Joined: 09 June 2014
Often I feel angry with death and the Gods. They take away the best in a way that leaves me inconsolable. I feel helpless not just because of the pain of missing them but because my world shrinks, my map of friendship collapses into empty outlines. This happened when my friend the philosopher Ramu Gandhi died. I felt the same way when the great chemist C.V. Seshadri disappeared into the sea.
I felt completely broken when U.R. Ananthamurthy passed away on Friday evening. It was as if a cosmos had collapsed, a way of life had disappeared. It was not the achievements of the man as a writer and a public intellectual, but the man himself as an achievement that mattered.
U.R. died fighting till the end. He had won most of the awards one could dream of. But it was not a curriculum vitae, a career as a shopping list that captures him but the fact that his autobiography could also be the sociology of the intellectual at his best.
He was born in 1932 in the Kingdom of Mysore, lived in the forest and as a Brahmin boy lived out the logic of pollution at its most intricate level. He lived in a world where everything was sacred.
U.R. was custodian of all these memories, a trustee of the Brahmanic sensorium and its memories and also its most scathing critic. Memories could mean snuff, they could mean jackfruit stored at various stages of growth, a fruit whose smells would drive the buffaloes to craving. His description of his childhood house was classic anthropology and yet great literature as a Brahmanic world, which has almost faded away, came alive.
Ananthamurthy went to a village school, a traditional samskrita school. It was a world which was both cosmopolitan and local, a world which taught him that socialism begins not with the state but the common school. For him the real class divide, which was also a cultural divide, was the split of our society between the traditional school, which taught Kannada and created a million embryonic roots, and the expensive English school where a child lost his mother tongue.
English, he felt, for all his cosmopolitanism was basically alienating, an act of bad faith which the nation's elite subscribed to. It was not the West as a linear world but village India where Galileo and Gandhi could have been contemporaries. It was out of this living world that two of his greatest works " Samskara and Bharatipura " emerged. He could not have thought of these worlds in English.
He claimed "a work of art chooses its medium and I think for an Indian, the Indian language is the medium." Time and memory were crucial for the storyteller in him for an Indian lived in many times.
U.R. went onto Birmingham to finish his PhD on European Politics. He later became a Vice-Chancellor at Kottayam, chairperson of the Film and Television Institute, and head of the Sahitya Academy. But it was not these posts that made him; it was his continuous conversation with culture, politics and civil society. He was the master of friendship and his friends Ashis Nandy, Manu Chakravarti and Girish Kasaravalli will have more stories to tell. He was curious about people, enjoyed life, pausing over a quiet drink to tell me stories about Limaye, Lohia, Martin Green, or Kuvempu. It was a solidarity of the world of Bhashas.
People lashed out at him for his critique of Modi, his claim that he would not like to live in Modi-dominated India. Yet he was courageously right. A Giriraj Kishore might insist he join the train to Pakistan. The train journey would have been a different one where U.R. and Manto could have swapped stories, talked of ways of redeeming Partition.
U.R. was politically acute, a man who made mistakes but turned them into insights. He excited controversy but never destroyed the companionship he gave. I remember he felt strongly about renaming Bangalore as Bengaluru and yet could listen and respond patiently to Ashis Nandy's critique of him.
Among the wonderful worlds he created is Heggodu where he and K.V. Subbana established a platform where theatre and Kannada comes alive.
Most intellectuals die as footnotes, a reference here and an obituary there. But U.R. will live on in the folklore in every house in Karnataka, in every college discussion, in every debate about the genius of language.
The very news of his passing will create cascades of storytelling where anecdotes, fables, stories will compete and combine to honour the greatest storyteller of them all.
Joined: 09 June 2014
In a statement, the President said: "Nation will always remember Ananthamurthy's invaluable contribution to literature."
The 82-year-old renowned Kannada writer and Jnanpith Award winner, Ananthamurthy died in Bangalore Friday evening after a brief illness.
Born on December 22, 1932 near Thirthahalli in Shimoga district, about 300 km from Bangalore, Ananthamurthy was the sixth recipient of the country's highest literary honour - Jnanpith Award - in Kannada, the State's native language, in 1994.
In recognition of his outstanding literary contribution, the Indian government also honoured him with the Padma Bhushan in 1998.
He was also one of the finalists for the British Man Booker International Prize in 2013. Ananthamurthy's works have been translated into several Indian and European languages. His main works include "Samskara", "Bhava", "Bharathi Pura", and "Avasthe".
Joined: 09 June 2014
Kannada writer and one of the most acclaimed public intellectuals in the country, U.R. Ananthamurthy passed away at a private hospital here on Friday. He was 82.
Dr. Ananthamurthy, a Jnanpith award winner, had a kidney ailment and had been on dialysis for a long time. He was put on ventilator on Thursday night.
Manipal Hospital director H. Sudarshan Ballal said Dr. Ananthamurthy's condition worsened on Thursday night. "There was a sudden drop in his blood pressure around 6.30 p.m. on Friday following which his heart stopped functioning. Despite efforts by doctors to resuscitate him, he could not be revived," he said.
Long illness had never come in the way of Dr. Ananthamurthy's continued writing, critical thinking and public engagement. He had always been a critic of Hindutva politics and had incurred the wrath of the supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election for stating that he would not wish to live in a country with Mr. Modi at the helm. He was deeply influenced by Ram Manohar Lohia's political movement.
Mr. Modi condoled the death, saying it is a loss to Kannada literature. "My condolences to his family. May his soul rest in peace," he tweeted.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi said the void created by his demise in the Indian literary space and social conscience would be hard to fill.
Joined: 09 June 2014
Regarded as one of the prominent voices of the Navya (modernist) movement in Kannada literature, Dr. U.R. Ananthamurthy wrote six novels (Samskara, Bharatipura, Avasthe, Bhava, Divya and Preethi Mruthyu Mattu Bhaya) and one play (Avahane), apart from eight short story collections, three collections of poetry and eight compilations of essays in his literary career spanning six decades. His autobiography Suragi was published in 2012.
His landmark first novel Samskara looks at the caste system, religious codes, culture and traditions and the uncertain relationship between traditional and cultural values. The novel, which sparked a raging controversy, was made into a film.
Dr. Ananthamurthy was also shortlisted for DSC Prize for South Asian literature in 2012 for his novel Bharatipura (1973). He was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize in 2013 for his overall contribution to fiction.
Gopalkrishna Gandhi pays tribute
In his tribute to the litterateur, former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi said, "U.R. Ananthamurthy was a modern rishi with the authority of that position but without its baneful sanctimony. In his uncompromising opposition to every manner of narrow illiberalism he became a beacon of sanity and courage in our prejudiced times."
Joined: 12 September 2013
Bangalore: A towering figure in the world of letters, Udupi Rajagopalacharya Ananthamurthy, who died here today, was modern in his sensibilities and intellectual underpinnings in his literary works questioned many deeply-held beliefs.
Like his literary works, Ananthamurthy's strong political views were also striking, often landing him in unseemly situations and controversies. A multi-faceted personality and rated as one of the best writers in the country, 82-year old Ananthamurthy has won acclaim from critics and fans alike.
In his literary life, the Kannada writer has won the Padma Bhushan in 1998, Jnanpith award in 1994, the state Rajyothsava award in 1984, while his nomination for the 2013 Man Booker International Prize brought him to the attention of a Western audience. He was also the Vice-Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi University in Kerala during late 1980s.
A socialist in political belief, he also tried to dabble in politics contesting the Lok Sabha and Rajya elections once each unsuccessfully and courted controversies quite often with his views that generally were against BJP and Sangh Parivar. At the height of the recent Lok Sabha poll campaign, Ananthamurthy had said he would leave the country if Narendra Modi becomes Prime Minister but later did a U-turn, saying the remark was made when he was overcome by emotion. "That was too much to say because I can't go anywhere except India," he had said but his remarks had raised the hackles of BJP and many others who questioned his "intolerant" attitude and disrespect towards a possible popular mandate in favour of Modi.
Ananthamurthy had said if Modi comes to power it may result in a "shift in our civilisation." "I have a feeling that we may slowly lose our democratic rights or civil rights when there is a bully. But much more than that when there is a bully we become cowards."
Born on December 21, 1932, Ananthamurthy grew up in an orthodox Brahmin family as the grandson of a priest. His schooling began in a traditional Sanskrit school before he went to the University of Mysore and to Birmingham, England, for a doctorate in English on a Commonwealth Scholarship. Ananthamurthy is considered one of the pioneers of the "Navya (new) movement" in the Kannada literary world.
He burst on the literary scene in 1965 with the controversial novel 'Samskara' that earned him the tag as a scathing critic of Brahminism, its superstitions and hypocrisies. Samskara, meaning rituals, is Ananthamurthy's most famous literary work that depicts a Brahmin agrahara ? an exclusive orthodox settlement like the one the author himself grew up in confronted with an intractable conundrum.
The novel was turned into a film which was considered pathbreaking in ushering the parallel cinema movement in Kannada and won the national film award for the best feature film for 1970. Ananthamurthy, whose works are rooted firmly in his cultural context and questioned established norms, published five novels, one play, eight short-story collections, three collections of poetry and eight more of essays. His works have been translated into Indian and European languages.
He married a Christian lady, Esther, and faced many problems for his inter-religious wedding. He has two children, Sharat and Anuradha. His novels Samskara, Baraa, Avaste, Mouni and Diksha were made into movies that won critical acclaim.
Ananthamurthy had also served as the Chairman of National Book Trust India for 1992, President of the Sahitya Academy in 1993 and as a visiting professor of several renowned Indian and foreign universities.
Joined: 27 March 2014
Joined: 22 April 2012
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