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A Passage to India

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | A Passage to India.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    E. M. Forster(Author),P. N. Furbank(Introduction)

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(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)Britain’s three-hundred-year relationship with the Indian subcontinent produced much fiction of interest but only one indisputable masterpiece: E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India, published in 1924, at the height of the Indian independence movement. Centering on an ambiguous incident between a young Englishwoman of uncertain stability and an Indian doctor eager to know his conquerors better, Forster’s book explores, with unexampled profundity, both the historical chasm between races and the eternal one between individuals struggling to ease their isolation and make sense of their humanity.

“A Passage to India is one of the great books of the twentieth century and has had enormous influence. We need its message of tolerance and understanding now more than ever. Forster was years ahead of his time, and we ought to try to catch up with him.” –Margaret Drabble“The crystal clear portraiture, the delicate conveying of nuances of thought and life, and the astonishing command of his medium show Forster at the height of his powers.” –The New York Times“[Forster is] a supreme storyteller . . . The novel seems to me more completely ‘achieved’ than anything else he wrote.” –from the new Introduction by P. N. Furbank Edward Morgan Forster was born in London in 1879, attended Tonbridge School as a day boy, and went on to King’s College, Cambridge, in 1897. With King’s he had a lifelong connection and was elected to an Honorary Fellowship in 1946. He declared that his life as a whole had not been dramatic, and he was unfailingly modest about his achievements. Interviewed by the BBC on his eightieth birthday, he said: ‘I have not written as much as I’d like to . . . I write for two reasons: partly to make money and partly to win the respect of people whom I respect . . . I had better add that I am quite sure I am not a great novelist.’ Eminent critics and the general public have judged otherwise and in his obituary The Times called him ‘one of the most esteemed English novelists of his time’.He wrote six novels, four of which appeared before the First World War, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), The Longest Journey (1907), A Room with a View (1908), and Howard’s End (1910). An interval of fourteen years elapsed before he published A Passage to India. It won both the Prix Femina Vie Heureuse and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Maurice, his novel on a homosexual theme, finished in 1914, was published posthumously in 1971. He also published two volumes of short stories; two collections of essays; a critical work, Aspects of the Novel; The Hill of Devi, a fascinating record of two visits Forster made to the Indian State of Dewas Senior; two biographies; two books about Alexandria (where he worked for the Red Cross in the First World War); and, with Eric Crozier, the libretto for Britten’s opera Billy Budd. He died in June 1970.

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  • By R. M. Peterson on January 12, 2011

    Two well-meaning English women - Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested - go to India some time during the first two decades of the last century with the desire to see and experience the real India. They do not share the disdain for the natives that prevails (except for the schoolmaster and freethinker Cyril Fielding) throughout the community of British administrators who govern and run the nondescript town they visit, and they accept an overture of friendship from a Moslem, Dr. Aziz, in the form of a tour of a local geological curiosity, the Marabar Caves. But the expedition to the Caves goes awry in numerous ways, culminating in a mysterious insult to Adela Quested, which leads to charges against Dr. Aziz, a trial, civil unrest, and further polarization of the British and their colonial subjects.The most common and most facile reading of A PASSAGE TO INDIA is as a critique of imperial Great Britain, its colonial policies, and its treatment of the native Indians. And in fact the novel is an understated but nonetheless searing indictment of British imperialism as well as exposé of British racism. It is one of the foremost "anti-colonialist" works of literature. But it is much, much more. It is one of the richest, deepest, and most multi-faceted novels I have ever read - and one of the very best.E.M. Forster borrowed the title from Walt Whitman. In 1868, Whitman, excited by the soon-to-be-completed Suez Canal (and similarly excited by the transcontinental railroad in the United States and the undersea transatlantic cable), wrote a poem "Passage to India". He celebrated these technological and engineering developments, and not simply because they facilitated trade and transportation. More important, they enabled"The earth to be spann'd, connected by net-work,The people to become brothers and sisters,The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage,The oceans to be cross'd, the distant brought near,The lands to be welded together."In his exuberance, Whitman also expressed the further hope that these developments provided passage to "more than India" - to wisdom and even to God.Another facet of Forster's novel - in addition to the anti-colonialist one - is as a rueful rejoinder to Walt Whitman. For A PASSAGE TO INDIA highlights the gulf between East and West, between the suspicious mind of the Oriental and the "hypocrisy" of the Westerner. Cyril Fielding (to my thinking, the principal character of the novel, who surely is modeled in many respects after Forster himself) believes that the world "is a globe of men who are trying to reach one another and can best do so by the help of goodwill plus culture and intelligence". A noble and enlightened sentiment. But try as he might, despite bounteous goodwill and culture and intelligence, Fielding is unable to bridge the gulf with Dr. Aziz, the novel's most prominent Indian (though a Moslem with an Afghan heritage).And it's not just the West versus the East, or the British versus the Indians. Even amongst the Indians, there is a divide between the Hindus and the Moslems, and between the Brahmans and the non-Brahmans. But that is not all. On a personal level, even among individuals of the same race and culture, there are repeated failures to connect, failures of communication.And still, I have barely scratched the surface of the novel. It has a depth and complexity that makes me think of the best of Joseph Conrad. (I wonder what Conrad thought of it, assuming he read it.) A PASSAGE TO INDIA also touches on the broad concepts of religion and civilization and the even broader ones of Infinity and Eternity; it raises, implicitly, the question of whether humanism is illusory; at times it assumes a rather mystical atmosphere; it contains marvelous descriptions of India (on a par with those of Kipling); etc. That "etc.", by the way, is not so much laziness on my part as a signification within the confines of an Amazon review that the novel is extraordinarily rich.In addition to all that, the underlying story is a very engaging one; the novel's major characters are fully and sensitively developed; and it is gracefully, and superbly, written. I first read it more than 35 years ago. I have been spurred to re-read it because my youngest son is currently reading it as part of his high-school English class - a very wise choice of curriculum indeed. A PASSAGE TO INDIA may be even more relevant to today's world than it was to the world of 1924. Moreover, it is a masterpiece of English literature - certainly, one of the very finest English novels of the 20th Century.

  • By Allie on March 15, 2013

    This deeply complex, densely packed, microcosmic epic of a novel is elusive and profound and in the end perhaps self-defeating. How can Forster encapsulate what he admits is indescribable? How will the reader ever understand what he says is ungraspable by the human mind?The story of a Passage to India is the least of its substance and is quickly told. Adela Quested arrives in India along with her prospective mother-in law Mrs Moore, to see whether a brief and lack-lustre attraction she and Mrs Moore's son Ronny felt in Grasmere might translate to marriage to him in Chandrapore, where he is the City Magistrate. But the insufferable Anglo-Indians, whose community she would have to join, the kind but unreliable Indians with whom she will never be able to strike up a meaningful relationship and India itself combine to render the prospect untenable, even if she loved Ronny. Then a mysterious experience in a cave unhinges Miss Quested, and her passage to India is at an end.It is more interesting to consider the aspects of the novel which both add to its complexity and provide its substance. As her name suggests, Adela is on a quest, to see `the real India', to understand it. It is a cerebral pursuit; only a matter, she thinks, of going there and looking about. The impossibility of such a task is the main thrust of Forster's novel. India is too vast, too varied, too old; a melting pot of culture and religions, a hugely diverse geography of mountains and plains and forested hillsides, a seething mass of multitudes. India cannot be `seen' by the human eye nor, it is powerfully suggested, understood by the human mind.Yet, while emphasising its immensity, the writer also manages to convey its minuteness. Scenes are repeatedly placed within a larger context, a man on the neatly-tended veranda of the club, the club against the sprawling city, the city against the backdrop of mountains, the mountains against the `overarching' sky, the sky itself against the incalculable firmament. This dichotomy results in `muddle' and `mystery'; India is an enigma.The diversity of Indian society adds to its complexity. The intricate differences between Indians of different races, castes and beliefs create a minefield, as well as the delicate mores which must be observed if social relationships between Indians and the British are to be pursued. The unfathomable Indian compulsion to tell a polite and sincere lie rather than an unpalatable truth muddies conversational waters at every turn. Add to this the ridiculous British impulse to force India into a neatly labelled box, to behave as though still in Blighty. But the gaggling chaos of the bazaar, the ramshackle, fly-blown bungalows of the populace, even the well-to-do residences of rich Indians, where guests are frequently tardy and dinner is always late, will never be regulated into the regimented rows of bungalows of the Civil Station. India is ungraspable, a live thing, many-hued, exotic and infuriating by turn.The failure of the British in India to appreciate these facts results in incidents which are, on one level, high comedy, on others, deeply shameful. The officious Surgeon General, the pompous Collector, the whole entourage of petty officials and their bigoted wives congregate at the Club (where no Indian is permitted unless he carries a tray of drinks) to decry India and Indians; they chafe and pontificate within their ludicrously inappropriate evening dress as India shifts and changes and defies categorisation.Amid this atmosphere of vastness and littleness and difference, the characters are constantly engaged in attempts to make connections. In a series of set-pieces, like formal dances, Forster tries to make meaningful links; between British and Indian, Hindu and Muslim, man and woman, man and man, but no two souls are a neat enough fit and even birds of a feather fall out in the end. No one has a wide enough vision or a big enough heart, or, if they have it one moment, it has changed into something else the next. Mrs Moore and the hapless Dr Aziz manage a fleeting spiritual accord, and the strength of it arms Aziz for the ordeal to come, but then India's immeasurable depth swallows Mrs Moore's faith, and she slips from Aziz' grasp.It would be easy to despair, in this mutable and somewhat nihilistic universe, where `everything exists but nothing has value' and where communication, Man's most precious resource, is reduced at last to an empty, meaningless echo. But Forster's mantra throughout the novel is a double helix of hope. As the tiny earth spins into the infinite universe, as the enormity of our own personal India engulfs us, as friends disappoint and loved ones leave, `goodwill, goodwill and more goodwill' and `kindness, kindness and more kindness' is both our bond and our blessing.


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