The Survivors – Gurdial Singh


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A carpenter’s son winner of practically every literary award in the jnapith for lifetime achivevement, Gurdialji has lived life and so, can write life. The Survivors (originally published as Unhoye in Punjabi), is his second major novel. On its publication in 1966 it almost instantaneously placed Gurdial Singh among the front runners of Punjabi fiction. This novel revolves around Bishna, a man of rare courage and deep, passionate convictions, who stands committed to and incessantly strives for the assertion of essential human dignity by choosing the path of confrontation over that of abject conformism. Somewhere in his dogged, seemingly irrational, personal revolt against the defunct societal values lies the recognition that having lost its legitimacy, the entire system is now poised for a cataclysmic social upheaval and change.

Often the qualities that make The Survivors a critic’s perfect delight could, through an ironic reversal, become the very raison de etre of a translator’s nightmare, too. First of all, Gurdial Singh writes in a dialect of Punjabi called Malwai, withal its lexical and syntactical idiosyncrasies intact. Even within the dialect, each character is identified by virtue of his/her idiolect, which is further compounded when the Rajasthan, as he does in case of Bishna’s friend, Hetiya. By thus crating different voices, Gurdial Singh manages to create in his novel what Mikhail Bakhtin has described as a polyphonic discourse.


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