23 October, 2020

Eccentric Grail

Not hagiographic, but a well- written, affectionate biography

Eccentric Grail
BY any stangard you'd care to use verrier Elwin (1902- 1964), ethnograppher and tribalist, lived an extraordiordinary life; not least because it was a synthesis of contradictions life; and unexpected leaps. An Oxonian proselytiser produced on well- template, by familya tradition,tempered he died in Northimperialist eastern India a proto- Buddhist, free India's first foreign citizen, and was cremated instead of buried. An iconoclast fiercely repudiating governmental authority, he finally turned into one himself; a Gandhian acolyte bellicose in his defence of drink and sexual adventure (he married two tribal girls, fathered four children, and had many affairs); an antibourgeois who set- tled into comfortable middle- class life; an anthropologist who not so much heeded his calling as stumbled upon it awkwardly; an unexpected and thunderous spokesman for tribals across the country who wrote articles on P. G. Wodehouse.

Ebullient, charming and compassionate, he was a prototype of what the Raj threw up in droves in the early part of the century: the Edwardian eccentric and...



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