Praise for the book, A Fire that Blazed in the Ocean...
This highly original
work brilliantly illuminates a forgotten facet of Gandhi’s struggles in South
Africa — its representations in poetry written by various hands and in
different languages. In the sensitive and skilful hands of Bhana and
Shukla-Bhatt, these poems come arrestingly alive. They deal with themes such as
religious pluralism and social discrimination that remain relevant a hundred
years later. A superb work of literary and social history, this book is
necessary reading for those interested in Gandhi, India, South Africa,
diasporic communities, or the prehistory of globalization. It will occupy a
privileged position on my own bookshelf.
Ramachandra Guha is a noted writer and commentator on Indian life and history. He is the author of over 20 books. His most recent book is India After Gandhi (2008). He is currently engaged in writing a two-volume biography of Mahatma Gandhi.
between the two authors represents the culmination of time-consuming research
through the much neglected Gujarati columns of Indian Opinion to bring poetry significant to the satyagraha campaign in South Africa to
the fore. These cultural productions of the early twentieth century are made
available for the first time to an English readership and are placed within a
historical and cultural context. Through the poetry of a few English poets,
poets of India and more substantially poets of South Africa we see how satyagraha stimulated cultural works and
how satyagraha in itself was
solidified by cultural performances. This important new work, with its focus on
the literary resources available to Gandhi, not only adds a crucial new
dimension to understanding satyagraha but
it brings to light the hidden productions of the poets of the era, one of whom
is the elusive Sheik Mehtab.
Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie is a Professor of History at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa. She is the author of Gandhi's prisoner? The life of Gandhi's son, Manilal (2004). The work is a definitive biography on Mahatma Gandhi's second son, Minilal Gandhi, also her grandfather.
Surendra Bhana's and Neelima Shukla-Bhatt's "A Fire that Blazed in the Ocean" is an historic testimonial to the hopes for social justice and racial equality that fired a generation of Indians transplanted to South Africa during the high noon of British imperialism. Expressed in poems written in Gujarati, Hindustani, and English, and shaped by Gandhi's concept of satyagraha, this collection reveals the centrality of political interventions in the arena of culture as much as the actual painstaking mobilization of people against the concrete injustices they faced in a context of colonialism and (looming) apartheid. This collection raises many important questions about the role of poetry (and more generally art) in the imagining of an alternative to the present --an arena that has apparently been abandoned in our age of the sound byte and the twenty-four hour news cycle. An indispensable resource for students of the Indian diaspora, South African history, and more generally the politics of race and class.
Professor Kiawar, Duke University, is the founder-editor of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East (1981-2002). He is the editor of and contributor to two important works, Antinomies of Modernity (2003) and From Orientalism to Postcolonialism (2009).