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The Hill of Devi

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The Hill of Devi, first published by Edward Arnold in 1953, is E. M. Forster's account of two of his visits to the state of Dewas Senior. The first visit was in 1912-13, the second in 1921.

Forster publishes the letters of his early travel without introduction in order to let the reader share his own "bewilderment and pleasure at plunging into an unknown world and at meeting an unknown and possibly unknowable character" (E. M. Forster, The Hill of Devi (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965) 9). This character, the central figure of the whole book, is the Maharajah himself. He is witty, complex, sensitive and religious, "certainly a genius, and possibly a saint, and he had to be king" (back cover). As his private secretary, "Forster was privileged to ride elephants, to receive an 'Official Insult,' and to attend the strange eight-day festival of Gokul Ashtami" (back cover).

The early essays are followed by an explanatory text on "The State and its Ruler." Then comes the main section, containing the letters of 1921, which are extensively commented by Forster. In the last part of the book, he describes the "Catastrophe," the descent of the Maharaja and the state. Forster closes his recollections with a meditation upon death and memory:

One of the puzzling things about the dead is that it is impossible to think of them evenly. They all go out of sight and are forgotten, they all go into silence, yet we cannot help assigning some of them a tune. Most of those whom I have known leave no sound behind them, I cannot evoke them tough I would like to. He [the Maharajah] has a rare quality of evoking himself, and I do not believe that he is here doing it for the last time. (175)

In the preface, E. M. Forster describes his time in India as "the great opportunity of [... his] life." For the reader, this commented collection of letters is a great opportunity to read a humorous, delightful and fresh Edward Morgan Forster.

Contents

  • Preface

  • Letters of 1912-13

  • The State and its Ruler

  • Letters of 1921

    • Settling In

    • Birth of a Baby

    • Scindhia's Visit

    • The Rains

    • The Insult

    • Gokul Ashtami

    • On Tour

    • Dassera

    • Colonel Wilson

  • Catastrophe

    • The Yuvraj

    • Pondicherry

(h.z.)

 
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