Author: Gurdial Singh
Translator(s): Rana Nayar
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8189020242
The Survivors (originally published as Unhoye in Punjabi), is his second major novel. On its publication in 1966 it almost instantaneously placed Gurdial Singh among the front runners of Punjabi fiction. This novel revolves around Bishna, a man of rare courage and deep, passionate convictions, who stands committed to and incessantly strives for the assertion of essential human dignity by choosing the path of confrontation over that of abject conformism. Somewhere in his dogged, seemingly irrational, personal revolt against the defunct societal values lies the recognition that having lost its legitimacy, the entire system is now poised for a cataclysmic social upheaval and change.
Often the qualities that make The Survivors a critic’s perfect delight could, through an ironic reversal, become the very raison de etre of a translator’s nightmare, too. First of all, Gurdial Singh writes in a dialect of Punjabi called Malwai, withal its lexical and syntactical idiosyncrasies intact. Even within the dialect, each character is identified by virtue of his/her idiolect, which is further compounded when the Rajasthan, as he does in case of Bishna’s friend, Hetiya. By thus crating different voices, Gurdial Singh manages to create in his novel what Mikhail Bakhtin has described as a polyphonic discourse.
A carpenter’s son, winner of practically every literary award in the country, including the Padma Shri for literature, and the Jnanpith for lifetime achievement, Gurdialji has been and done so many things in his life: He has made wheels for bullock carts, been a college professor for a living, painted for leisure, moulded water tanks out of iron sheets. He’s lived life and so can write life. His writings function in the realm of human creativity, hovering between the private and the public, the individual and the social.
It questions freedom and commitment and ides that make human beings less incomplete, The Survivors, Unhoye, is a novel that reminds us that humanity has a place apart on this earth. One of the best novels to emerge form Punjab.