A PASSAGE TO ENGLAND by Nirad Chaudhuri


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When Indian writer Nirad Chaudhuri was invited by the BBC to visit England in 1955 to write some Overseas Service broadcasts for them, he had never been abroad. A convinced homebody, he set out at the age of fifty-seven to spend eight weeks in Europe, five of these in London. Despite the wry association of the title with Forster's classic on India, this reverse, of the man up from the provinces to see the England, is more kin to our own Washington Irving. The author is constantly surprised, first because he was admonished not to expect England to live up to its literature -- for he was apt to see life through literature -- and then found that England indeed confirmed rather than destroyed the dream. He was surprised at the absence of people en masse, at the absence indeed of women he could consider beautiful, at the appearance of Churchill in the House of Commons, at the effect of a climate that revealed to him for the first time the third dimension and of the weather that he found quite predictable, though his hosts seemed never to accustom themselves to it. He is alert to national dangers -- to the leveling effect of the Welfare State, a state of British conscience rather than economics, he thinks, and to a present interest in culture that actually balks civilization. In the chinks between encounters come thoughts on Indian versus English outlooks on love, on life and death...altogether, a pensive, rather pedagogic view colored with the kind concern and underlying humor of an appreciative and individualistic gentleman.

Pub Date: April 4th, 1960
Publisher: St. Martin's Press