04 December, 2020

Witness To A Century

Nirad Chaudhuri turns 98, and inde fatigably sets out to write a definitive study of western decay

Witness To A Century
A young Bengali lad, just having been admitted to Oxford, visited a family friend there. The host confronted his young guest with a painting and asked him to identify it. When the youth pronounced it to be Jan Vermeer's View of Delft, he was corrected on the pronunciation of the Dutch artist's name. The host then quizzed him on the facsimile of a first edition. When the undergraduate ventured that it was the folio reproduction of Shakespeare's 1623 edition, the sparrow-like, short, bespectacled host fixed him with a look and declared in chaste Bengali: "So, you are not such an idiot after all!" The test was over and the visitor had gained temporary entrance into the private world of Nirad Chandra Chaudhuri.

A world of Empire. Of Voltaire, Schubert and Turner. Of aristocrats and nobility. Of bowler hats and bus queues. A world that disappeared half a century ago, but continues to exist in the mind and abode of Nirad babu at Oxford. A world that is bereft of most modern and post-modern influences.

He has gone to great lengths to preserve the sanctity of his...



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