Six decades on,Sartre’s anti-war essays find a Mumbai stage

Some bonds are forever. In the ’60s,Jayant Kripalani had extensively read Jean-Paul Sartre.

Written by Alaka Sahani | Mumbai | Published:January 19, 2009 2:26 am

Hear Jayant Kriplani at a dramatised reading at Prithvi Theatre today

Some bonds are forever. In the ’60s,Jayant Kripalani had extensively read Jean-Paul Sartre. So when he came to know about Seagull Books’ new release-Sartre’s The Aftermath of War-he offered the publisher Naveen Kishore a free,dramatised reading of the book.

A one-hour reading,moderated by Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi and held at Kolkata nearly six weeks ago,had generated a huge response. At the end of it,nearly 100 people who turned up wanted the theatre veteran to read out more.

On Monday evening,Kripalani will be reading from The Aftermath of War at Prithvi Theatre to launch the book in the city as well as mark the beginning of a new initiative at the theatre hub called Seagull@Prithvi. Under the initiative,monthly performances including dramatised readings,films on books and others will be held.

“Sartre’s writing is very special to me. It has provided me years of solace. I had read another translation of The Aftermath of War nearly three years ago. When I came to know that Kishore,who is a friend,is publishing it,I suggested doing the reading,” Kripalani says. He will be reading selected portions from the book,a collection of the French existentialist philosopher’s essays written during the 1944-48 period,known to be Sartre’s most creative phase.

The book contains Sartre’s reflections on collaboration,resistance and liberation in post-war Europe,his thoughts and observations after his extended trip to the USA in 1945; an examination of the failings of philosophical materialism; his analysis of the new revolutionary poetry of ‘negritude’,and his meditations on the visual arts.

Ask Kripalani what kind of audience he expects at Prithvi and he says,“I don’t have a clue.” But he does hope the audience would open up and set the stage for a debate and interaction. During the reading,he will occupy various areas of the stage,but won’t be following a fixed format.

The event,he hopes,will encourage the young generation to read Sartre. For,his post-World War II writing is relevant even now with countries at war with themselves as well as others,says Kripalani.

Kripalani,who will be seen on the Mumbai stage after a gap,has been more involved with his responsibilities as the director of Exper Executive Education. This organisation uses theatre as a tool along with adventure to improve social skills and leadership qualities in students as well as corporate executives.

However,2009 may see him on stage again — this time to do a play. “I am working on a script with two friends about the world we inhabit. We have just completed its first draft,if it turns out to be interesting,we will stage it.”

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