Articles and Reviews

Monday, October 11, 2010

Review of "Kannada Kadambari Lokadalli" by M.S.Nataraj

M. S. Nataraj, ed.  Kannada Kadambari Lokadalli
                 N. J., USA: Kannada Sahitya Ranga, 2009   pp. 400;  price: 250/-
                              “ Commendable Diasporic Writing”

     One of the major characteristics of Diasporic experience is biculturism, an attempt to retain cultural bonds with the homeland, which is both an emotional necessity and a means of distinct identity.  The Ameri-Kannadigas are a fine instance of this experience.

      Although there are many Kannada organizations in America (including Akka), ‘Kannada Sahitya Ranga’ of New Jersey is different; it is primarily  a literary organization, established in 2004, by H. Y. Rajagopal, M. S. Nataraj, and others.  It organizes annual ‘Vasantotsava’ (a Literary Meet),  workshops on literary appreciation, and publishes Kannada works.  The present critical anthology is its fourth publication, released during the fourth ‘Vasantotsava.

     Kannada Kadambari Lokadalli   is a collection of 24 critical articles on Kannada fiction, written in the last three decades.  All the writers are Ameri- Kannadigas, and most of them are experts in fields other than literature.    The articles cover almost all major novels of the last three decades.  Many of them are introductory / explicatory; but all of them reflect their love for Kannada literature though away from Karnataka.  Owing to lack of space, I can briefly talk about only a few. 

     While Madhu Krishnamurthy discusses Aramane ( Kumvee) stressing its symbolic aspect and its ‘dramatic narrator,’  Triveni Shrinivasarao, discussing Ashwamedha (Ashok Hegde) raises the pertinent question of how relevant the theme is today.  Whereas Vishwanath Hulikal commends Ondu Badi Kadalu (Vivek Shanbhog) for its highly disciplined writing and its depiction of  ‘the extraordinary quality of ordinary life,’ Ahitanala competently analyses Kendra Vruttanta (Yashavanth Chittala) and points out that the novel traces the significant movements of characters within the novel’s narrative circle from the margin to the centre and vice versa.  M. S. Nataraj sharply analyses Bayalu Basiru (Vasanth Diwanaji)  and argues that  the depiction of American life in the novel is simplistic,  and T. N. Krishnaraju finds the exploration of the ‘self’ and ‘non-self’ at the centre of Ramanujan’s Mattobbana Atmacharitre. .

       Responsible literary criticism begins with a text, then goes on to place it with similar texts, and finally widens  to include socio-political issues and ideologies.  Two essays in this collection are brilliant examples of such criticism.

     The first one is by the Shankar couple on Avarana (Bhairappa).  They place the Kannada novel beside Arhan Pamuk’s My Name Is Red (translated into English) and undertake comparative analysis.  Though both  are concerned with Islam, while the first novel views Islam as an outsider the second analyses it as an insider.  The authors argue that while the Kannada novel pictures Islam, simplistically, as an unchanging and monolithic doctrine, the Turkish novel, concerns itself with the different strands within Islam and its centuries-old conflict between tradition and modernity.  As related to this discussion, the authors analyze current conservative ideologies (of Louis, Huntington, et al) and Liberal ideologies (of Edward Said and Amartya Sen). After an incisive analysis of both, the authors convincingly conclude that “ only when we  go beyond histories, can we survive and grow as human beings.” 

     On similar lines, Shashikala Chandrashekhar approaches Nemichandra’s Yad Vashem.  She begins with Dr. Elli Wisel, a survivor of Concentration camps and Nobel Prize winner for Peace, and agrees with Dr. Wisel’s position that “Literature must be an act of correcting justice.” It is with this perspective that she approaches Nemichandra’s novel; and she places it in the context of books and films (like  Schindler’s List, The Boy in Striped Pyjamas, Frederick, etc.), related to the notorious ‘Final Solution.’

     This anthology certainly adds a new dimension to  Kannada criticism; and I happily congratulate the editors and authors on their meaningful work.
Dr. C. N. Ramachandran

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