G. V. Desani

Govindas Vishnoodas Dasani (1909–2000), known only as G.V. Desani, was a British-Indian novelist, poet, and social commentator. He was born in Kenya, reared in India and came of age in Great Britain. An adept practitioner and scholar of ancient Eastern spiritual and mental-culture traditions, Desani was best known as the author of All About H. Hatterr (1948), a comic farce which lampooned Anglo and Indian culture, spiritual traditions and an admixture of the two. An epic-like poetic work, Hali (1950), and its subsequent pairing with his short stories, Hali and Short Stories (1991) comprised most of his fictional writings. Other writings included news reporting, humor and commentary. In his later years, Desani taught Eastern Philosophy in the United States.


G.V. Desani
BornGovindas Vishnoodas Desani
July 8, 1909
Nairobi, Kenya
DiedNovember 15, 2000
Fort Worth, Texas
OccupationAuthor, Professor of Philosophy
LanguageEnglish, Hindu, Urdu, Sindhi, Sanskrit, Pali
GenreNovel, short story, essay, lecture
Notable worksAll About H. Hatterr (1948)
Hali (1952)
Hali and Collected Stories (1991)


Early life

Born in Nairobi, Kenya, the son of a well-off wood merchant, he grew up in Sindh, now part of Pakistan. He described himself as a rebellious child who ran away from home three times and, at the age of 13, was expelled from school as unteachable. The third time he left home, he made it to England where, at 17, he connected with British gentry. He was personally recommended by George Lansbury, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in the British House of Commons, for admission as a reader to the prestigious British Museum Library.

By the age of 25, Desani had become a foreign correspondent for The Times of India, Reuters and the Associated Press. He was sponsored by the Central India Railway as a lecturer on antiquities. A circular from the Director of Education, Delhi, stressed the great value of his lectures. It was during this period that he changed the spelling of his last name from Dasani to Desani and, like many writers of the day, started going by his initials: G.V.

He returned to Britain at the beginning of World War II. Waiving their academic requirements, the Imperial Institute, the Council for Adult Education in the British Armed Forces, the London County Council, the Wiltshire County Council, and the Royal Empire Society accepted him as a lecturer and teacher.


Desani lectured at many well-known educational and research facilities including the New College, Oxford, the Rhodes House, Trinity College, Cambridge, and the Psychologisch Laboratorium of the University of Amsterdam. He was also a commentator for the BBC. The BBC's The Listener welcomed him as "... a broadcasting discovery ... a voice singular in its beauty." Many of his public lectures were sponsored by the British Ministry of Information. By the end of the war he had become a media personality.

Recalling his rise as an orator in Britain, Anthony Burgess writes that Desani demonstrated "... in live speech the vitality of the British rhetorical tradition, brilliant in Burke and Macaulay, decadent in Churchill, now dead."

All About H. Hatterr and Hali

It was, however, the publication in Britain in 1948 of his poly-colloquial, multi-cultural novel, All About H. Hatterr, that attracted wide attention on both sides of the Atlantic and in India. T. S. Eliot said of it, "... In all my experience, I have not met with anything quite like it. It is amazing that anyone should be able to sustain a piece of work in this style and tempo at such length."

All About H. Hatterr broke publicity records for a book published that year (Writer, London). The tone of the reviewers was of surprise and awe (Newsweek, 1951). In the United States, too, Hatterr earned high critical acclaim. Orville Prescott, in his Book of the Week review, in The New York Times, said of it, "... To describe a rainbow to a child born blind would not be much more difficult than to describe the unique character of All About H. Hatterr ... as startling as a unicorn in the hall bedroom. Reading it issues dizzy spells, spots before the eyes, consternation, and even thought." Saul Bellow, also in The New York Times, chose it for his 1952 Book of the Year selection, (calling it) the book "I love". Decades later Salman Rushdie wrote "Hatterr's dazzling, puzzling, leaping prose is the first genuine effort to go beyond the Englishness of the English language."

Desani's ""HALI: A Play,"" was published in 1950. It was described as "completely different from Hatterr," by T.S. Eliot who – along with E.M. Forster – provided a brief forward to the 30-plus page booklet. Eliot called Hali's imagery "... often terrifyingly effective." while Forster wrote, "... It keeps evoking heights above the Summit-City of normal achievement." Other comments were less positive. Eliot added in his Forward, "Hali is not likely to appeal quickly to the taste of many readers." Forster commented, "It depends upon a private mythology – a dangerous device."

Hali and Collected Short Stories was published in 1970.

Spiritual Quest

After his return to India in 1952, he spent nearly 15 years in intense 'spiritual' pursuits. Under guidance of numerous gurus and sadhus, who he sought out based on referrals and reputation, he practiced many forms of mantras and tantric yoga, and experimented with several schools of Hindu and Buddhist thought. According to papers he presented in India, Burma and the U.S., his quest often consisted of living in remote, primitive conditions. His sādhanā's varied. Sometimes he would be holed up in a country house for weeks or months; in another case he was told to walk through a particularly dangerous forest area. Later, he spent several months in intense mediation at a Zen monastery in Japan. Despite this intense study, he once said that he did not "have a Guru franchise".

In 1960, at the invitation of the Burmese Government, he devoted a year to the Panditãrãma Shwe Taung Gon Meditation Center in Rangoon (now Yangon) in the practice and study of ancient Theravada Buddhist techniques. At the conclusion, he was selected by the Burmese Foreign Office and the Ministry of Religion to address a specially-invited audience of the Diplomatic Corps in Rangoon on Buddhist ethics and techniques. Justice U Chan Htoon, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Burma and the President of the World Fellowship of Buddhists presided.

Social and Political Commentary

From 1962–67, as a special contributor to the Illustrated Weekly of India (The Times of India group), he published approximately 170,000 words of fiction, contemporary comment, criticism, book reviews and – before leaving for the United States, for a year and a half – wrote an unsigned weekly page called "Very High and Very Low". At that time, he was one of the most widely read and influential journalists in India. Some of his material was requested for publication in Britain and the States by, among others, the Transatlantic Review and The Noble Savage edited by Saul Bellow.

He was critical of certain policies promoted by Mahatma Gandhi. Unlike Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, who urged Indians not to help the British war effort, Desani encouraged his fellow Hindus to resist German and Japanese enslavement.

Philosophy Professorship

In 1967, based on his 15-year-long devotion to spiritual studies, he became a Fulbright Program lecturer on Oriental Philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin. Eventually, he chose to stay and become a tenured professor in the UT Philosophy Department. During the Spring breaks, he taught Theravada Buddhism. In the early 1970s, he became an American citizen. After he retired, in 1978, his health began to fail and he was looked after by some of his former students. He died at the age of 91, at a private home that had been converted to an ashram, near Fort Worth.[1]



  • All About H. Hatterr, Aldor, London 1948.
    • revised edition, Farrar, Straus & Young, New York, 1951.
    • further revised, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 1970.
    • further revised with a new chapter, Lancer Books, New York, 1972.
    • with further additions and revisions in the Penguin Modern Classics series, Penguin Books, London, 1972.

Short Stories & Others

External links

  1. ^ "All About G.V. Desani". www.desani.org. Retrieved 2018-07-13.
Abdulrazak Gurnah

Abdulrazak Gurnah (born 1948 in Zanzibar) is a Tanzanian novelist based in the United Kingdom.

All About H. Hatterr

All About H. Hatterr (1948) is a novel by G. V. Desani chronicling the adventures of an Anglo-Malay man in search of wisdom and enlightenment. "As far back as in 1951," Desani later wrote, "I said H. Hatterr was a portrait of a man, the common vulgar species, found everywhere, both in the East and in the West".


Desani may refer to:

G. V. Desani (1909–2000),Indian writer and philosopher

Pietro Desani (1585–1647), Italian baroque period painter

Dhan Gopal Mukerji

Dhan Gopal Mukerji (Bengali: ধন গোপাল মুখোপাধ্যায় Dhan Gōpāl Mukhōpādhyāy.) (6 July 1890 – 14 July 1936) was the first successful Indian man of letters in the United States and winner of Newbery Medal 1928. He studied at Duff School (now known as Scottish Church Collegiate School), and at Duff College, both within the University of Calcutta in India, at the University of Tokyo in Japan and at the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University in the US.

Ferdinand Dennis

Ferdinand Dennis (born 1956) is a writer, broadcaster, journalist and lecturer, who is Jamaican by birth but at the age of eight moved to England, where his parents had migrated in the late 1950s. Dr James Procter notes: "Perhaps as a result of his Caribbean background (a region probably marked more than any other by movements and migration), Dennis is a writer ultimately more concerned with routes than roots. This is foregrounded in much of his fictional work, notably his most recent and ambitious novel to date, Duppy Conqueror (1998), a novel which moves from 1930s Jamaica to postwar London and Liverpool, to Africa. Similarly, Dennis’ non-fiction centres on journeying rather than arrival, from Behind the Frontlines: Journey into Afro-Britain (1988) to Voices of the Crossing: The Impact of Britain on Writers from Asia, the Caribbean and Africa (2000)."

John Ashmead

John Ashmead (1917–1992) was an American novelist, Naval Intelligence officer, and professor of English. His writings include The Mountain and the Feather about his experiences in the Pacific in World War II as a United States naval intelligence officer and translator. He received a commendation for obtaining information that helped Navy fliers shoot down the plane of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who had masterminded the 1941 surprise attack on the U.S. military base at Pearl Harbor, HI, which brought the United States into the fighting. He co-authored The Songs of Robert Burns in 1988 with Professor John Davison. His PhD thesis was The Idea of Japan 1853-1895: Japan as Described by American and Other Travellers from the West. * Ashmead was a graduate of Navy Japanese language program at the University of Colorado, Boulder and Berkeley. His work as a translator for Naval Intelligence aided in the assassination of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. He was a professor of English at Haverford College from 1948 to 1988. At Haverford, he pioneered the use of computers in education and research. He spoke as Fulbright lecturer in Osaka and Kyoto, Japan, Taipei, Varanasi, India and throughout India, and also taught in Athens, Greece at Athens College for Boys.

Mahasi Sayadaw

Mahasi Sayadaw U Sobhana (Burmese: မဟာစည်ဆရာတော် ဦးသောဘန, pronounced [məhàsì sʰəjàdɔ̀ ʔú θɔ́bəna̰]; 29 July 1904 – 14 August 1982) was a Burmese Theravada Buddhist monk and meditation master who had a significant impact on the teaching of vipassana (insight) meditation in the West and throughout Asia.

In his style of practice, derived from the so-called New Burmese Method of U Nārada, the meditator lives according to Buddhist morality as a prerequistite for meditation practice. Meditation itself entails the practice of satipatthana, mindfulness of breathing, anchoring the attention on the sensations of the rising and falling of the abdomen during breathing, observing carefully any other sensations or thoughts. This is coupled to reflection on the Buddhist teachings on causality, gaining insight into dukkha, anatta, and anicca.

News from the Republic of Letters

News from the Republic of Letters is the third magazine collaboration between Saul Bellow and Keith Botsford, following Noble Savage and ANON. The journal, originally based in Boston and now operated from the editor's home in Costa Rica, publishes new and newly discovered writings from American and international writers. The magazine appears twice a year at widely varying intervals; subscribers purchase one issue at a time or a subscription for four issues. It first appeared in 1997 in newsprint; issues between 2003 and 2008 were published in bound edition; with the publication of No. 19 by the London-based publisher Sylph Editions, the journal has returned to broadsheet format.

The contents of TRoL fall into several categories. TEXTS are Works of fiction or non-fiction, of varying length, written in English or translated into English from any language. LIVES are memoirs, correspondence, biography and autobiography. ARIAS, a unique category, are personal statements and brief essays without restriction of subject. MUSIC, ART, BOOKS comprise intelligent work on any aspect of the arts. Works in the ARCHIVES are selected by the Editor to introduce readers to undeservedly lesser known writers from previous generations. POETRY includes both original verse and work from translation. Reviews and critical essays appear under NEW FICTION and as a part of P.B.'s NOTEBOOK, a column written by Mr. Botsford in the spirit of Enlightenment philosopher and writer Pierre Bayle. In 1684 Bayle began the publication of his Nouvelles de la république des lettres, after which TRoL takes its name.

Another unique feature has been the inclusion in newsprint issues of French-style pamphlets, which readers tear from the other pages and fold and cut themselves into small booklets. "Salido" by Louis Guilloux appears in this form in No.2, as does "O Brother!" by Mr. Botsford in No.3.

TRoL is distinguished by its international character and the publication of unknown authors alongside those already accomplished. The name of the magazine references the network of literary and political correspondence which united prominent thinkers across Europe during the Enlightenment:

The Republic of Letters is of very ancient origin ... It embraces the whole world and is composed of all nationalities, all social classes, all ages and both sexes ... All languages, ancient as well as modern, are spoken. The arts are joined to letters, and artisans have their place in it; but its religion is not uniform, and its manners (as in all republics) are a mixture of good and bad. Piety and licentiousness are both to be found ... Praise and honor are awarded by popular acclaim. (M. de Vigneul-Marville, 1699)In a 1999 interview with The New York Times Mr. Bellow explained his motivation for the magazine:

One early reader wrote that our paper, "with its contents so fresh, person-to-person", was "real, non-synthetic, undistracting." Noting that there were no ads, she asked, "Is it possible, can it last?" and called it "an antidote to the shrinking of the human being in every one of us." And toward the end of her letter our correspondent added, "It behooves the elder generation to come up with reminders of who we used to be and need to be." This is what Keith Botsford and I had hoped that our "tabloid for literates" would be. And for two years it has been just that. We are a pair of utopian codgers who feel we have a duty to literature.[1],

Rudyard Kipling

Joseph Rudyard Kipling ( RUD-yərd; 30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936) was an English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist. He was born in India, which inspired much of his work.

Kipling's works of fiction include The Jungle Book (1894), Kim (1901), and many short stories, including "The Man Who Would Be King" (1888). His poems include "Mandalay" (1890), "Gunga Din" (1890), "The Gods of the Copybook Headings" (1919), "The White Man's Burden" (1899), and "If—" (1910). He is regarded as a major innovator in the art of the short story; his children's books are classics of children's literature, and one critic described his work as exhibiting "a versatile and luminous narrative gift".Kipling was one of the most popular writers in the United Kingdom, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Henry James said: "Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius, as distinct from fine intelligence, that I have ever known." In 1907, at the age of 41, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English-language writer to receive the prize and its youngest recipient to date. He was also sounded out for the British Poet Laureateship and on several occasions for a knighthood, both of which he declined.Kipling's subsequent reputation has changed according to the political and social climate of the age and the resulting contrasting views about him continued for much of the 20th century. George Orwell saw Kipling as "a jingo imperialist", who was "morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting".

Literary critic Douglas Kerr wrote: "[Kipling] is still an author who can inspire passionate disagreement and his place in literary and cultural history is far from settled. But as the age of the European empires recedes, he is recognised as an incomparable, if controversial, interpreter of how empire was experienced. That, and an increasing recognition of his extraordinary narrative gifts, make him a force to be reckoned with."

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.