Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lecture 9

[image source]

Wk 5 - Mon (18/8), 3-4 pm lecture: HSB1

E. M. Forster: A Passage to India (1924) -

The Trial

To E. M. Forster

Here, though the bombs are real and dangerous,
And Italy and King's are far away,
And we're afraid that you will speak to us,
You promise still the inner life shall pay.

As we run down the slope of Hate with gladness
You trip us up like an unnoticed stone,
And just as we are closeted with madness
You interrupt us like the telephone.

For we are Lucy, Turton, Philip, we
Wish international evil, are excited
To join the jolly ranks of the benighted

Where Reason is denied and Love ignored:
But, as we swear our lie, Miss Avery
Comes out into the garden with the sword.

- W. H. Auden, "In Time of War" (1938)

"Only connect" - epigraph to Howards End (1910)

"Why can't we be friends now?" said the other [Fielding], holding him [Aziz] affectionately. "It's what I want. It's what you want."

But the horses didn't want it - they swerved apart; the earth didn't want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass single-file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion, the Guest House, that came into view as they issued from the gap and saw Mau beneath: they didn't want it, they said in their hundred voices, "No, not yet," and the sky said, "No, not there."
- A Passage to India, p.289.

Two Analogies:

Franz Kafka, Der Process [The Trial] (1925)
(English translation, by Edwin and Willa Muir, first published in 1935).

Jemand mußte Josef K. verleumdet haben, denn ohne daß er etwas Böses getan hätte, wurde er eines Morgens verhaftet.

[Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., for without having done anything wrong, he was arrested one morning.]

- a bureaucratic nightmare of confusion and mistaken identity.

[Woodcutter, commoner and priest]

Akira Kurosawa, dir. Rashomon (1950) - based on two stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa: "Rashomon" (1915) provides the setting, while "In a Grove" (1921) provides the characters and plot.

- multiple points-of-view on the same event contradict the notion of a simple, discoverable truth.

The Trial

A Passage to India
, chapter XXIV (pp. 196-211):

  • The Defence: Mr Amritrao & Aziz’s friend Mahmoud Ali, the Nawab Bahadur, Mr Fielding.
  • The Prosecution: Major Callendar, the Turtons, Ronny Heaslop:
  • “My old Das [the judge] is all right” … “Not one of them’s all right” (199)
  • Major Callendar, the Doctor, on “buck niggers” (200)
  • Mrs Turton on the rights of Englishwomen (200)
  • Mr McBryde, the Superintendent, on “Oriental Pathology” (202)
  • The rise to the platform (202)
  • The descent from the platform (203-4)
  • The Witnesses: Mrs Moore on being “one with the universe.” (194)
  • Mrs Moore introduced into the argument (206)
  • Mrs Moore converted into a Hindu deity (207)
  • Adela’s evidence (a little like Alice’s evidence?) (210-11)

“I tried to show that India is an unexplainable muddle by introducing an unexplained muddle – Miss Quested’s experience in the cave. When asked what happened there, I don’t know … Some fallacy, not a serious one, has seduced us both, some confusion between the dish and the dinner.”
– E. M. Forster to William Plomer in 1934 [Quoted in Furbank, II, 124-25]

A fascinating piece of indirection. Admittedly the details of the legal procedures, approved by Forster’s friend Masood, contained a number of serious inaccuracies [listed by his correspondent H. H. Shipley – letter quoted in Furbank, vol. II, pp.126-7], but the crux of the matter was, as he himself said:

I don’t like Anglo-Indians as a class. I tried to suppress this and be fair to them, but my lack of sympathy came through.

You say I don’t like them because I don’t really know them. But how can I ever like them when I happen to like the Indians and they don’t? … Sympathy is finite [my emphasis] – at least mine is, alas, – so that as the rope is pulled into the right hand it slips out of the left. [letter quoted in Furbank, 11: 129]

Epilogue: Temple

Is the ending a success or a failure? Climax or anticlimax? The two boats crashing on the lake brings about a rapprochement between Fielding and Aziz, but there’s no reason to think it lasting. Friendship is not really finally possible between the two men.

How we judge the ending of the book has a good deal to do with how our stand on other matters. D. H. Lawrence wrote to Forster shortly after the book’s publication:

I don’t care about Bou-oum – Nor all the universe. Only the dark ahead & the silence into which we haven’t yet spoken our impertinent echoes. – You saying human relationships don’t matter, then after all hingeing your book on a very unsatisfactory relationship between two men! … After one’s primary relation to the X – I don’t know what to call it, but not god or the universe – only human relationships matter.
- D. H. Lawrence (1924) [Quoted in Furbank, II: 124]
A summation of a kind - but also a refusal to acknowledge the necessity of enshrining this paradox at the heart of his book.

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