Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Aubrey Menen -- Intro and Links

IT IS 25 YEARS SINCE AUBREY MENEN, noted satirist, essayist and philosopher passed away. 

True to his outlook towards life, he made no efforts to be remembered. Menen's protégé, the late Graham Hall, continued his mentor's casual attitude towards keeping memories alive. Hall and I were friends and whenever I asked him to see photographs or manuscripts of Menen he was casually dismissive. Aubrey Menen's books are now out of print, especially his Space Within the Heart, It Is All Right, The New Mystics, Rama Retold (the first book to be banned in free India), Four Days to Naples, Prevalence of Witches (a great first novel), Dead Man in the Silver Market, and hundreds of essays and satirical pieces.

    For me his most important work is his autobiographical essay, Space Within the Heart which recounts his journey into his own self using an unusual Upanishadic technique. Unlike usual awareness type of meditation, it offered an "intellectual" method (perhaps more suitable for writers and other habitual thinkers), where one examines one's life story, examines each event and how it contributed to formation of his persona,  understands its illusory nature, and drops it to reveal deeper-down personae.  ["neti/ne-iti.] Finally his self, the space within the heart, is revealed. It would be a great loss if that book is forgotten (at least I have a copy but don't know if it is legal to publish it online as PDF). But I shall publish key excerpts from it without violating copyright laws.

I know that the "Space" was translated into Malayalam in 1990 or so (Hrudayathinullile Idam) and around that time I met the translator, Sundar, a native of Trivandrum. I recall Sundar explaining how difficult it was to translate Menen. Menen's lines, he said, were so deftly intertwined that a tiny variation in phrasing could cause the structure to fall.
The copyright holder of Aubrey Menen's books was Graham Hall. After Hall's passing away in 2005, no idea who holds it now. Whoever is holding it is not doing his job, it seems.

We have another lead. In page 4 of "Space", Menen reveals that he sent all his personal memorabilia to one Howard Gotleib of Boston University. Evidently, even when Menen relatively young he was expected to be a worth remembering literary figure. Whatever Gotlieb collected are probably still safe with him, quite away from public eye. How long should this silence continue? With just two old photographs of Menen available to us, with all his essays completely out of print, shouldn't someone take up the matter with Boston University to release some information to the public?

    Aubrey Menen is part of Kerala's literary heritage and his memory and works should not be lost to future generations, even if he himself didn't care.


1. Encyclopedia Britannica

2. Wikipedia.

3. Penguin  Books.

4. Obituary in New York Times.
5. Howard Gottelieb Archival Research Center, Boston University
[Those guys are sitting on the whole thing.]

     (a)  Faith Baldwin Collection, Boston University
     (b)  Santa Rama Rao Collection, BU
     (c)  Short bio

6. Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Writing in English

Recent Tributes

1. Sankarrad -- Remembering Aubrey Menen (2010)

2. Maddy --- Tribute to Aubrey Menen (April 2013) 

Excerpts from Menen's Works

1. The Discontented Tiger. 

2. Prevalence of Witches (intro)

3.  Interview With Mother Teresa

4. Google Books Preview of Selected Novels 

Reviews and Citations

1. A list of publications with the tag "Menen, Aubrey"


(version 1.0 More to come!)