Book Review: ‘The Essential U. R. Ananthamurthy’ by N. Manu Chakravarthy and Chandan Gowda

A star writer's life abridged with the essence of his writings.


Book Title: The Essential U. R. Ananthamurthy
Edited by: N. Manu Chakravarthy and Chandan Gowda
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Number of Pages: 312
ISBN: 978-9393852908
Date Published: May 05, 2023
Price: INR 645

The Essential U. R. Ananthamurthy by N. Manu Chakravarthy and Chandan Gowda Book Cover

Book Review

The Essential U. R. Ananthamurthy” is a comprehensive collection that showcases the brilliance of one of India’s most renowned and outspoken writers. Divided into five distinct parts, this book features a captivating selection of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and autobiographical writings.

U.R. Ananthamurthy was a prolific writer known for his insightful and thought-provoking works. His writings often tackled social, cultural, and political issues, delving into the complexities of Indian society. Ananthamurthy’s narratives reflected his deep engagement with existential questions, morality, and the human condition.

The section dedicated to “Novels” presents excerpts from Ananthamurthy’s influential works, including Samskara, Bharathipura, Avasthe, and Bhava. Through these novels, readers get immersed in narratives that explore the conflicts between tradition, idealism, and modernity in post-independence India. One of his most celebrated works is the novel “Samskara” (1965), which explores the clash between traditional and modern values in a Brahmin community. The book, set in a rural village, delves into themes of caste, gender, and religious orthodoxy. It is considered a landmark in Indian literature and has been translated into multiple languages.

Another notable work is “Bharathipura” (1973), a novel that examines the issues of caste, untouchability, and social reform in contemporary India. The protagonist, a wealthy upper-caste man, questions the deep-rooted prejudices and inequities of the society he belongs to. Ananthamurthy’s portrayal of complex characters and his incisive commentary on social structures earned him critical acclaim.
In the “Poetry” section, readers encounter five evocative poems that delve into themes of power and politics. Each poem profoundly reflects societal dynamics and leaves a lasting impact on the reader.

A rich blend of realism and introspection characterized Ananthamurthy’s writing style. He masterfully incorporated folklore, mythology, and symbolism to address universal human dilemmas. His works often challenged established norms and sparked discussions on communalism, cultural identity, and individual freedom. Besides novels, Ananthamurthy wrote numerous essays, short stories, and plays. His non-fiction works showcased his intellectual and philosophical depth, tackling subjects ranging from literature and art to nationalism and democracy.

The “Short Stories” section focuses on Ananthamurthy’s chief preoccupations, depicting traditional norms’ constraints, the West’s cultural influence, the intricate workings of power, and the creative expressions of political dissent. These stories showcase the author’s ability to captivate readers with his astute observations and compelling storytelling.

In the “Essays and Speeches” section, readers gain insights into Ananthamurthy’s democratic imagination. His writings cover diverse topics, including cultural identity, literature, community, creativity, linguistic politics, nationalist politics, and notable figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Ram Manohar Lohia. Through these essays and speeches, Ananthamurthy provokes thought and challenges societal norms.

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The final section, “Memoirs,” offers a personal glimpse into Ananthamurthy’s life. Through his recollections of family, friendships, work, and travel, readers gain a deeper understanding of the author’s experiences and the influences that shaped his perspective.

The Essential U. R. Ananthamurthy” provides readers with a rich tapestry of the author’s mind, showcasing his profound insights and enduring relevance. This collection is a testament to Ananthamurthy’s literary prowess and lasting impact on Indian literature and thought. It is a must-read for those seeking a profound exploration of the human condition and the complexities of Indian society.