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Hundreds of Streets to the Palace of Lights
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Hundreds of Streets to the Palace of Lights
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Introduction

Kannada, which belongs to the Dravidian family of languages, is one of the oldest languages in Indian and is spoken by 61,130,704 people (according to the 2011 census) in the southern state of Karnataka. The word ‘Karnataka’ comes from the words ‘karu’ (elevated or black) and ‘naadu’ (region), and it may mean either ‘elevated’ land’ or ‘land of the black soil’ The kannada script evolved from the Brahmi script, introduced to Karnataka by the Ashokan edicts and, in the course of time, was gradually modified under the influence of Prakrti and Sanskrit. The earliest edict which uses both the kannada script and language is the Halmidi edict, dated AD 450, though is evidence to prove that the language was in use since the beginning of the Christian era.

Among the famous kingdoms and empires of Karnataka, the most famous and powerful was the Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1565). After the fall of Vijayanagara, power shifted to Mysore, and the kingdom of Mysore under the yadu dynasty continued to rule Karnataka, though, in the course of time, it had to cede many of its parts to the British and other neighbouring rulers. After Independence, Mysore state, including Coorg other kannada-speaking regions restored to it, came into existence on 1 November 1956, renamed as Karnataka in 1973.

Though kannada is the official language of the state, many other languages such as Tulu, Konkani, kodava, and flourish and form a mutually enriching environment. Similarly, different philosophical systems like Monism (Advaita), Dualism (Dwaita), and Monistic Dualism (Vishishtadvaita), and different religions and belief systems such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Veerashaivism, Islam, and Christianity have co-existed peacefully in the state since ancient times.

The first extant kannada text, a treatise on poetics, is kavirajamarga by Srivijaya, composed in AD 850, and the first full-length kannada epics, Vikramarjuna Vijaya and Adipurana, by Adikavi pampa were written in the tenth century. A few of the great poets who came after pampa were, Ranna, Janna, kumaravyasa, Lakshmisha, and Shadakshari. In addition to such a great written tradition, there has existed since ancient times a strong oral tradition with its stories, poems, and songs culminating in great oral epics like Male Mahadeshwara and Manteswamy kavya, which are still living and vibrant.

Modern literature in kannada is the product of a series of colonial confrontations and compromises at different levels. New interpretation of traditional literature and culture went hand in hand with newer adaptations of the Western models in literature and culture. It is customary to study modern Kannada literature under the following four headings: Navodaya (Romantic-Idealist), 1920-40, Pragatisheela (Progressive-Realistic), 1940-50, Navya (Realist-Modernist), 1950-75, and Dalita-Bandaya (Satirical-Reformist), 1975-2000. Of course, many writers and genres straddle two or more periods.

The Navodaya movement, under the impact of colonial pressures, experimented boldly with new forms and of expression. New literary genres such as the novel, the lyric, the ode, and the autobiography came into being and enriched Kannada literature. Among such new genres, one was the short story. ‘Nanna Chikkappa’ (My Uncle) by Panje Mangesha Rao, published in 1900, is considered to be the first modern Kannada short story.

Although short stories as such have a very long history in Kannada (as in other Indian languages), the new story differed from the earlier ones in that it reflected contemporary society and was crafted very consciously as a literary form. From the point of view of social consciousness, panje’s story, ‘kamalapurada Hotlinalli’ (In the Hotel at kamalapura) is very revealing-the local of the story is a ‘hotel’, which a modern institution which allows people to mingle, irrespective of class or caste. It is this social consciousness that differentiates the modern short story from its older predecessors.

Masti Venkatesha Iyengar (1891-1986) was the writer who, besides being a novelist-poet-critic-translator, explored all the Formal and thematic possibilities of the short and moulded it as a major literary form. Beginning with his first story published in 1910, his one hundred stories have unbelievable variety and include tales about legendary characters, domestic life and love, historical events, and humorous incidents. Similarly, Masti’s signature technique in stories is his use of multiple narrators.

The Pragatisheela movement was part of the pan-Indian Progressive Writers’ Association that was set up at Lucknow in 1936, and the first conference of the Kannada counterpart was held on Bangalore (now known as Bengaluru) in 1943. The most important Pragatisheela writers were Niranjana, Shriranga, A.N. Krishna Rao, T.R. Subbarao, Basavaraj Kattimani, Chaduranga, and V. M. Inamdar. The ideology of this movement was Marxist and it was concerned with the plight of the working classes and lower castes. The movement was influential for a decade or so and then broke down, owing to ideological differences among its members. The movement is remembered today only for a few stories written by Niranjana (‘Koneya Giraki’) and Kattimani (‘Girija kanda Cinema’).

Some of the most successful short stories in Kannada were written during the Navya or realist-modernist period. The major writers of this period include U. R. Ananthamurthy, Yashawant Vithoba Chittal, Ramachandra Sharma, Shantinath Desai P. Lankesh, Raghavendra Khasanis, Nagathihalli Chandrashekhar, Mavinakere Ranganathan, Sadashiva, Veena Shanteshwar, and a host of other Writers. These writers substituted scepticism for idealism, sexuality for love, and the sordid for the sublime. They were liberal-humanists and they viewed the individual as pitted against the Establishment, hence, they opposed all systems irrespective of whether it was religious or political. We Can Consider Ananthamurthy and Veena Shanteshwar as representative writers of this period.

U. R. Ananthamurthy (1932-2014), the renowned writer of fiction, poetry, and discursive essays, has thirty stories to his credit. The most important theme that his stories and novels dramatize is that of tradition and modernity. In the stories and novels of his first phase, Ananthamurthy is an out-and out rebel, mounting a scathing critique of Indian traditions, orthodoxy, and hierarchical social system (Ghatashraddha’, ‘Prasta’, Kartika’, and ‘Mauni’). However, in the second phase, as a critical insider, he seriously explores and reassesses, from a postcolonial perspective, Indian literature, traditions, and value systems vis-a-vis Western literatures and sociopolitical systems (‘Jaratkaru’, ‘Akkayya’, and ‘Suryana kudur’).

Contents

 

Author’s Note

ix

 

Translator’s Note

xiii

 

Introduction

xvii

 

Epiphany

1

 

Victory over Death

11

 

History

27

 

The Water in the Depths

51

 

Murugabhupathi’s Son: A Story and a Question Paper

61

 

A Poem of White Flowers

76

 

Fear

93

 

Tomatoes

95

 

The Photograph

99

 

Runa

103

 

The Vow

107

 

Duality

111

 

Anxiety

122

 

Exorcised

127

 

The Communalist

134

 

Hundreds of Streets to the Palace of Lights

142

 

The Box

156

 

Glossary

162

 

About the Author and the Translator

165

 

 

 

 


Hundreds of Streets to the Palace of Lights

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Introduction

Kannada, which belongs to the Dravidian family of languages, is one of the oldest languages in Indian and is spoken by 61,130,704 people (according to the 2011 census) in the southern state of Karnataka. The word ‘Karnataka’ comes from the words ‘karu’ (elevated or black) and ‘naadu’ (region), and it may mean either ‘elevated’ land’ or ‘land of the black soil’ The kannada script evolved from the Brahmi script, introduced to Karnataka by the Ashokan edicts and, in the course of time, was gradually modified under the influence of Prakrti and Sanskrit. The earliest edict which uses both the kannada script and language is the Halmidi edict, dated AD 450, though is evidence to prove that the language was in use since the beginning of the Christian era.

Among the famous kingdoms and empires of Karnataka, the most famous and powerful was the Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1565). After the fall of Vijayanagara, power shifted to Mysore, and the kingdom of Mysore under the yadu dynasty continued to rule Karnataka, though, in the course of time, it had to cede many of its parts to the British and other neighbouring rulers. After Independence, Mysore state, including Coorg other kannada-speaking regions restored to it, came into existence on 1 November 1956, renamed as Karnataka in 1973.

Though kannada is the official language of the state, many other languages such as Tulu, Konkani, kodava, and flourish and form a mutually enriching environment. Similarly, different philosophical systems like Monism (Advaita), Dualism (Dwaita), and Monistic Dualism (Vishishtadvaita), and different religions and belief systems such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Veerashaivism, Islam, and Christianity have co-existed peacefully in the state since ancient times.

The first extant kannada text, a treatise on poetics, is kavirajamarga by Srivijaya, composed in AD 850, and the first full-length kannada epics, Vikramarjuna Vijaya and Adipurana, by Adikavi pampa were written in the tenth century. A few of the great poets who came after pampa were, Ranna, Janna, kumaravyasa, Lakshmisha, and Shadakshari. In addition to such a great written tradition, there has existed since ancient times a strong oral tradition with its stories, poems, and songs culminating in great oral epics like Male Mahadeshwara and Manteswamy kavya, which are still living and vibrant.

Modern literature in kannada is the product of a series of colonial confrontations and compromises at different levels. New interpretation of traditional literature and culture went hand in hand with newer adaptations of the Western models in literature and culture. It is customary to study modern Kannada literature under the following four headings: Navodaya (Romantic-Idealist), 1920-40, Pragatisheela (Progressive-Realistic), 1940-50, Navya (Realist-Modernist), 1950-75, and Dalita-Bandaya (Satirical-Reformist), 1975-2000. Of course, many writers and genres straddle two or more periods.

The Navodaya movement, under the impact of colonial pressures, experimented boldly with new forms and of expression. New literary genres such as the novel, the lyric, the ode, and the autobiography came into being and enriched Kannada literature. Among such new genres, one was the short story. ‘Nanna Chikkappa’ (My Uncle) by Panje Mangesha Rao, published in 1900, is considered to be the first modern Kannada short story.

Although short stories as such have a very long history in Kannada (as in other Indian languages), the new story differed from the earlier ones in that it reflected contemporary society and was crafted very consciously as a literary form. From the point of view of social consciousness, panje’s story, ‘kamalapurada Hotlinalli’ (In the Hotel at kamalapura) is very revealing-the local of the story is a ‘hotel’, which a modern institution which allows people to mingle, irrespective of class or caste. It is this social consciousness that differentiates the modern short story from its older predecessors.

Masti Venkatesha Iyengar (1891-1986) was the writer who, besides being a novelist-poet-critic-translator, explored all the Formal and thematic possibilities of the short and moulded it as a major literary form. Beginning with his first story published in 1910, his one hundred stories have unbelievable variety and include tales about legendary characters, domestic life and love, historical events, and humorous incidents. Similarly, Masti’s signature technique in stories is his use of multiple narrators.

The Pragatisheela movement was part of the pan-Indian Progressive Writers’ Association that was set up at Lucknow in 1936, and the first conference of the Kannada counterpart was held on Bangalore (now known as Bengaluru) in 1943. The most important Pragatisheela writers were Niranjana, Shriranga, A.N. Krishna Rao, T.R. Subbarao, Basavaraj Kattimani, Chaduranga, and V. M. Inamdar. The ideology of this movement was Marxist and it was concerned with the plight of the working classes and lower castes. The movement was influential for a decade or so and then broke down, owing to ideological differences among its members. The movement is remembered today only for a few stories written by Niranjana (‘Koneya Giraki’) and Kattimani (‘Girija kanda Cinema’).

Some of the most successful short stories in Kannada were written during the Navya or realist-modernist period. The major writers of this period include U. R. Ananthamurthy, Yashawant Vithoba Chittal, Ramachandra Sharma, Shantinath Desai P. Lankesh, Raghavendra Khasanis, Nagathihalli Chandrashekhar, Mavinakere Ranganathan, Sadashiva, Veena Shanteshwar, and a host of other Writers. These writers substituted scepticism for idealism, sexuality for love, and the sordid for the sublime. They were liberal-humanists and they viewed the individual as pitted against the Establishment, hence, they opposed all systems irrespective of whether it was religious or political. We Can Consider Ananthamurthy and Veena Shanteshwar as representative writers of this period.

U. R. Ananthamurthy (1932-2014), the renowned writer of fiction, poetry, and discursive essays, has thirty stories to his credit. The most important theme that his stories and novels dramatize is that of tradition and modernity. In the stories and novels of his first phase, Ananthamurthy is an out-and out rebel, mounting a scathing critique of Indian traditions, orthodoxy, and hierarchical social system (Ghatashraddha’, ‘Prasta’, Kartika’, and ‘Mauni’). However, in the second phase, as a critical insider, he seriously explores and reassesses, from a postcolonial perspective, Indian literature, traditions, and value systems vis-a-vis Western literatures and sociopolitical systems (‘Jaratkaru’, ‘Akkayya’, and ‘Suryana kudur’).

Contents

 

Author’s Note

ix

 

Translator’s Note

xiii

 

Introduction

xvii

 

Epiphany

1

 

Victory over Death

11

 

History

27

 

The Water in the Depths

51

 

Murugabhupathi’s Son: A Story and a Question Paper

61

 

A Poem of White Flowers

76

 

Fear

93

 

Tomatoes

95

 

The Photograph

99

 

Runa

103

 

The Vow

107

 

Duality

111

 

Anxiety

122

 

Exorcised

127

 

The Communalist

134

 

Hundreds of Streets to the Palace of Lights

142

 

The Box

156

 

Glossary

162

 

About the Author and the Translator

165

 

 

 

 


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