Life presents a Dismal Picture,
Dark and dreary as the tomb,
Father’s got urethral stricture,
Mother’s got a prolapsed womb.
Uncle James has been deported
For a homosexual crime,
Nell, our maid, has just aborted
For the forty-second time…
I came across these lines recently in an eminent literary magazine that was reviewing The Way to Go by Upamanyu Chatterjee and wondered how all that is grievous, putrid, dark and violent invariably provides a good breeding ground for creativity. It then struck me that most of literature, be it poetry, drama or the novel form, follows the same theme and invariably enjoys a tremendous readership.
Does contention, fear, anger, loss really bring about an inspiration to create something that will not only vent out the frustration within but also work as a reformatory social exercise? When we say that the lives and works of artists, critics and society are intricately woven together, we are also saying that social taboos, evils and incidents threatening Apocalypse inevitably do become the fount of creativity. For example, the genre of science fiction can be looked upon as one thriving on the idea of the unknown, an idea which then becomes synonymous for all that is uncharted and forbidden, hence dangerous. The rise of artificially intelligent creations of the human mind against their makers, the fear of death resulting from breaking bonds of conventions and social comfort levels, jealousy, anger, loss…these are all themes that have essentially inspired a number of books, some even winning laurels all over the world.
However, sci-fi is not the only genre that employs some of these themes; contemporary fiction continues to weave ideas of grief, transcendence, ambition, over-reaching, schizophrenic frenzy, terror and mysticism into its fabric. Indian authors – if one may be allowed that momentarily – are known to employ these themes to comment on a variety of issues that plague society. Then again, Russian literature continues to boggle minds with dark characters and sagas of personal and communal grief and trauma.
In this issue, with the theme Tales Terrible: Then, Now and Beyond, we critically analyse much that makes literature sad, dark and deadly. From fanatical ambition to fantastical desire, our contributors delve into a host of motifs and motives that have inspired horror in many across space and time and have thus been the basis of countless articulations, expressions and representations of that fear and terror which – for now at least – we believe to be essentially a foundational premise of human society and interaction. Amongst these, we are especially grateful to Ms. Amrita Singh, research scholar and faculty in the Department of English, Kamala Nehru College, for lending us her interesting and incisive paper on representation of conflict and dissent in Afghanistan through editorial cartoons. In seeking stranger and stranger and yet simultaneously infinitely conventional ways of artistic articulation as well as creative criticism, Literophile is always pleased to support all that challenges our notions of both acceptable and subversive representation and this, in discussing criticism of much that is bone-chillingly macabre and disgusting through a medium apparently totally frivolous and flippant, achieves as much. For this, then, and for everything else that came in, we are grateful and hope that when you, as a reader, engage with the criticism that follows, you will not only respond academically but also imaginatively, uniting the two in a manner that treats the subject as object and vice versa and thus makes our endeavours in bringing this to you fruitful and relevant.
Editor (Issue 2, Volume 4)