Raja Rao is one of the triumvirate of the pioneering Indian novelists in English. His contribution to the growth of the English novel in India is enormous. Each of his novels is a trendsetter. Kanthapura, for instance, demonstrates how the English language can be used to tell a typically Indian story without violating the native speech rhythms, and his The Serpent and the Rope gave a new direction to the Indian novel in English by philosophizing it. His range and vision transcend all barriers. He used the fictional medium to portray his patriotic and philosophical concerns in a masterly way.
In this volume, an attempt has been made to assess Raja Rao's novels and short stories in terms of his philosophy, vision, style, themes and techniques. It is hoped that Raja Rao scholars across the globe will find the book useful.
Rajeshwar Mittapalli is Professor of English, Kakatiya University, Warangal, Telangana,India.His published works of criticism include The Novels of Wole Soyinka, Indian Women Novelists and Psychoanalysis and Regional Literatures in Translation. He edited The Atlantic Literary Review for six years, apart from co-editing with European and Indian scholars 25 anthologies of critical essays on a variety of literary subjects and ELT. They include: Modern Criticism, Indian Women's Short Fiction, Postcolonial Theory and Literature, Postcolonial Indian Fiction in English and Masculinity, Salmon Rushdie: New Critical Insights (2 vols). V.S.Naipaul: Fiction and Travel Writing and The Male Empire under the Female Gaze: The British Raj and the Memsahib (Cambria Press, New York).His more than 75 articles, published in India,USA,Spain,Italy, Hong Kong, South Africa, Germany, Portugal, Singapore, Thailand and elsewhere in the world, have been frequently anthologized.
Pier Paolo Piciucth is a Lecturer at the Department of Foreign Languages in the University of Turin, where he regularly teaches courses on English Literature. Over the years, he has focused his attention mainly on postcolonial and postmodern literature. His monograph, The Two Souls, is a theory on Black South African Theatre about the negotiations which gave rise to a totally marginalized form of art under the Apartheid regime. He has also edited 7 books on Indian literature-notably among them, A Companion to Indian Fiction in English for Atlantic Books, a panoramic study on the major Indian English novelists-and is the author of more than 30 articles.
Raja Rao is undoubtedly the most brilliant writer that modern India has produced. His contribution to Indian fiction in English is manifold. He is a master stylist and in terms of style, with the possible exception of Salman Rushdie, he is unparalleled in India. His fictional technique derives from the hoary wisdom and time honoured traditions of India. He made a creative use of the resources of the English language for portraying Indian sensibility and modes of thought, feeling and behaviour in his very first novel Kanthapura.
Raja Rao is a careful and conscious artist. He is disciplined in his expression, almost to the point of being a perfectionist. He allows himself plenty of time for his ideas to take a definite fictional shape and only then sits down to write a book. That perhaps explains his meagre fictional output and the long gaps between any two of his books.
Raja Rao is singularly credited with philosophising the Indian novel in English with the publication of The Serpent and The Rope. Even The Cat and Shakespeare, which is artistically flawed to some extent, portrays his philosophical concerns, albeit in a comic light. One might say that while Swami Vivekananda directly interpreted Indian philosophy, specially the Vedanda, Raja Rao did it creatively and artistically and perhaps in a much better way than the great Swami. His fondness for Vedanta issues from his Brahmanical upbringing. It is not without reason that his protagonists are mostly Brahmins. But they gradually evolve from being caste Brahmins, with the attendant encumbrances, into transcendental beings, as Raja Rao himself surely did.
His The Cow of the Barricades and Other Stories fictionlises his patriotic and social concerns. For Raja Rao, India is not a geographical entity. It is a metaphysical and spiritual reality transcending geographical and temporal barriers. He spent all his formative and productive years in the West but his spirit has always remained Indian. He is firmly rooted in India, and absolutely does not suffer from a sense of alienation. His vision is holistic because it includes both the physical and the transcendental.
For him the physical world is just a part of the vast cosmos, which lies outside the scope of human comprehension.
Given Raja Rao's phenomenal achievement and contribution to Indian fiction in English and given his range, sweep and philosophical depth, no attempt at critically assessing his works can be complete. Still the articles contained in this volume perceptively treat all the important concerns, themes and techniques of his fiction. A significant number of them focus on his style and his handling of the English language for artistic and creative purposes. His vision and philosophy are treated in an equally big number of articles. Themes such as identity, myth and Ganhian ideology have been the central points of discussion of yet another group of articles.
Raja Rao's small fictional output has been of advantage to us the editors in that we could accommodate articles on every one of his novels and collections of short stories in this volume. With somebody like Narayan this would not have been possible. The contributors, most of whom are highly respected scholars, have dealt with various facets of Raja Rao's fiction so ably that it has been a pleasure editing them. Our thanks are due to them. Their ready willingness to contribute to this volume greatly encouraged us. We also wish to thank Dr. K.R. Gupta of Atlantic Publishers and Distributors whose fondness for Indian Writing in English seems to know no bounds.
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