuri by Naipaul (in his recent book of essays) and by Walter Crocker (in his diaries), sets Ram Guha to the task of weighing-in his legacy:

Walter Crocker is merely the sutradhar to the documents quoted here. Their main interest lies in what they tell us about that crabby, sour, insecure, boastful, yet also very brave and single-minded writer — Nirad C. Chaudhuri. It is noteworthy, though, that another writer cut from the same cloth also figures here — V.S. Naipaul. In my view, Chaudhuri’s struggle was harder and longer than Naipaul’s (although the latter would never admit it). On the other hand, Naipaul is by some distance the greater writer (although not all Bengalis will admit it). I too think that only two works of Chaudhuri’s stand the test of time — the volumes of autobiography. His scholarship was mere pedantry, but he did have “mind and honesty”. For the first 50 years of his life Chaudhuri worked away, reading and writing in quiet obscurity. Emerging into the world with the publication of Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, he was now set upon by bigots and jingoists for being ‘anti-Indian’. It is thus nice to know that he was pleased, even flattered, by the attention he was receiving in the Sixties — he deserved it.

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