ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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An Indian Critique of Indian Nationalism

The Truths and Lies of Nationalism: As Narrated by Charvak edited and with annotations by Partha Chatterjee, Delhi: Permanent Black, 2021; pp 358, `695 (paperback).

Partha Chatterjee, in the preface to the book, says that the manuscript of the book mysteriously and anonymously landed at his doorstep. He has no idea why he has been chosen to be the interlocutor and messenger of this book. He wonders whether he has been “unwittingly drawn into some nefarious plot” (p ix). However, on reading the manuscript in its entirety, [he beco­mes] convinced that, though it deals with highly controversial topics, it has enough serious and closely argued material to be both topical and thought-provoking for a wide readership today in India, and perhaps even elsewhere. (p viii)

Even before one opens the book, one is besieged by myriad questions. Did the book cover say narrated by “Charvak”? As in, the same as Carvaka, the author of one of the nastika philosophical schools of Indic tradition/s? How could Carvaka, who could be close to 1,500 years old, be writing about Indian nationalism that was no older than 150 years? As one goes through the preface and reads Chatterjee’s apprehensions and his decisions and reasons for translating the book from a “widely spoken North-Indian language” to English, more questions surface. Why was Chatterjee not disclosing the language of the original manuscript? And why had he chosen to use the spelling “Charvak” and not “Carvaka” as is commonly used to refer to this tradition? Who was this modern-day Charvak?

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Updated On : 22nd Aug, 2022
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