JAMINI ROY (INDIA 1887-1972)
JAMINI ROY (INDIA 1887-1972)

Untitled (Horse)

JAMINI ROY (INDIA 1887-1972)
Untitled (Horse)
signed in Bengali (lower right)
tempera on card
19 ½ x 12 5/8 in. (49.5 x 32.1 cm.)
Acquired directly from the artist, Calcutta, circa 1938-48
Collection of Professor T.W. Clark, United Kingdom
Thence by descent
Bonhams, 21 May 2007, lot 38
Gifted by DAG to Columbia University Press

Brought to you by

Nishad Avari
Nishad Avari

Lot Essay

The Library of Bengali Literature

The renowned Bengali poet Sankha Ghosh, winner of the Jnanpith Award, and the renowned Bengali critic Padma Bhushan, Kyoto Laureate, and University Professor at Columbia, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, with the able assistance of expert Thibaut d’Hubert, Professor of Bengali literature at the University of Chicago, are editing a unique open-ended bilingual collection of 1000 years of the texts of Bengal, today divided between Bangladesh and India. Columbia University Press has awarded the editors a series contract.

The editors have put together a working list of fifty-odd volumes, but this is in fact an open-ended series and entries will be welcome from all sources, subject to the highest standard of peer review established by the Press. The first two books are ready to be published as soon as funds are secured. The model for the project is the Loeb Classical Library, started in 1911 at Harvard University Press, which now has more than 500 entries and is still going strong. That collection is devoted to preserving the writings of Greek and Latin antiquity. Our series is more ambitious and will keep up with researching more classical writing, and the continuing oral tradition, but also support the very best writing emerging in modernity. We are committed not only to literary texts, but also to intellectual writings of all kinds. The earliest text, where Bengali is organizing itself into a language from the many active everyday versions of Sanskrit, one of the classical languages of India, resembles what we have learned to call “wisdom texts.” We move through religious poetry where the imaginative beauty of imagery and narrative are just as important as what might be thought of as religious content. Bengal is located at the extreme Eastern edge of India and is therefore connected to pre-Hindu ethnic origins in many significant ways, and this also gives importance to our series. This early historical and geographical diversity lead not only to transformations of the great goddesses Durga and Kali into Hindu versions, but also female personifications of everyday realities, including diseases such as cholera and smallpox, which give rise to verses of considerable complexity. There are also romances that combine travel and trade records, which begin to change as the equalizing impact of British currency and weights and measure begin to impose themselves by the 18th century.

Here it should be mentioned that the East India Company changed from a trading company to a landholding, colonizing phenomenon in Bengal, and therefore the cultural encounter of the early British incursion, not yet settled into recognizable imperial policy, and the rising middle class of Bengal, gives rise to a unique cultural phenomenon of exchange and collaboration that complicates our usual pictures of colonialism. It should also be mentioned that starting from the 14th century, Bengal experienced the liberating phenomenon of Islam as well as what is known as the Bhakti movement, associated with Shri Chaitanya. Around these emergences, as well as the later colonial encounter, there is a rich theoretical and social prose, which is also of great historical interest and teaches us how to think through the partnerships that are happening today.

Given the powerful presence of global English, this rich history will be lost in another generation if our series does not establish itself now. Since the series has some scholarly annotations, it can travel from persons located in India to the very wide Bengali diaspora which started in the 16th century and has increased exponentially in the contemporary globalized world. And our hope, since Bengali is the easternmost member of the great Indo-European family of languages starting with Armenian in the West and including Greek and Latin, is to restore an old global history within the new global geography. In other words, we are certainly hoping that given the excellent quality of our translations, with the original available on the left-hand side, there will be an interest in the learning of Bengali outside of its current geographical outline.

The textual riches of any tradition are not just verbal but also visual. It therefore seems right that this project should turn for support toward the artists of South Asia and of South Asian origin, an area to which Bengali as a primary language is still confined. Art is a global phenomenon today, and this partnership between the visual and the verbal will also help the globalization of Bengali. In this matter, Christie’s has partnered with artists, galleries, and lovers of art who have responded with a stunning collection of artworks ready to be auctioned to benefit the ongoing work of this effort to bring history and the future together. It is hoped that these works will find their home with private and public patrons who will enhance both their own surroundings and our crucial project.

Columbia University Press is raising an endowment of $2 million to support the Series in perpetuity. We hope to raise part of the endowment through this auction. For more information about the project or to make a tax-deductible gift please visit the Series website at cup.columbia.edu/library-of-bengali-literature.

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