Udayan Vajpeyi
(India, 1960)   
Udayan Vajpeyi

Udayan Vajpeyi is a Hindi poet, essayist, short fiction and script writer. He has published two volumes of poetry, a short story collection, a book of essays and other miscellaneous publications (including a book of recreated folktales and an account of an extended conversation with  filmmaker Mani Kaul). His work has been translated into Bengali, Tamil, Oriya, Kannada, English, French, Swedish, Polish and Bulgarian. He teaches Physiology at Gandhi Medical College, Bhopal.

Vajpeyi has translated works by Octavio Paz, Borges, Chekhov, Brodsky, Jaccottet, Tadeus Rozewicz, among others, into Hindi. He has been invited to various festivals in India and overseas, the most recent being a seminar on the folk imagination in Moscow and the International Book Fair in Paris in 2007. He has received various awards for his writing, including a Senior Fellowship from the Government of India (1994 – 96), the Krishna Baldev Award (2001) and the Raja Foundation Award (2003).

The prose poems in this edition are rooted in an intensely specific location: an ancestral home in the small town of Sagar in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Like all old homes, it is stained with memory, aromatic with associations, resonant with footfall and fractured conversations, held together by the glue of intimate but not uncomplicated kinship ties.

However, if space is a fixed variable in this poetry, time is not. In a series of fluid, subtle, cinematic frames, the work vaults nimbly across chronology. The result of these temporal disjunctions – a widowed mother cooking a meal, a father at a dining table, a grandmother at the top of the stairway – is a sense of now-ness; the simultaneity of past and present; of patterns, rhythms and events swirling together in one vast continuum:

Father has returned to this ruined house twelve years after his death. I know that the place where we are doesn’t exist.
He was not transparent before he died.
For twelve years we searched for him in the hills. He never searched for us.
He neither ate nor talked – nor was.

Shot through with silence and a brooding sense of loss, place in Vajpeyi’s poetry becomes all at once concrete and strangely illusory, tangible and dreamlike.

Five poems have been specially translated for this edition by translator and scholar Alok Bhalla.

© Arundhathi Subramaniam


Kuchh Vakya, Vani Prakashan, New Delhi, 1995
Pagal Ganitagya Ki Kavitayen, Vani Prakashan, New Delhi
Vie Invisible, Cheyne Editeur, Lignon, 2000


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