In his book The Making of a Counter Culture (1968), Theodore Roszak, professor emeritus of history at California State University, East Bay, first used the word ‘counterculture’ to show how mutual rejection of ideas developed with each decade by tracing the intellectual underpinnings of American writers of the Sixties in the writing of different American writers in the following decades.
If we consider the same theory in Oriya literature, we find a constant use of rejection of milieus to define a cultural movement which promotes acting outside the usual conventions of literature. The rise of Marxism counter-cultured Fakir Mohan’s style of writing while in the next decade, the Romantic poets of Sabuja Yuga finally came into force, making the revolutionary poet Sachi Routray more of an individualist.
Rejection of mainstream culture was best embodied in the new genres of fiction in the Seventies when young writers became identified with the rejection of the conventional social norms of the Sixties. But why in the Seventies?
This decade produced some of the best and worst work ever published in Oriya fiction. But more important, the Seventies supplied readers with works that were readable, popular, and aesthetic, and as a result, new standards in form, structure, theme, and language emerged.
Writing in the Seventies counter-cultured the writing of the Sixties by using more explicit language and graphic descriptions of sex, promoting and focusing on the individual as the protagonist rather than society as the protagonist. This made the protagonist more an ‘anti hero’ with respect to violence and illicit activities.
Kanhei Lal Das, Jagadish Mohanty, Satya Mishra Ashok Chandan, and Rabi Puhana were authors of the Seventies who developed a non-linear but interactive style to pursue individualism against social characterisation of the protagonist, which were created by writings of the Sixties. These attempts made an era in Oriya literature.
Writers who became established in the Eighties were also tinged by the originality of individualism with their literary artifacts. And that acceptance helped them grow more in their ideas to develop a post-modern thought in Oriya Literature. Thus far, there has been no discernible attempt to probe the alternative or to explore the fringe. In the Eighties, Paresh Patnaik, Bhima Prusty, Nibaran Jena, and myself were in the limelight and still write today.
It was a strange phenomenon that in the Nineties inheritors of the hard-boiled tradition, although diverse, produced fiction similar to dark tones of the Sixties. Rejection of individualism led these writers to a new progressive outlook, attempting to
alter themselves and reorder consciousness through emotion and social commitment which also fired the hearts of writers in the Sixties. Gaurhari Das, Ajay Swain, Khirod Das and Bishnu Sahu were among the prominent writers of this time.
After a long interval, Sahitya Pruthibi, a newly launched literary magazine, has published fresh stories of Shyama Prasad Chowdhury, Padmaj Pal, and Rajanikanta Mohanty in its August 2010 issue. Except for Chowdhury, the others are writers of Seventies but they share a common style.
With the beginning of this century, those writers who established their voices after the millennium, again started to reject the tradition created by the writers of the Nineties. The avant garde voices of Prakash Mohapatra, Satyapriya Mahalik, Saroj Bal, Aditeswar Mishra, Biyot Prajna, Ranjan Pradhan, Sujit Kumar Panda, Kalpana Mishra and others have again returned to individualism; perhaps to extreme individualism, where protagonists can live by their own rules (as shared rules no longer apply) and can challenge all inherent rules and ‘narratives’ (such as art, religion, society, morality, the family, nationality etc.)
Although their stories may take time to prove themselves worthy to create a new voice, it is true the counterculture theory is present here for the rejection of what worked in the Nineties and to promote the idea of individualism for another result.