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Raja Rao Biography

(1909–2006), Kanthapura, The Serpent and the Rope, The Cat and Shakespeare, Comrade Kirilov

indian novel philosophy novels

Indian novelist, born in Hassan, Karnataka, educated in Hyderabad and Aligarh, before attending the universities of Montpellier and the Sorbonne in France. In 1965 he became a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Austin, Texas. Rao's first novel, Kanthapura (1938), foregrounded the Gandhian struggle for national independence, but is remarkable for its narrative voice—a village grandmother—and its reworking of the English idiom in a lyrical Indian mode. In its interweaving of myth and legend with politicized realism, the novel foreshadows the magical realist trend evident in the work of later Indian novelists. Rao's best-known novel, The Serpent and the Rope (1960), an account of the disintegration of a marriage, allows its narrator, an intellectual Brahmin whose wife is French, to reflect not only on the polarities between Hindu and Western attitudes but on philosophy, religion, history, and literature. Later novels include The Cat and Shakespeare (1965), a metaphysical treatise lightly disguised as fiction, and Comrade Kirilov (1976), which parodies the Marxist pretensions of a Westernized advocate of Indian national independence; both novels are characterized by their brevity and satirical tone. The range of his fictional concerns is also effectively displayed in his short stories collected in The Cow of the Barricades (1947), The Policeman and the Rose (1978), and On the Ganga Ghat (1989).

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