Friday, November 16, 2007

Return of the intellect: Urban Voice is a literary pot-pourri

Joy C. Raphael

In the age of glossies full of nude and semi-nude men and women, gossip, scandal and inane political analysis and predictions catering to the baser instincts of readers, Urban Voice is like a fresh morning breeze. Published in Mumbai by Frog Books, this quarterly literary magazine is for the serious reader and thinker. In book format, the just-published first issue holds great promise as it showcases a number of Indian and foreign writers wanting to be read by that precious segment of readers who will ruminate over their every word and expression.

The highlight of the first issue is a special on George Orwell. Highly relevant even today, Orwell may be a stranger to many new readers regularly fed on a diet of cheap fiction. With a foreword by Ramachandra Guha, this special section contains three essays by Orwell that is a treat for the compulsive reader. Anil Nair’s short piece on Orwell, The Demon of the Demotic, is also compelling.

Besides Orwell, Urban Voice has a lot more to offer. The first piece is an essay by the late OV Vijayan, exclusively written for the magazine - which had been in the planning stages for a long time - before his death on March 29, 2005. An incisive piece on the state of India, Vijayan writes that India is “resting on far too many snug lies.” He feels that “there should be an attempt to legitimise the overlapping identities of the subcontinent, to celebrate their identities, and simultaneously to harmonise them in a new and larger confederacy.” Perhaps, India will be saner then. Sunil K Poolani’s brief treatise offers a convincing insight into Vijayan’s mind and writing.

Besides perceptive essays by Robert McCrum, Margo Hammond, Anand Patwardhan, Shashi Tharoor, Ramachandra Guha and others on a variety of subjects, Urban Voice also has fiction. The short story, The Well, by Suma Josson, is forceful and stirring.

The magazine has another surprise Рpoetry. Having become pass̩ in recent years after the closure in the 1970s of serious magazines like Thought and Quest, poetry makes a refreshing comeback in Urban Voice. The magazine is liberally interspersed with poems by Meher Pestonji, Abha Iyengar, Sudeep Sen and others. Added to all this, are the book reviews.

Urban Voice certainly stands out for its content. At a time when the focus is on the paltry and the tawdry, this magazine needs strong support from a dedicated readership. Its birth pangs must have been excruciatingly painful. Allowing it to die prematurely would be criminal.

Oman Tribune, 30 October, 2007

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