Decoding Aravind Adiga’s politics is the key to decode his literature. Or his pretensions to it. Aravind Adiga’s veiled attack in the Outlook magazine (March 11, 2013 issue) on the legendary Dr. S L Bhyrappa— To understand this, one needs to briefly trace the history of 20th Century history of Kannada literature.
One of the earliest and defining epochs in Kannada literary history was the Navodaya (literally, “new dawn”) period which included stalwarts like Kuvempu, D.R. Bendre, Masti Venkatesha Iyengar, Shivaram Karanth, Govinda Pai, B.M. Srikantaiah, and in a way, D.V. Gundappa. Most of these were well-rooted in both the literary and philosophical tradition of
India and possessed
equal erudition to the Western counterparts thereof. Navodaya was
followed by the Navya (New) period, which was spearheaded by
the poet Gopala Krishna Adiga and included notable writers like U R
Ananthamurthy, Lankesh, Girish Karnad, V.K. Gokak, Yashwanth Chittal, A.K.
Ramanujan, Ramachandra Sharma, and Shantinath Desai.
A key distinction between Navodaya and Navya was characterization. The proponents and champions of Navyacharacterized it as a movement as opposed to a new literary tradition. To wit, V.K. Gokak who coined the phrase Navya Sahitya (New Literature) didn’t quite envision the shape it would eventually assume.
Most writers of the Navya movement had returned to
India after studying Humanities in universities
abroad, mostly England.
The reigning intellectual climate in those universities then as now was heavily
Leftist. Conditioned by this, these writers embarked on a project to impose
that climate in our academia. It also helped that the politics of that time was
dominated by Marxism. And so they sought to find the same problems in India
that they had found in the West during their student days. And when they were
unable to find these problems, they invented them. Perhaps the
most and the classic representative of this fraud is U R Ananthamurthy’s own Bharatipura, the
name of a real town near Tirthahalli in Karnataka after which
the novel is titled. The other representative novel is one which Aravind Adiga
claims as “great” and is what catapulted Ananthamurthy to the fame he continues
to enjoy. The novel entitled Samskara is one of the greatest
literary frauds—if not for anything else—but because it sacrifices honesty at
the altar of Marxist ideology… Samskara imposes a misleading mix of
existentialism and the Marxist conception of society upon a society and culture
to which these concepts are alien and therefore inapplicable. This technique
resonates well with the Marxist distortion of Indian history: how history was
subordinated to ideology by distorting Hindu society, traditions, and
Navya thus transformed Kannada literature—a high art form—into a cesspool of politics where only “approved” writings found the fortune of being published. Those who didn’t toe the line had their futures nipped in the bud… Thus an A K Ramanujan translates U R Ananthamurthy’s Samskara into English and wins accolades. U.R. Ananthamurthy praises Ramachandra Sharma’s work while Adiga, Ananthamurthy, and Lankesh are card carrying members of Ram Manohar Lohia’s brand of socialism. Adiga and Purnachandra Tejaswi (son of the renowned Kannada poet, Kuvempu) translate Lohia’s work into Kannada. Together, these and other, similar eminences completely politicize the Kannada literary scene and brainwash at least two entire generations of Kannada writers, and in the end, sacrifice literature at the altar of ideology. Even a casual glance at the state of Kannada literary studies in the universities of Karnataka will reveal this political imprint left behind by the Navya worthies.
What initially began as a rebellion against what the Navya folks termed “traditional,” “regressive,” and “superstitious” society ended up in literary gangsterism that not only destroyed careers but set up a fertile ground for careerist, political writers to enter either the Legislative Council or the Rajya Sabha or influential positions in the Government. The only writer who prostituted himself to no ism, didn’t sell his soul to ideology but won millions of admirers was Dr. S L Bhyrappa. He wrote in Kannada sitting in faraway Gujarat and
Delhi but his work became bestsellers as soon
as they were published. That phenomenon began almost 50 years ago and it