Author's Diction~Vipin Behari Goyal: Pulp fiction Versus Kerosene literature

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pulp fiction Versus Kerosene literature


Is Pulp Fiction Lovable ?


Author's Diction, Vipin Behari Goyal

 The pulp fiction was a term used in America in the early years of the twentieth century for cheap magazines and books sold on book stands. The covers were glamorous but the cheap pulp paper was used for printing the story and articles. The stories were action packed and romance was at its zenith in such books. Such books were popular with young adults. Some writers of pulp fiction later became celebrities and wrote popular fiction in literary style. After world war two the paper became very costly and such books slowly disappeared from the market. Later with the advent of Television the market of such books became obsolete and it became a talk of a bygone era.


Almost the same type of books and magazines were popular in India also during the same time till in sixties Hind Pocket Books came out with one rupee books. The pulp fiction was called “Ghasleti Sahitya” in India, which meant Kerosene Literature. It was called so, because in the opinion of bourgeois it was stinky as kerosene , and it could even stink the mind of readers. Such books were sold wrapped up in yellow foil so that curious bystanders do not pick up and turn the pages. Anonymous became the synonym of Mastram. Many bestselling authors of Hindi emerged from a community of readers and writers of these books.


During all these years great literature was written all over the world, especially in Europe,  e.g. F. Scott Fitzgerald, E. M. Forster, Ernest Hemingway, Aldous Huxley, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, W. Somerset Maugham, Albert Camus, Joseph Conrad,  D .H. Lawrence, C.S. Lewis, George Orwell, Sinclair Lewis, Arthur Conan Doyle, James Joyce, Andre Gide, Rudyard Kipling,  Hermann Hesse, Ayn Rand, Jean Paul Sartre etc. wrote wonderful books which are categorized as “Classic Literature”.

On the other hand in Hindi, the famous authors who created parallel classical literature during the same period were Bhishma Sahni, Dushyant Kumar, Devkinandan Khatri, Dharamvir Bharti, Hajari Prasad Dwivedi, Jainendra Kumar, Kamleshwar, Kedarnath Agarwal, Krishna Sobati, Mannu Bhandari, Mohan Rakesh, Nagarjun, Suryakant Tripathi Nirala, Phanishwar Nath Renu, Padma Sachdeva, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Sachchidananda Vatsyayan, Vishnu Prabhakar, Yashpal etc. .

It looks like best literature in Hindi and English was written during the first half of the twentieth century when pulp fiction and kerosene literature was also equally or rather more popular if we decide the popularity by sale. Thousands of copies of cheap (in price) detective novels by Ved Prakash Sharma, Surendra Mohan Pathak and Keshav Pandit were sold on the date of release. They were James Hadley Chase, Frederick Forsyth and Earl Stanley Gardner of India.

What attracted people to these books? There was no TV, Video games, Internet and other numerous means of entertainment.  Middle class, half educated youth was attracted by pulp fiction as bees are attracted by nectar. These books were sold in 25 Paisa which was called Chawanni or a quarter of a rupee. Later everything that was cheap or vulgar was called “chawanna”. That was the only source of entertainment where you can extract the full value of your money provided you can read. In those days the rate of literacy (which meant people who could read and write their name) was  hardly ten percent, so reading a book was a status symbol and folks were impressed by it. Especially because this type of fiction provided enough scope for imagination.

If for a moment we get rid off of our English mania, the Hindi literature created during the first half of the past century was much superior to or at least at par with literature created in Europe, and the USSR. USA at that time was more busy in the economic growth of the country.

This is high time we accept the work of all authors and honor the talent of creative writing ignoring what is being written, if it  is popular amongst the masses.

© Vipin Behari Goyal
Advocate, Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur, India

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