Jan Myrdal, is one of the leading figures in the contemporary Swedish culture, his parents are Alva and Gunnar Myrdal, architects of the modern welfare state, they both received the Nobel Prize (he for economics, she for peace).
Jan Myrdal has written more than thirty books, including fiction, plays and books on literature, art and politics. He has also made a number of feature films and TV documentaries.
Some of his books include - 12 Going on
13 : An Autobiographical Novel, Another World, Confessions of a Disloyal
European, India Waits, The Silk Road and Report from a Chinese village.
He writes regularly for all of Stockholm's newspapers and lectures on
The following is a tribute to Mahakavi Sri Sri which appeared in Jan Myrdal's book "India Waits" which was translated into English by Alan Bernstein. This is posted here with due permissions from both the Author and the Publishers, for reposting or other use, please contact the publishers and the author for permission.
Singing the Poetry of People - Jan Myrdal
The silence in Europe is not surprising,
seeing as the poet died in Madras and was Asian, an Indian. What is more,
he was a Communist-not some Goulash Communist, Eurocommunist or communist
The obituarist D. Anjaneyulu writing in Indian
Express, June 16, 1983 concluded with the words: "He was for Andhra
Pradesh what Nazrul Islam was for Bangladesh, Pablo Neruda for Latin America
Goethe, of course, was right when speaking
with Eckermann on Wednesday January 27, 1827, he stated that one has to
look out over the world so as not to fall into the delusion that what
one wrote was the only poetry and was of particular value. But unfortunately
he was mistaken when he claimed that the epoch of world literature was
at hand. One hundred and fifty years after that discussion, the epoch
of world literature is still so far off that one can safely assume that
Europeans who work with
His people knew and loved him by the name
Sri Sri. Because of his language he was also reluctantly loved by his
class enemies. They considered him a renegade, a flouter of religion and
a caste-breaker. His full name was Srirangam Srinivasa Rao, and he was
born into an orthodox middle class family in Visakhapatnam on January
2, 1910. It was there that he attended school. Later he studied at Madras
Christian College and received a degree in Zoology in 1930. By then he
already had a reputation as a poet, a promising -if romantic and slightly
reactionary- youth. In 1928, at the age of 28, he had made his debut with
Prabhava, a thin, little volume of confidently constructed, romantically
This was a great period for Andhra literature.
In later Indian literature history the two decades 1915-1935 in Andhra
are compared with the age of Pericles in Athens or the Elizabethan period
in England. The poets of the Andhra Renaissance, people such as Veeresalingam
Panthulu, had shattered the ossified written language and recaptured the
spoken tongue for literature. A constellation of great poets, unknown
in Europe, created an extensive body of literature lyric and epic poetry,
Sri Sri's breakthrough came in 1933 with
Suptaasthikalu. His rejection of orthodoxy and reaction signalled an attachment
to romantic modernism, and, at the same time, a return towards the
Now he became a bard of the new technology and industrialism, vitalist and machine-worshipper, socialist and revolutionary. It was labor that created the world and all its wealth. It was the working people who would make themselves free and build the world of tomorrow. In forceful language, with total formal control of both the popular tongue and Sanskritized Telugu, and with a sovereign ability to use speech sound and meter, he gave youth of the thirties the message to crush the old state and rip apart its web of lies.
At the same time he turned his attention to foreign poetry; he was as free in his outward reflection as he was deeply rooted in his people and their language. He was influenced by poets such as Nazrul Islam and Harindranath Chattopadhyaya, but also by Shelley and Swinburne, Rupert Brooke and Siegfried Sassoon, Baudelaire, Pasternak and Mayakovsky.
He earned a living at a variety of jobs,
seldom remaining long. He drank heavily and lived hard. He worked as a
journalist at Andhra Prabha in Madras and Meezaan in Hyderabad. He freelanced
During the thirties, his political awareness
grew. The mounting threat of world fascism, the first ocialist state-the
Soviet Union of the five year plans, the Spanish Civil War, Japan's war
on the Chinese people transformed him. Romantic revolutionism evolved
into the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat. The poetic world-perspective
became proletarian internationalism, uniting the southern Indian agricultural
laborer with the Czech miner, the Irish sailor and the cotton-harvesting
Now it was Aragon who influenced his style
and determined his direction. From modernism and surrealistic experimentation,
Sri Sri consciously turned to the masses to learn of his true roots in
the people's language and culture. Thus Sri Sri learned from Andhra's
despised peasants and outcasts, from their rich culture and highly evolved
folk songs: The bardic Burrakatha lyrics (where the story teller, the
singer, performs with his jester as well as the commentator, who both
accompany themselves on burra instruments) and the Madiga Songs. The lyrics
of the outcasts also liberated his poetry. His sureness of style grew,
while his poetry spoke ever more clearly of subjects held to be
In the democratic writers' association, The Progressive Writer's Movement, formed by the Communist Party during the Second World War, Sri Sri became one of the leaders in andhra. When he opened the third annual meeting of progressive Andhra writers in Rajahmundry in December 1945, eighty Telugu writers took part in the three days of deliberations and appearances. They represented nine hundred writers organized in sixteen sections across all Andhra (as well as the Nizams of Hyderabad).
Sri Sri was not merely an intellectual; he also took part in practical political actions, participated in the Party's election campaigns and was elected to the legislative assembly. He was active in the world peace movement and visited Helsinki, Paris and Moscow.
As the most prominent of the revolutionary
poets in Andhra, he naturally also incurred the most ferocious attacks.
During the 1955 election campaign in Andhra, he was assailed with such
Then came the Naxalbari revolt in 1967. Spring thunder rumbled across the plain and lightning struck. Now, this wasn't parliamentary or middle class, it wasn't a matter of sitting at international meetings, or drinking vodka with the Russians, it was the poor peasants of India in revolt. It was communists who broke with the corrupt party, turning to the masses, taking to the Indian people's road, the road to revolution, from the Coal Revolt and the Wahhabi Rebellion, from Santha1 and 1857, from Moplah and Telangana, men and women who, if necessary, were willing to die for the cause of the people. There followed Srikakulam here in Andhra and peasant revolt smoldered across the land. If one seeks heroes, look no further- heroes such as Charu Mazumdar, weaver of the revolution's red scarf, and Vempatapu Satyanarayana and Adibhatla Kailasam, brilliant jewels of Andhra, and all the other thousands of immortal martyrs of whom the poor now sing.
When Sri Sri turned 60 and it was time for
the grand, official homage, students came and politically posed their
question to the assembled poets:
In Germany, the young radical students had
lived to see their beloved Goethe become the poet of indifferentism. Sri
Sri was great, a Goethe of his time and one with his people. He did not
In the years that followed he took part In the efforts of the Revolutionary Writers' Association and worked toward the establishment of the Indian Revolutionary Writers' Association. He defied the authorities. They were even obliged to imprison him a short time, this national poet they had once tried to coopt. And all the while he wrote.
For the poetry movement in Andhra, for thousands of poets and millions of listeners and readers, Sri Sri's work from the years after 1970, collected in Maro Prasthaanam, is a fantastically young, creative continuation of one of Indian literature's great and liberating lifeworks.
Now he is dead. Even European workers and
students who have never heard of him are the poorer for it. But the revolutionary
poetry movement for the liberation of India's people, which he served