Jagadish Mohanty (1951-2013) is an influential Odia writer whose most productive years were from the 1970s through to the 1990s, although he was active right until his untimely death at 62. A trend setter in Odia short fiction, he mediated the existentialist experience of angst and alienation, thereby giving Odia literature the much needed international exposure. Two finest short story collections out of his thirteen are Dakshina Duari Ghara (South-Facing House), published in 1979, and Album (1981). The two are also available in English translation. He wrote five novels, including Kanishka Kanishka (1986), which explored the moral dilemmas faced by ordinary individuals in their quest for an authentic existence. Nija Nija Panipatha (1990), translated as Battles of Our Own, is a unique Indian example of the industrial novel
Himansu S. Mohapatra is a literary critic and translator. He has produced, with Paul St-Pierre, an edited volume of Odia stories in English translation, entitled The Other Side of Reason (2008), and, two fiction translations: Basanti: Writing the New Woman (2019)-it is the first woman-oriented Odia novel written by nine authors in 1931-and Letters to Jorina (2021), an epistolary novella by Ganeswar Mishra. A selection of his literary journalism has been published as Model of the Middle (2014). He studied at Sambalpur Univerisity, Odisha and University of East Anglia, Norwich, and taught English at Berhampur University and Utkal University, Odisha.
Paul St-Pierre taught translation in Canada. He has collaborated on translations of literary texts from Odia into English. Among these are: Six Acres and a Third (by Phakirmohan Senapati, co-translated with R.S. Mishra, S.P. Mohanty and J.K. Nayak and published by University of California Press: 2005 and Penguin: 2006; a later translation [Six and a Third Acres] in collaboration with Leelawati and K.K. Mohapatra, was published by Aleph in 2021); Atmacharita (also by Phakirmohan Senapati,; National Book Trust of India, 2016; translated with D.R. Pattanaik and B.K. Tripathy). Oxford University Press published in 2019 his co-translation, with Himansu S. Mohapatra, of Basanti, and Aleph has published his translation with Leelawati and K.K. Mohapatra of The Greatest Odia Stories ever Told (2019).
An Indian 'industrial novel' from the winner of the 1990 Odisha Sahitya Akademi Award
Jagadish Mohanty's Battles of Our Own is a rare work of modern Odia and Indian fiction. It seeks to delineate a world that is off the grid. Its action unfolds in the remote and non-descript Tarbahar Colliery-a fictional name for the over hundred-year-old open-cast Himgiri Rampur coal mine in the hinterland of western Odisha. A work of gritty realism in its portrayal of a dark and dangerous underworld where coal is extracted, the novel poignantly reveals the primeval struggle between man and brute nature.
Offering a complete experience of the 'industrial novel'-face offs between trade unions and management, trade union rivalry, and clandestine deals between enemy camps-this work brings alive Mohanty's literary genius, which takes us to a world beyond the simplistic binary division between the worker and the master. The novel unravels a complex, fractious, and nuanced picture of the human condition.
This sensitive and evocative rendering by Himansu S. Mohapatra and Paul St-Pierre captures the thrill, beauty, horror and tragedy of this fictional tour de force.
|Battles of Our Own
|Jagadish MohantyHimansu S. MohapatraPaul St-Pierre