With the release of the fourth volume of “Vishav Sahit de Shahkar Novel” (classic novels of world literature), former bureaucrat Jung Bahadur Goyal has brought the readers of Punjabi the very soul of 56 celebrated classics of the world. These are also the novels that Goyal read with passion and wanted to share them with those who do not read English.
His choice of novels is wide and varied. If he retells the adventures “Don Quixote”, penned by the Spanish writer Cervantes in the 17th century or French author Gustav Flaubert’s debut novel of the 19th century which dealt with female desire and was charged with obscenity, he also picks out Russian writer Maxim Gorky’s revolutionary novel “Mother” published in 1906.
American bestseller “Gone with the wind”, written by Margaret Mitchell, from the position of the one who owned slaves and published in 1936, as well as “One hundred years of solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that was published in 1967 and tells the Latin-American story with magic realism are a part of the collection.
Two Indian novels are also part of his repertoire — the Bengali romance by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s “Devdas”, published in 1917, and Prem Chand’s celebrated Hindi novel “Godaan”, published in 1936, and telling the story of economic deprivation of the Indian peasantry.
American writer Mark Twain, who wrote several classics himself, had described a classic as a book which people praise but don’t read. Goyal, a voracious reader since childhood, however, disagrees: “A classic makes its home forever in the heart of a reader because of its timeless value and highest quality. Many books come and go, but it is the classics that we return to each time.”
Goyal belongs to the market town of Jaitu Mandi and lived down the street from the famous Punjabi writer Gurdial Singh. Goyal got the love for literature from his eldest brother who did his masters in English literature from Lahore in 1946. “He was 20 years older to me and my ideal. We were seven brothers and we all followed him doing MA in English literature as he had got us reading classics from a very young age,” says Goyal.
The four volumes in Punjabi on world classics, which have been much applauded, started with a newspaper article that he wrote on “Don Quixote” in a Punjabi newspaper after his retirement in 2006. There were no full-stops after that and the first volume of re-telling classics came out in 2008. Two more followed in 2010 and 2012.
With the fourth volume released on Sunday, the question that poses itself is that do the readers look out for more. Goyal’s reply is: “I cannot say if more will come, but this is something that I have enjoyed doing. I work 12 hours a day on this mission”. Goyal adds that he feels hurt when someone calls his works as translation, for these are certainly not that. Goyal picks a classic, writes about the author, his times and other works and then, in his own words tells the essence of the story as simply and spontaneously as sitting under the old banyan tree in a village.