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Six Acres and a Third This sly and humorous novel by Fakir Mohan Senapati—one of the pioneering spirits of modern Indian literature and an early activist in the fight against the destruction of native Indian languages—is both a literary work and a historical document A text that makes use—and deliberate misuse—of both British and Indian literary conventions Six Acres and a Third provides a uniue view from below of Indian village life under colonial rule Set in Orissa in the 1830s the novel focuses on a small plot of land tracing the lives and fortunes of people who are affected by the way this property is sold and resold as new legal arrangements emerge and new types of people come to populate and transform the social landscape This graceful translation faithfully conveys the rare and compelling account of how the unsavory aspects of colonialism affected life in rural India

About the Author: Fakir Mohan Senapati

Fakir Mohan Senapati Odia ଫକୀର ମୋହନ ସେନାପତି; 13 January 1843 – 14 June 1918 often referred to as Utkala Byasa Kabi Odisha's Vyasa was an Indian writer poet philosopher and social reformer He played a leading role in establishing the distinct identity of Odia a language mainly spoken in the Indian state of Odisha Fakirmohan Senapati is regarded as the father of Odia nationalism and mode

10 thoughts on “Six Acres and a Third

  1. says:

    Wow Another brilliant relatively unsung work of literature in one of the many languages of India; this time from Odisha a state that's almost absent from the mainstream narrative I recently went on a week long trip to this gorgeous state and this was my companion read for the journeySix Acres and a Third is an Odia novel written in the early 1900s which in many ways inaugrated modern Odia prose It is about the machinations of an evil landlord in the 1830s a land grabber par excellence who abuses the newfangled colonial legal system to systematically trap villagers in unsustainable debt and seize their lands upon default Given this premise I was expecting a relentlessly bleak novel typical of 'social realism' works but boy did this book belie my expectationFirst the story is told not by a dull omniscient narrator but by a hilarious wickedly sarcastic self referential narrator who belongs the post modern literary age rather than the modern She is a sort of interlocutor between the unlettered rural masses and the emergent Odia middle class employed in government service that's unduly enamoured by colonial values and modes of thinking The narrator takes persistent digs at this class of 'babus' acting as a critic of colonial rule and its beneficiaries rather than a teller of simple tales about peasants and landlords Sample one of these digs below The most revered and classical rules of literature reuire writers to draw the portrait of their heroes and heroines in traditionally prescribed ways But our writers have a major weakness When it comes to talking about the heroine they behave as though they have chanced upon something very delectable and do nothing but describe her beauty forgetting everything else about her Classical Indian poets compare the gait of a beautiful woman to that of an elephant The babus frown on such a comparison; they would rather the heroine “galloped like a horse The way English culture is rushing in like the first floods of the River Mahanadi we suspect that our newly educated and civilized babus will soon appoint whip cracking trainers to teach their gentle female companions to gallopAnd then are the sarcastic references to the ominiscience of narrators itself The traveler grabbed his bundle and jumped into the river while the boatman Chandia cried Stop stop Before he could swim fifteen to twenty feet a Gomuhan crocodile swam up and caught him in its jaws The bundle floated some distance and then sank Chandia was left staring Who was this man? Where did he come from? Where did he want to go?You see dear reader we are the author and therefore we are omniscient We know why this crocodile snatched the man away where it carried him whether it treated him well or not; we have answers to all these uestions However we are unwilling to talk about this openly since Chandia Behera himself kept the story a secret for reasons best known to himThere is also the delicate subversion of literary conventions and a takedown of linguistic colonialism in reference to the marginalization of the Odia language by Bengali and English during British rule the author Senapati himself was a leading champion for the preservation of Odia language The narrator is also prone to uoting and misuoting prescriptive Sanskrit poems and aphorisms in an attempt to showcase the arbitrary values and vested caste interests the inherent authority of the language imposes on the general populace Chanakya says that people who stand by you at a king's court or in a law court or at a cremation ground are your true friends In other words your true friends are lawyers in law courts and jackals skulking around cremation groundsOverall this is a stunningly original work of literature that is both a 'view from below' of village life in colonial Odisha and a document of the confusion and legal chaos colonial rule represented for the rural masses who were pushed into landlessness and insecure tenancy by the Permanent Settlement which meant the consolidation and subseuent auction of zamindaris often into the hands of non Odia absentee landowners However this historical context aside I would recommend you read the book for its brilliantly sketched characters its delicious evocation of 19th century village life beliefs and for the highly entertaining narrator who doesn't let the pace of the novel slacken even in a single placeTo sum it up this is undoubtedly one of the most delightful and polished satirical novels I've ever read Highly recommended

  2. says:

    Fakir Mohan Senapati is widely acclaimed as the father of modern Odia prose Before him Odia literature was primarily confined to poems verses few occasional essays Senapati's Rebati is the first published short story in the history of Odia proseSix Acres A Third Chha Mana Aatha Guntha in Odia tells the story of a couple in some remote village in Odisha against the backdrop of poverty rural traditions the greed of a zamindar land lord out to swindle this couple of their most prized possessions The possession in this case refers to the couple's extremely fertile farm land measuring Chha Mana Aatha Guntha or Six Acres a Third which were eyed by the landlord The storyline it's main protagonists the farmer couple Bhagia Saria and the landlord Ram Chandra Mangaraj are reflections of the contemporary Odia society In a different era 19th century to be precise when the administration was yet to reach remote rural areas people's lives were guided by the prevailing beliefs governed by the whims of local landlords Rural Odisha alternately ravaged by floods famines also suffered due to greed of local zamindars whose only aim was to exploit the local farmers Added to this background Senapati's collouial style of writing subtle character sketching is what makes it a very interesting read Then there is Senapati's satirical take of various traditions beliefs that were prevalent in villages a century ago and how they affected human lives living conditions This book is one among the four novels penned by Fakir Mohan Senapati the others being Lachama a name Mamu meaning Maternal Uncle Prayaschita meaning Penance and is probably the single most acclaimed among his works Apart from this Fakir Mohan has written about twenty short stories published in two parts with the title Galpa Swalpa which are again considered landmarks in modern Odia literature I read this book for the first time when I was in school have lost count of the number of times I've read it since This is a book that truly is a timeless creation I recommend reading this book in its original form ie the original version in Odia if you can That would ensure the original charm is retained and nothing gets lost in translationFakir Mohan Senapati lived in a different era 1843 1912 but his literary skills are unmatched even after a century of his death I've a feeling that if he were born in a different society he would probably have got the acclaim at par with Oscar Wilde or O Henry Such were Fakir Mohan's wizardry with words emotions events No wonder he is to Odia literature what Maharshi Veda Vyasa was to Sanskrit

  3. says:

    Brilliant I hadn't come across a book like this before The words like KARMA oppression superstition satire mockery corruption Lanlordism infidelity are some of the words which go very well with this novel And you'll agree with this just after reading first 10 12 pages of the novel The novel gives a strong message that no one can escape the conseuences of his KARMA The novel depicts a very honest picture of the pre independence Indian society Though this novel was originally written in Odia and was translated into English by University of California Press I never at once felt like reading a translated version of the book as it is translated so well I would strongly recommend it to everyone

  4. says:

    So Fucking Good

  5. says:

    Fakir Mohan Senapati is to Odia literature what Premchand is to Hindi or Rabindranath Tagore is to Bengali literature He is aptly regarded as father of Odia literature publishing the first ever Odia short story Chha Mana Atha Guntha Six Acres and a third is his most famous creation and every Odia remotely knowledgeable about literature is aware of the tragic tale of the weaver couple 'Bhagia' and 'Saria' and the evil feudal landlord Ramchandra Mangaraj However labeling 'Chha Mana Atha Guntha' as just a mere tragic tale would be same as calling 'Life is Beautiful' a sad movie Of course there are tragedies tales of poverty exploitation murder trial penance and retribution but Fakir Mohan goes much beyond those clichés painting vividly the life of then rural Odisha and presents us the readers a deeply satirical take on society crippled by ineuality illiteracy superstition I remember seeing the Odia movie adoption of the book which limits the story to sad tale of the story of the weaver couple exploited by the evil land grabbing Zamindar But the book is clearly much than that and the story of Bhagia and Saria remains just the backdrop in the larger story that shows mirror to the feudal society of British occupied Odisha The book is little hard to read as the language used is collouial Odia used 100 years before however the beautiful narration would many a times make you chuckle while you would be holding back tears It talks about how the shift of power doesn't reign in exploitation by this beautiful line O horse what difference does it make to you if you are stolen by a thief? You do not get much to eat here; you will not get much to eat there No matter who becomes the next master we will remain his slavesI would consider myself fortunate to read this wonderful book in the original language

  6. says:

    Sly yet heartbreakinga gem of a novel

  7. says:

    I've always heard my parents mention Fakir Mohan Senapati whenever I asked them about Oriya literature and this is one of the few books I found that was translatedI liked the writing to a degree although I felt like the satire turned into overkill one time too many It was only when I read the introduction that I found out that the narrator is a character himself the embodiment of the uintessential Oriya touter Perhaps it all reads much better in the original but in that case a book with four different translators should certainly have been able to capture the subtleties Not that the author is always subtle himself sometimes going into rather unpleasant detail The book meanders far too often the first dozen or so chapters are or less sketches and the plot starts abruptly and careens into a conclusion by the end

  8. says:

    Set in 1830s rural Orissa this is an English translation of the Oriya original Senapati tells the story through a narrator; not a narrator in the Western tradition but one borrowed from the historical Indian tradition of a travelling theatrical performer This remote Oriya village from two centuries ago may seem right out of fantasy for non Indians but it was probably all too real Ignorance religion tradition casteism corruption colonialism and fundamental human deceit create a world of terrible oppression and injustice Senapati's sly narrator is a master of sarcasm and wit and he has us laughing through this sad tale How I wish I had heard and seen the story from a 'live' actor in front of me

  9. says:

    A novel truly ahead of its time Satirical of colonial India rule by the British of the caste system the relationship between religion and money all narration through the narration of the lawyerfool character who reminds me much of Geoffrey Chaucer's narration from The Canterbury Tales that reveals the evils and true essence of karma It is than 'what goes around comes around' it is to perform actions for good reasons and to expect nothing in return not the use of another as an end like Mangaraj

  10. says:

    A nineteenth century novel set in colonial India by the first modern Oriya writer Fakir Mohan Senapati The translation is clunky in places but the story and the author’s razor sharp wit comes through well An interesting read – it reminded me of the contemporaneous novels on similar themes by Bankimchandra Chatterjee and Premchand and Saratchandra Chattopadhyay if slightly later – novels which I read throughout my school life

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