The Nirad C. Chaudhuri Page

Photo of Nirad Chaudhuri
23 Nov 1897--1 Aug 1999
Thus, on the one hand, I have been disenthralled by knowledge. On the other, I have believed to understand, and have been rewarded with joy. I have found that to sit by the rivers of Babylon is not necessarily to weep in Hebraic sorrow. Today, borne on a great flood of faith, hope, and joy in the midst of infinite degradation, I feel that I shall be content to be nothing for ever after death in the ecstasy of having lived and been alive for a moment. I have made the discovery that the last act is glorious however squalid the play may be in all the rest.

Chaudhuri surely holds the record for being the world's oldest author. This remarkable man published a book in his hundredth year:Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse (Oxford University Press, ISBN 019564189-2).

He wrote in the preface to his latest book:
The very first thing I have to tell those who will read this book is that it is being written by a man in his ninety-ninth year (the date of his birth being 23 November 1897, the year of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria). I have never read or heard of any author, however great or productive in his heyday, doing that.

This confession alone will be enough to make the reader expect only senile babbling from me. It is not for me, however, to reassure him. He must be his own judge.

Not content with writing a book in English, he embarked on an autobiography in Bengali. But he did not successfully realize this project. I am hoping someone would publish the material as it stands.

On 3 March 1990, Nirad C. Chaudhuri was presented the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters by Oxford University. The speech by the Public Orator was delivered in Latin:

The eminent Bengali whom I now present is thoroughly versed both in English and European poetry and has interpreted Indian society and customs to us with great intellectual ability, illuminating incidentally several aspects of our society. Mr. Chaudhuri expressed his views on contemporary events with a frankness which was too great to make him popular with his fellow Indians, praising certain aspects of the Raj, and lacking in the requisite enthusiasm for the birth of New India. But with passage of time his reputation at home is now restored. The Unknown Indian of his book has deservedly won fame and recognition.

Mr. Chaudhuri was a Fellow of the Royal Literary Society and was conferred a CBE by the Queen of England on October 19, 1992.

This page is a tribute to this great man from India, who, according to the former diplomat Natwar Singh, was ``the possessor of a granite-like integrity which despises `saccharine morality' ''.

I have gathered here as many references as I have been able to find regarding his work including books and articles by the man himself, as well as essays by other people on him and his work. I invite corrections, however minor, and additions to this page. I am, of course, aware that some information in this page is still incorrect and I need help; see the section Help Wanted.

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Last modified: Mon Aug 9 15:18:20 PDT 1999