31 October, 2020

The Art Of Inquisition

A connoisseur of culture and civilisation, Nirad C. Chaudhuri refined the art of self-cultivation

The Art Of Inquisition

Memoirist, scholar, biographer, historian, critic and polemicist: Nirad Chaudhuri, who died last week at the age of 101, assumed many different roles in the course of his writing life. But he is best known for The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, which was famously dedicated to the 'memory of the British Empire in India'. Chaudhuri never renounced the belief he set out here: that 'all that was good and living within us' was 'made, shaped, and quickened' by British rule.

It is easier now to see what he meant than it was in 1951, when Chaudhuri published The Autobiography and was attacked with the vulgar label of 'anti-Indian'. The special circumstances of Chaudhuri's life, the long and arduous struggles through which he created himself and his work, are clearer in retrospect. He had grown up in a backwater town in Bengal, and had convinced himself early that his future lay in apprenticing himself to European civilisation, which had exported to India-via the complicated medium of British colonialism-some of its own 19th century dynamism. The institutions of learning, the...



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