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U.R. Ananthamurthy - Obituary

U.R. Ananthamurthy - Obituary

Tim Parks, Man Booker International Prize 2013 Judge, on the late U.R. Ananthamurthy

U.R Ananthamurthy died on August 22nd. Despite being no expert on his life and work it seems appropriate to say a word on why the Man Booker judges included him in the shortlist for the 2013 Man Booker International Prize. All the judges had read at least three of Ananthamurthy’s books, Samskara, Bhava, Stallion of the Sun. We were struck at once by the facility and profundity of his narrative. There is so much writing ‘about’ India around these days, but this was India writing. At first glance, the subjects he handles, the relation of a Brahmin priest to his community, the issue of food taboos as people from different communities eat their lunch in a train compartment, might seem of little interest to the western reader, but such was Ananthamurthy’s psychological penetration, his simultaneous awareness of the weight of cultural tradition and the individual’s reaction to it, that the stories are immediately fascinating. There is no resort to melodrama, sensation or pathos to get us past the strangeness of a world we do not know. Ananthamurthy was not interested in making concessions to a dominant Western literary market. Nevertheless his extraordinary lucidity and focus draws the reader in to the predicaments of his characters and the dynamics of the world he moved in. One can only regret his passing and recommend his work to those who haven’t read it.