Attar Singh is a famous critic. He has so far published three collections of critical essaysâ€”Kavya Adhyayan (Study of Poetry), Drishtikon (Viewpoint), and Samadarshan (Perspectives). In his view, it is the first duty of progressive literature to fight against those tendencies that would tie literature to reaction. This can best be done, according to him, by enlightened progressive thinking, if it offers intellectual guidance to social forces and leads them to the ideal stage of social evolution, socialism. He admits that in literature, viewpoint and motive flowing from the uniqueness of the writer\’s experience must be artistically patterned.
In the context of Indian society, he suggests a compromise between the artistic and the popular, between expression and communication. Taking his measure of modernity, he sees two aspects of it in relation of Indian society. One aspect is constructive, arousing in the reader curiosity, an appetite for knowledge and a tendency to doubt which widens the circle of human thought and gives it a new strength to confront new possibilities. In the second aspect, “symptoms of crisis have begun to appear in the life of the individual as well as in society” in India. With the march of time, Indian culture is getting caught in the embrace of the machine civilisation and the culture of the West and this crisis is made more acute because of the conflict between the two leading socialist countries, creating an atmosphere of cynicism, doubt and lack of faith among Indian writers.
He regards the second aspect of modernity as only partially applicable to the human condition in Indian which is much more strongly inspired with hope for the future. Attar Singh\’s long essay, \’The Background of the Punjabi Literature\’, is full of rare insights. He has pointed to the lack both of variety of content and of form in Punjabi literature of the pre-British period. This he attributes to a comparatively unchanging material life and a stagnant economy, which account for the predominance of symbols like Ranjha and Heer in this literature. One thing in particular which Attar Singh has emphasised again and again is the comparative isolation of Punjabi literature from the main currents of literature in the rest of India. The reason he finds is the present-day alienation of Punjabi Muslims as well as Hindus from the Punjabi language as a vehicle of culture. This isolation is sought to be broken these days by those who are often decried as Punjabi Sanskritists.
1. Kohli, S.S., Punjabi Sahit da Itihas, Ludhiana, 1955.
2. Mohan Singh, A History of Punjabi Literature, Amritsar, 1956.
3. Sekhon, S.S. and K.S. Duggal, A History of Punjabi Literature, Delhi, 1992.