Writer, Rebel, Soldier, Lover
The Many Lives of Agyeya
Sachchidanand Hirananda Vatsyayan ‘Agyeya’ is unarguably one of the most remarkable figures of Indian literature. From his revolutionary youth to acquiring the mantle of a (highly controversial) patron saint of Hindi literature, Agyeya’s turbulent life also tells a history of the Hindi literary world and of a new nation-spanning as it does two world wars, Independence and Partition, and the building and fraying of the Nehruvian state.
Akshaya Mukul’s comprehensive and unflinching biography is a journey into Agyeya’s public, private and secret lives. Based on never-seen-before 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. Mukul reveals Agyeya’s revolutionary life and bomb-making skills, his CIA connection, a secret lover, his intense relationship with a first cousin, the trajectory of his political positions, from following M.N. Roy to exploring issues dear to the Hindu right, and much more. 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 characterized that milieu.
Writer, Rebel, Soldier, Lover 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 civilizational enterprise.