Writer, Rebel, Soldier, Lover: The Many Lives of Agyeya

The biography of Agyeya, “Writer, Rebel, Soldier, Lover: The Many Lives of Agyeya,” which came last year July, chronicles his transformation from a revolutionary youth to a very controversial patron-saint of Hindi writing. Akshaya Mukul is the author of the book. Author Akshaya Mukul successfully presented Agyeya’s public, private, and secret lives in the book with no holds barred. It also covers Hindi literature from colonial times to Nehruvian India and beyond. What Akshaya Mukul has done is read and investigate the clues to his life that Agyeya has left behind in his works, giving us a truly unique perspective on a man who contributed tremendously to the world of words and ideas. Along the way, we get a rare peek into the factionalism and pettiness of the Hindi literary world of the twentieth century, and the wondrous and grand debates which characterised that milieu.

The factional battles in the Hindi society and Agyeya’s quest into civilisation are equally as exciting as the era he lived in. Agyeya, a pioneer of modern Hindi literature, developed a brand-new narrative language that articulated a remarkable poetics of exaggeration, transgression, and sarcasm. Akshaya Mukul narrated extremely well about the life and work of Agyeya in the book.

Akshaya Mukul gave clear and lucid account in the book that Agyeya, had a wonderful understanding of the civilisational roots of the country. The book “Writer, Rebel, Soldier, Lover” also features a formidable cast of characters: from writers like Premchand, Phanishwarnath Renu, Raja Rao, Mulk Raj Anand and Josephine Miles to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, revolutionary Chandra Shekhar Azad, and actor Balraj Sahni. And its landscapes stretch from British jails, an intellectually robust Allahabad and modern-day Delhi to monasteries in Europe, the homes of Agyeya’s friends in the Himalayas and universities in the US.

This book is a magnificent examination of Agyeya’s civilisational enterprise. Author Akashaya Mukul looks at the scattered elements of Agyeya’s life as ingredients that went into the making of the writer. Based on never-seenbefore archival material-including a mammoth trove of private papers, documents of the CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom and colonial records of his years in jail-the book delves deep into the life of the nonconformist poet-novelist. Akshaya Mukul’s comprehensive and unflinching biography is a journey into Agyeya’s public, private and secret lives. Through this book, readers will get an insiders look into the life of an eminent writer. Ambitious and scholarly, Writer, Rebel, Soldier, Lover is also an unputdownable, whirlwind of a read.

Ashutosh Kumar Thakur is a Bangalore-based Management Professional, Literary Critic, and Codirector with Kalinga Literary Festival.

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