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QUEST - The Journal of Arts and Ideas

In publication for 22 years - August 1955 to May/June 1976, the journal shut down in 1976, rather than submit to pre-censorship during the Bogus Emergency of 1975-77.

What kind of a journal was QUEST which, like Freedom First, was also sponsored by the Indian Committee for Cultural Freedom? According to Nissim Ezekiel, its founding editor, QUEST was concerned with the relation between politics and culture. In its first editorial he wrote: The most obvious motive for startingQUEST is the form which such a journal is able to take. It can offer itself as an honest and natural vehicle of the mind and sensibility, with its appeal on a single level. Every nation needs a few journals not dependent for their circulation on rehashing the stereotyped ingredients of mass media. In India QUEST will try to be one of these.

“In India we rarely expound ideas – we pronounce our views, we make declarations, we condemn, oppose, dismiss or denounce. Criticism on the other hand, is a complex and sensitive function of intelligence. Criticism is necessarily associated with intellectuals and they have no reason to be ashamed of it.”

Ten years later (in 1966) the then editors Abu Sayeed Ayyub and Amlan Datta in an introduction to a Publication reviewing ‘TEN YEARS OF QUEST’ wrote:

“Quest is primarily a periodical of opinion, but it admits no colour bar in the realm of ideas. In this country, we are not so deeply stirred by the issue of cultural freedom as are the thinkers and writers of the West. This results from three main causes:

Our long tradition of authoritarianism, though religious authoritarianism is not the same thing as political regimentation, the difference is small.

The fact that our lack of the bare necessities of life is egregious that we are apt to regard freedom of culture because our culture itself is not fully alive. This is particularly true in the sphere of intellectual (as distinct from imaginative) production.

We have almost ceased to think and, what is sadder still, we have lost the urge, perhaps even the capacity to think. Our pride in the culture of ancient India is in exact proportion to its lack of vitality today.

 

This brings us to the role of QUEST. The passionate Western anxiety for the preservation of cultural freedom cannot transform itself for us in India into an eagerness for revitalizing our cultural life. We can be deeply concerned with the freedom of a living culture, not of a dead culture. The dead can take care of themselves for the simple reason that there is no way of their becoming any deader. Not that our past culture is dead in the sense in which the past cultures of Egypt or Babylon are. What is unfortunate is that while our past culture lives and even grows (for, most of our research work is devoted to the proliferation of our past), it is our present culture which shows little sign of life. It may sound immodest or overambitious to say so, none the less be it said that the editors of QUEST fully intend this magazine to play a role – perhaps its most important role – in the culture revitalization (‘revival’ has come to acquire the wrong meaning) of our country.

 

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