Editorial: On local and other observations

This month the local gets celebrated by a diversity of literary voices through poetry, prose and pictures, giving us a whiff of the sights, sounds and colours that come to constitute the rich fabric of that recorded reality. It also continues, except a brief break, the practice and tradition of themed editions, guest-edited by some of the top names of their chosen fields of art, lit and criticism.

Jaydeep Sarangi has earned international respect for his credentials as a writer and public intellectual. He curates the June Setu by making a careful selection of the lyrical and critical and artistic talents on the given subject of local, majorly irrigated by the cross currents of memory, heritage, urban planning, architecture and its deep and intrinsic appeal to a creative wanderer in search of inspiration.

When a street in Dublin or a turn in a bend arrests the attention of a critical observer, the end result is a classic work of art that strikes a similar chord or kinship with a reader in UK, USA or India, or any other location.

It is a unique capacity of art! Of being here- and -there in the same instant, in the simultaneity of the psychology of reading and dynamism of aesthetics and its individual reception;  the ability to transport the reader, a la flying carpet, over  the different and variegated geographies of mind and place. The chronological time or date of production gets suddenly transcribed onto an altered time sequence and the RT (received text) becomes re-animated and re-vitalized in a changed context and venue, thus cleverly establishing new kinship and textual affinities and resonances.

Call the process, simulation by glance.

A King Lear suddenly looks so familiar to its middle-class patrons, in the year 2019 in a Mumbai or Madrid milieu!

All writings are basically about the local only. In the hands of the gifted artists, the local becomes transcendental and universal and time defiant. The greatest writers like Balzac or Dickens or Tolstoy or Gorky introduce a local that strangely mirrors the universal for a reader embedded in a different time-space continuum. A new millennial reader finding solace in Dostoevsky is as amazing as the theatre of Ibsen or Shakespeare or the paintings of Raphael, in an age different than the original.

What quality is there in these objects of great and timeless art that continues to speak across changing stages and eras of time and space? It is the humanist vision of the artist that uplifts the artifact and elevates it into a higher realm of experience of human condition; an act that speaks to the humanity and on its behalf. All great art is located in the local, the immediate, and the instant. The locale is important to frame the narratives or the visuals but the underlying vision of the artist turns that setting, moment, mood into something permanent and surprisingly live and energetic---and inspiring. Kitsch does not have such suppleness and vibrancy!

In this selection, you will find the local becoming real and your lived- own. Kind of affinity photography or painting or cinema brings to us through a shared sense of immediacy, intimacy of gaze, history and cultural affinity---a transcendental experience by which we are able to rise above all the socio-political constructs and barriers and enjoy arts as something uplifting and enlightening.

We thank all the contributors and Jaydeep for their support to this open call and hope for their affection in future as well.

This time, there are no other writings except the featured ones on the given theme. Of course, Author of the Month and Book Review are an exception to this.

Next issue is going to be general.

Please immerse in the milieu and discover the global in/at the same instant

Sunil Sharma

Editor, Setu (English)
India, June 30, 2019

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