|Politicians & Literature|
AB Bardhan | 87 |Maharashtra
Former General Secretary, CPI
WHAT I AM TODAY has not been shaped by any one book, but rather by a series of books. If I’m pressed to name one book, it would have to be the Communist Manifesto. I came across it during my student days, when I was 14. Reading it a number of times, I felt that it held a vision for the future. It presented a very realistic condemnation and criticism of the present order of things. At that time, we were still a colony of imperial Britain. I then came across a book on Bhagat Singh and realised that the role revolutionaries played veered towards communism. Wanting to delve further, I went on to read more books on communism such as Leon Trotsky’s Lenin: Notes for a Biographer. These books influenced me to join the Communist Party at the age of 15 in 1940.
Good books are not meant to be read only once. I have derived far more meaning out of re-reading several books. Once you have them on your shelf, you feel like going back to them over and over. Mother by Gorky is one such book. War and Peace by Tolstoy is another.
I read books in several languages. Premchand, Yashpal and Rahul Sankrityayan have been some of my favourite authors in Hindi. Being a Bengali, I have obviously been exposed to Bengali literature. I have read several poems, songs and novels written by Rabindranath Tagore. Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s Pather Dabi is a novel I have read more than once. I read books in Marathi too. I also read some good translations of French authors like Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas that captured the spirit of the author. Some of the Latin American authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa were excellent. They provided a window into what Latin America is.
Some contemporary authors have attempted to revise Marxism. I disagree with these authors who are not even important enough to be remembered by name. In contemporary times, we are exposed to such a surfeit of books that the truly valuable ones get lost. Russian Marxist literature, which was once flourishing, suffered a setback with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Books like And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov were so popular that they had to be translated into various languages. I regret that several politicians today don’t read. I believe that unless you read the classics, in whichever language, you cannot be a learned man.