The long poems of the Hindi poet Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh (1917–64) present a series of fantastic narratives, in which a nameless speaker journeys through a fantastic landscape. These works, often analyzed solely in terms of a supposed mythic, romantic structure, should be considered as a response to formal problems of the novel and the lyric in midcentury Hindi literature. Despite acknowledging these long poems as his most important contribution, literary critics display a marked discomfort with what they see as their excesses. Muktibodh’s writings, however, reflect his substantive consideration of the problems of narrative poetry. In Muktibodh’s most famous work, “Aṁdhere meṁ” (“In the Dark”), the long poem’s distinct formal structure is deployed to produce the disjointed paratactic narratives that typify Muktibodh’s work. Furthermore, this poetic structure is crucially influenced by free verse poetics in Marathi, making clear that any consideration of modern Hindi literature must take into account the complex interrelationships of literary cultures in South Asia. Thus, Muktibodh’s long poem prompts a reconsideration of the role of genre and form in our understanding of South Asian literary cultures and their engagements with the world.

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