A major landmark in Indian fiction Kanthapura is the story of how the Gandhian struggle for Independence came to one small village in south India. Evoking the ethos of India’s traditional folk epics the puranas the novel celebrates the triumph of the human spirit the shedding of narrow prejudices and of uniting in the common cause of the non-violent resistance to the British Raj.
Raja Rao (1908-2006), a distinguished writer and philosopher is acknowledgement as the author of the first Major Indian novel in English (Kanthapura, 1938). Beginning his career in writing in Kannada for periodical where he served on the editorial board for several years. Latter he also taught Indian philosophy at the University of Texas. Apart from Kanthapura his works include the cow of the Barricades and other Stories, The Serpent and the Rope the Cat and Shakespeare. A tale of India and the Chess master and His moves. Internationally recognized Raja Rao’s novels blend philosophical and spiritual insights into the fabric of everyday life. For the serpent and the rope (1960) he received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1964. He also received the prestigious nestedt international Prize for Literature in 1988.
Raja Rao is a novelist in search of equation in search of understanding a novelist looking for explanations for wisdom has a r each a capaciousness a resonance that is sufficient to contain the largeness.
There is no village in India however mean that has not a rich sthala-purana or legendry history of its own. Some god or godlike hero has passed by the village Rama might have rested under this papal tree Sita might have dried her clothes after her bath on this yellow stone to eh Mahatma himself on one of his many pilgrimages through the country might have slept in this hut the low one by the village gate. In this way the past mingles with the present and the gods mingle with men to make the repertory of your grand-mother annals of my villages I have tried to tell.
The telling has not been easy. One has to convey in a language that is not one’s own the spirit that is one’s own. One has to convey the various shades and omissions of a certain thought movement that looks maltreated in an alien language. I use the word alien yet English is not really an alien language to us. It is the language of our intellectual make-up like Sanskrit or Persian was before but not of our emotional make up. We are all instinctively bilingual many of us writing in our own language and in English. We cannot write like the Indians. We have grown to look at the large world as part of us. Our method of expression therefore has to be a dialect which will some day prove to be as distinctive and colorful as the Irish or the American. Time alone will justify it.
After language the next problem is that of style. The tempo of Indian life must be infused into our English expression even as the tempo of American or Irish life ahs gone into the making of theirs. We in India think quickly we talk quickly and when we move we move quickly. There must be something in the sun of India that makes us rush and tumble and run on. And our paths are paths interminable. The Mahabharata has 214,778 verses and the Ramayana 48,000 Puranas there are endless and innumerable. We have neither punctuation not the treacherous ‘ats’ and ‘ons’ to bother us we tell one interminable tale Episode follows episode and when our thoughts stop our breath stops and we move on to another thought. This was and still is the ordinary style of our story telling. I have tried to follow it myself in this story.
It may have been told of an evening when as the dusk falls and through the sudden quiet lights leap up in house after house and stretching her bedding on the veranda a grandmother might have told you newcomer the sad tale of her village.
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