Premchand's Godaan: Priyanka Sethia reads from the novelist's last-finished work
Listen to a reading of Munshi Premchand's Godaan, which tells a story of the pains of being a peasant, the politics of money lending and the desperate longing for a cow
So deeply embedded is Munshi Premchand in the very veins of Hindi literature, that even those who have not studied it have probably heard of him. Born Dhanpat Rai Shrivastava, Premchand wrote at the turn of the 20th century and continued to work right up to his death in 1936. He was a novelist, short story writer, dramatist and translator, crowned 'Upanyas Samrat' (the Emperor of Novelists).
Godaan, the novel he is best known for, is also his last finished work. Marked by a harsh but moving realism and filled with minute details of life in a village, it tells the story of a peasant called Hori, who strives to buy a cow — a symbol of prosperity and prestige.
That this cow was considered 'living wealth' by Hori's family and that its eventual death by poisoning takes a massive toll on them became evident in a reading of Godaan organised by the JSW Foundation and the Indian Novels Collective. Read by Priyanka Sethia, the extracts from the novel showcase Hori's financial situation, the politics of moneylending, and the pains of being a peasant. One understands just how much value this family and the village placed in the cow, which was seen as a way out of difficulties. The pathos of the death of the cow, and the helplessness of not being able to sacrifice one later is made evident too.
The reading marked the beginning of a joint collaboration by the JSW Foundation, the Indian Novels Collective and Speaking Tiger Publishing, which seeks to bring back to the fore great Indian works written in regional languages, and take them to international audiences. As part of this initiative, books such as Karmelin by Damodar Mauzo (Konkani), Padma Nadir Manji by Manik Bandopadyay (Bengali), Ranangan by Vishram Bedekar (Marathi) and Qurratulain Hyder’s Urdu works will be translated.
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