WORLD LITERATURE INDIA: A Narrative on my Reading a Text, Lustus (Anand, Jernail Singh. Lustus, Gurugram: The Poetry Society of India 2022, 116pp). / By: Dr. Basudeb Chakraborti

A Narrative on my Reading a Text, Lustus
(Anand, Jernail Singh. Lustus, Gurugram: The Poetry Society of India 2022, 116pp).
While reading Lustus written by Jernail S. Anand, at the very outset what comes to my mind spontaneously is the Reader Response theory of the last century. A reader constructs a particular text in his mind when he decodes a piece of writing either of a poet or an author. The text of the reader may be or may not be identical with the text the writer or the poet creates in his writing. So the construction of a text of a writer is not absolutely final. The construction of the text, made by the reader is also important in understanding of a piece of writing.
Hans Robert Juass (1921 –1997) was a German scholar and a literary critic, famous for his insightful study in Reader Response theory. His concept of Horizon of Expectation is indeed an epoch making one. Juass has derived this concept from the Hermeneutics of Hans-George Gadamer. “Horizon of expectation” is a term, essential to German academic Hans Robert Jauss’s reception theory. … Juass describes it this way, ‘a work of literature is not objective in its nature. A work of literature may not be considered objective. It stands by itself and it offers the same face to each reader in each period’.
As an example, let me refer to Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice at the time of choosing the right Cascade, when the music is heard. Bassanio, Prince of Albany and Prince of Morocco are present. The condition is that he, who will choose the right cascade, will marry Portia. Readers or audience is at liberty to construct a micro text on whether there is a clue or any key word in that musical lyric or not — the clue or the key word that helps Bassanio choose the right cascade. Another example: The porter scene in ‘Macbeth’ – Is it a comic scene? Is it interpolated by someone after Shakespeare? Is it redundant?
Actually a reader or an audience makes certain negotiations with the author at the time of reading or witnessing performances on the stage. His experience of the interaction with the author, his literary aesthetics and his literary sensibilities may be identical or dissimilar with those of the author. After making certain negotiations, he arrives at the final decision about the nature of the text which may be similar or different from the text of the author.
Many directors of different countries in different times have filmed Shakespeare. And every film of Shakespearean play is different from others; because every director has created a different text of Shakespeare in his own way. Thus a reader not only explains but also re-interprets a literary text in his own way of response to the text of the author.
While reading the text, first I thought that Lustus is a mock-epic poem. When I completed the reading of the poem, I revised my opinion on what Anand had intended to transmute his feeling through this epic-drama in verse. Indeed I felt that the text is a direct banter on corporatized world of our contemporary times. And Anand has done it by bringing the ancient myth to the present. It will not be overstated, if someone thinks that Lustus is a “Neo-mythological” work of art. I do not really know whether this eye-arresting and thought provoking adjectival word, Neo-mythological is in vogue today or not. But if this word is acceptable to Native Speakers of English, definitely this word may appropriately describe Lustus, written by Anand. The poem has transcended from the mythology to “Neo-mythology”. One of the interesting aspects of this poem is that the poet has adroitly contemporised the ancient myth of Faustus in Canto 1 of the text. Ravana in disguise of a Saint appears before Sita and the conversation between Ravana and Sita is the following:
Saint: Bheekshamdeh (Give me alms Mate)
Sita: Baba [comes] here and [you] take the alms.
The saint tries to cross the line of fire. But he is stopped by a flash of fire. Then he takes his seat away from the circle.
The comment of the narrator at the end of this Canto is:
The great Demon, whose knowledge
Was equal to ten heads, the most powerful Lankapati
The same satirical vein is again expressed in the choral song immediately after this conversation. Chorus introduces Ravana thus:
Ravana is very much a creation of this Kaliyuga,
Born far ahead of his time,
An entirely postmodern man
Who commands great powers of knowledge
And his Lanka was an ancient version
Of our modern cities like New York, Rome.
The ancient Ravana is presented here as a character of our modern times. The underlying tone of the poem from the beginning to the end is very much conspicuous. Ravana is the King of the modern corporate world and the New York is one of the top ten modern corporate cities. Ravana is ‘an entirely postmodern creation’ who believes in nothingness, undecidedability, no beginning, no end in the events of life and in ‘no resolution’. The Faustian myth is that a person, being inspired to know the unknowable, to reach unreachable and to attain unattainable is sure to meet his destruction. The Postmodern Ravana is the modern Faustus. In the life of the ancient Ravana, there was a beginning, middle and an end. The mythological Ravana has been satirically presented in the corporate world of modern times.
The names of some important characters in this text are the fictitious names and those names are definitely changed in their spellings and pronunciations to contextualise or to situate them in the modern context to produce an effect, a note of critical banter. Adam, though his name is not changed, is presented here, wearing an attire of a postmodernist man of the corporate world. He asks himself:
Who was I? How I came into being?
Who fixed my stay? Who gave me my face, my mind, complexion?
My parents? My kids?
My likes and dislikes?
Was this face that I called mine, mine?
All these answers are not known to Adam. All these questions are unresolved. The Biblical character, Adam is also pitted against post modernism. The speech like this is found neither in the Old Testament nor the Epic of Art like Paradise Lost, written by Milton.
Now I will introduce my response to the creation of certain pivotal character-names of this poem. First, let me refer to the character-name of Lustus which is also significantly the title of this poem. It is a typical construction of Jernail S. Anand. Fictional element, Anand has introduced in his Poem, Lustus. In Canto II, The Gate of Hell of this poem, Lustus, a most important character, is introduced (p.16) – this name has been created by Anand first. This name is not found in any Epic, written in any language of the world. What is its meaning? What is its etymology? I have never found the entry of Lustus in The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ed. Lesley Brown, 1973, Vol. 1. I have checked Merriam Webster Dictionary and found no entry of this word. Then I browsed Google’s Dictionary and seen its meaning. May be, Lustus is a recent coinage. In the Google dictionary, I see it means “Historically, surnames evolved as a way to sort people into group-by occupation, place of origin, clan affiliation, patronage . . . Similar surnames: Gustus, Justus”. There is no authentic source of this English word. Where does Anand find this word then? Perhaps this word/character-name is the coinage of Anand. A careful study of the poem reveals that this is a fictitious one; maybe, Anand has his derivation of this word from the word Lust or Lusty. I refer to the following conversation between Satan and Lustus:
Satan: Live Long, Lustus.
Although Amazinia could have inherited
The Kingdom of Darkness,
But this is a masculine world,
And time is still not ripe
For a girl to equal men in guile,
So you will follow me in harness
And supported by Amazinia,
Rule the Kingdom of Darkness.
Lustus: Great Satan, my entire life, my family,
And my absolute loyalty,
I pledge to thee,
I seek my blessings to carry out
My brief in all sincerity
All my joy and all happiness
Will be subordinated to you, your Majesty.
The piece of conversation reminds readers of Younger Mortimer in Christopher Marlowe’s Edward 11 and The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus. Doctor Faustus, who has bartered himself to Mephistopheles for a period of 24 years, has unflinching devotion and the whole-hearted surrender to the Devil incarnate. In the same Canto, Anand gives a clue to his readers in the song of the Chorus where Chorus sings:
Satan, when found himself turning old
And the organizational work taking its toll,
It was Lustus, the Prince of Darkness
And a young cousin who ascended to the throne
“It was Lustus, the Prince of Darkness” is the clue of what Anand makes a change or a revision of Lust or Lusty into Lustus.
Another important characteristic feature of this poem is that the poet introduces characters from different religions and mythologies. In the same Canto, Kal, Narad and Kuru have been introduced adroitly. Kal is from Hindu Philosophy, Sankhya Darshan, Narad from Hindu Purana, Kuru from the Mahabharata and Oracle, the important soothsayer in Greek play, Oedipus Rex. This may imply that this grand poem in dramatic prose is not of a particular race and of particular time. But it is a splendid work of creation, an example of World poetry. The character of Oracle first appears in Canto IV of this poem. The attention on the difference of spelling of the two words, Delicya and Delicia is inescapable. The word Delicya may have its origin in Latin and it is Delicia, which refers to “feminine form” of English word, Delicious. The word Delicya may mean “the pleasure of delight”. Delicya, according to Anand, is the name of the sacred book of Devils, again his own construction.
Amazinia and Greda are two fictitious names we find in this poem. Amazinia is a word or a character-name in the text and this word or character name is significant to the meta-text of this poem. When I am confronted to this name, instantly it occurs to my mind that this comes from the word of Amazon or Amazonian. Moreover, the spelling of this word appears to me weird because it is Amazinia; it is neither Amazon nor Amazonian. Amazon is a single morpheme word. The final morpheme in Amazonian is ian according to the English Morphology. A check in the Dictionary shows that Amazon means “anyone of a race of female warriors once thought to exist in Scythia and elsewhere”. Amazinia is not found in The New Shorter Oxford Dictionary. Naturally, I presume that Anand has changed the spelling of this word by changing /o/ into/i /for producing an effect on his readers and the effect is that the past is not the past; the past is also in the present. Greek mythology shows a woman of a race of warriors is called Amazon. The character Greda is also important for this text. The character name Greda is also a coinage of Anand, which perhaps is taken from the English word Greed. In Canto IV, Satan describes Greda as: “the multi-faced monster-goddess/, /who is the supplier of Evil and the Machinations/, /In all its many-splendoured manifestations/. This epic-drama is a serious commentary on the grand War between the forces of the evil and of the good. Lustus is an imaginary creation of Satan of modern times and Amazinia and Greda are the comrades of Lustus.
Here the war is waged by the Vices and the Virtues – a war between God and Lustus. God represents the virtue and Lustus, the Prince of Darkness, and his companions represent the vice. Lustus and his army represent greed, efforts to maximise profit, loveless relation in human relationship, lust, and Market economy. And they promote greed and consumerism of Man of modern world. Man is the best Creation of the Divine. So the evil force attempts to wreck the basic fabric of Modern Man. They undertake the task of destroying the beautiful world. In Canto VI, the Chorus describes Lustus and Greda thus:
Lustus is younger but more dangerous,
For he has designs which old Satan
Could never perceive,
Of extending the evil empire
From humans, to animals and even the vegetation
Greda is specifically benignant on Lustus
And has armed him with extra powers
To foul the human taste
And screw up all those who believe in
Peace, Compassion and Forgivenes
A complege waste.
In Canto VII there is a Press Conference where Lustus is talking to press people and Correspondents are Killer Instinct and Lust.
Lustonia is the name of his democratic country. There is neither any English word nor any name of a country in the world of the past and the present. It is a fictitious name. But what is important here is that by introducing all these elements of fiction, Anand tries to laugh at those things going on in the name of modern democracy. Even holding a PC is a democratic act. The allegorical overtone with a strong note of banter in this poem has been fore grounded here and there. The conversation between Lustus and Killer Instinct is a glaring example of it:
Lustus: We have decided not to disturb Eden
Rather, we have built our own kingdom:
It is our own Paradise.
We shall disturb the rhythm of humanity
By starving them of sex.
Killer Instinct: Sex? Is it free in Lustonia?
It is a taboo in the human world.
Then an elaborate conversation between Lustus and different lieutenants, present there, follows. My reading of this speech appears to me again a clarion call of Lustus to his associates like the call of Satan in Paradise Lost to the Fallen Angels. In all these, there are some elements of Satire. But interestingly, it may not be an exaggeration to say that Anand employs all these elements to pinpoint the oddities and eccentricities, the follies and foibles of modern man. Strictly satire remains absent in any Epic of Art. In Canto IX, Lustus reinforces this view:
Fiends, Generals, Marshals, Avengers, Defenders, Contenders, Raiders and Masquerades, Politicians, Teachers, Advocates, Conspirators, Friends, Comrades, and Lovers of Darkness,
Quarantine has rightly said,
God is in the ICU, and his world, nearly dead.
You have blinded the light that emanates from heavens,
And today, men when they find themselves in trouble
Do not remember God, or his tissues,
But call upon us (dial Google) to resolve their issues.
The sarcastic note, particularly in the phrase within the parenthesis evokes laughter with deep derision in the minds of readers. Dictionary nowadays is obsolete. Reference books are abundant today in this world of one tiny Village. The pungent and merciless satire is not found in any traditional epic. But at the same time if a reader constructs a text of Lustus as a mock epic poem, he cannot definitely ignore the seriousness of the grand war between Lustus and his demonic world against the creation of the Divine. And Lustus and his army of rogues belong to the devilish world. Moreover, they are highly educated in most of the class one world universities. They are modern and highly exposed to modern Sciences and Humanities. Finally, Cano XI concludes this great poem thus:
Gods have brought suffering and loss
Perhaps we flew too high
And entertained dreams tall
Our wings melt,
And in the ocean we fall.
The world of demons is almost destroyed but this world of darkness maintains its existence partially.
The Epilogue ends with a note of optimism:
Lords of Creation and Wellbeing,
Lustus and his monsters have disturbed
The balance of humanity.
Men have gone crazy.
Rethink how to bring them back
From this land of sensations,
To the world of reality, the world of sanity.
The reading of the text, Lustus, written by Anand, creates an image of the grand War between God and Satan. It also reminds readers of the Book Four of Paradise lost where Satan looks very much degenerated and in the disguise of a Cormorant enters the Garden of Eden. Satan in this Book IV becomes very much jealous to see both Adam and Eve in their celestial bliss in the Paradise. In the Book IV, Satan is totally eclipsed and wretched but for his undaunted determination to wreck the empire of Peace and divine beauty, created by God. He first attempts to persuade Adam to taste the fruit of that forbidden tree. Suddenly he changes his strategy and decides to shift his attention from Adam to Eve because Eve belongs to weaker sex. Of course, here the misogynistic attitude of Milton is revealed. Milton was an austere Puritan. In fine, according to the Reception theory, the most important consideration about the form of the poem, Lustus remains not conspicuous to the minds of readers. One dispute is resolved after reading this, that this poem is an epic in drama. Naturally epic similes are not expected to be present in this poem. Then what this poem is. Is it an allegory or an epic? The usual and sane construction of the text of Lustus may be that this poem is a serious critique on the crisis and predicament of the present world. Jernail S. Anand in his Preface to this poem unambiguously says:
The fight is metaphorical and it is my faith that Lustus cannot be finished, only he can be silenced, because good and evil co-exist and the twin impulses which determine human conduct for better or worse.
This poem is open-ended. The form and the meaning and the pragmatics (Semantics) seem to have multiple shades of opinions. In one sentence the contention of this article may be summed up as a Postmodernist text.
Basudeb Chakraborti, Ph.d
Former Professor of English and Faculty Dean of the University of Kalyani, Obtaining the Master’s degree in English from Calcutta University, he left for another Master’s programme in English from the University Of Houston, Texas, U.S.A. followed by the Ph. d. degree on Thomas Hardy. He also did his M.Phil in English from the University of Nagpur, Maharashtra and PGDTE from CIEFL, Hyderabad. As Former World Humanist Scholar at Central University of Arkansas at Conway U.S.A (2003) Prof Chakraborti conducted a workshop for English department faculty on the poetry of Tagore, lectured to Writing and Rhetoric classes on the problems of translation to the Post-graduate students of the University of Central Arkansas at Conway, Arkansas in February 2003. His
Articles, more than one hundred, in literary journals in India and abroad—- National as well as international citations of his work ——172
His books are the following:
a) Thomas Hardy’s View of Happiness: A study of his major novels and short stories, Some Problems of Translation: A Study of Tagore’s Red Oleanders and
Indian Partition Fiction in English and in English Translation: A Text on Hindu-Muslim Relationship, A Talent for the Particular: Critical Essays on R.K.Narayan.Ed.Raymond-Jean Frontain and Basudeb Chakraborti, Gender Perspectives: South Asian Writings in English and in English Translation. Ed. Basudeb Chakraborti and A.S.Chandel, The Confession of an Indian Opium Eater: A Collection of Indian Poems in English, The Confession of an Indian Opium Eater, Pan Indian Poetry in English Spanning First Two Decades of 21st Century ed. Basudeb Chakraborti & J.S. Anand, My Mind and its By-Lanes: A Collection of Indian Poems in English His forthcoming book.

3 thoughts on “WORLD LITERATURE INDIA: A Narrative on my Reading a Text, Lustus (Anand, Jernail Singh. Lustus, Gurugram: The Poetry Society of India 2022, 116pp). / By: Dr. Basudeb Chakraborti

  1. The piece of writing is so thought provoking. The idea of neo mythology is revolutionary. The reader flows with the current. The way Ravana is discussed is mesmerizing.

  2. I happened to read an elaborate article on Dr Anand’s long poem, Lustus. I haven’t read Lustus but reading your article. Prof Chakraborti was a delight.
    My best regards and profound congratulations to you. Dr Anand is more than lucky to have such a scholarly critique of his book.

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