Notes on the Bengal Renaissance by Amit Sen

By Amit Sen

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As a literary compilation it is composed of three basic parts. The first of these contains liturgical material—a basic statement of faith called the mul mantra and hymns and prayers to be used in daily private worship. The second section comprises the bulk of the text—1,340 of 1,430 pages. It contains many verses and hymns, each of which is supposed to be sung to the tune of one of 31 ragas (ancient traditional patterns or modes in Indian music). Each subsection is headed by the title of one of the ragas.

While there he wrote a catechism in the local languages that had the distinction of being the first book printed in Peru. On his return to Spain, he first wrote in Latin a careful study of the difficulties missionaries faced while working among the indigenous peoples of the Americas, De procuranda indorum salute (On securing health for the Indies). He next catered to the intense public interest in the New World’s exotic peoples and its exploration by writing on the basis of firsthand information the first work to consider the New World in the context of its relation with Europe.

After unsuccessfully attempting to revive the hermit, Simplicissimus follows his instructions, buries him, grieves for a long time, but eventually wanders off in search of the pastor. He finds him, but not in the way he expected. Soldiers have come to the village and taken prisoners—the pastor among them. There follows a description of the unspeakable cruelty of the soldiers to their captives—always described from the point of view of the naïve and minimally judgmental Simplicissimus. This naive authorial point of view became GRIMMELSHAUSEN’S hallmark under the name the simplician style.

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