Issues in New Kannada Fiction: Tucked Fabric in a Changed World

5 Nov

Fiction, according to a noted critic of Kannada language Dr. Gourish Kaikini, is a testimony to writer’s strength. In Kannada he describes it as “Gadyave lekhakana satwakke sakshi” which means prose, which can be taken as fiction in this context, is a reflection of writer’s creative endeavor. Even though poetry is commonly considered the highest art form, fiction has its own perceptive impact on the readers.

So by choice, I wish to liken this topic to the tucked fabric in a changed world. I like to use this metaphor to overview the recent developments in new Kannada fiction. The new Kannada fiction is as good as the tucked fabric, where the fabric woven with variety of threads of different colours and formats serves as the background, it is tucked evenly in a new fashion to match the expectations of the new world around.

In this paper I will be focusing on three main topics. First will be the brief history of Kannada fiction. Kannada language, with most Jnanapeeth awards to its credit, where the total number is eight and the recent award winner being Dr. Chandrashekhar Kambar for his collective works, has a rich legacy. When it comes to representation in Indian literature prose writing in Kannada is flooded with experimentation. The second part will speak on how the new writers were influenced by the seasoned writers and in the mean time what challenges they faced to overcome the so called written rules. And finally in the third part I will be giving you the updates about present issues of new fiction in Kannada. Well the latter one will cover the major part of our time where the earlier two may just subordinate the main topic.

In Kannada, the literary works never stick to one rule; it doesn’t mean that the ideologies of the writers are fluctuating. The social beliefs and political ideologies of the writers always remained constant but the process of storytelling and the preference for the choice of topics have undergone frequent change with time. Fiction in Kannada never had a stagnant presentation but it always had an easy flow with natural ups and downs. When it comes to aesthetics, running water has its own beauty, a beauty of transparency. Again going to the above illustrated metaphor, the tucked fabric has its own attraction.

Most of the significant fiction works in Kannada came forth in the sixties and seventies with the background of two major literary movements, the Navya or the modernist movement of the sixties and the Dalit movement of the Seventies. Most of the writers, even the women writers who made significant contribution to the Kannada fiction entered the literary scene in these two decades. The Navya writers wrote in introspection. The focus here was on individual psyche, their grief and introvert desires. Intellectualism was a keyword in Navya writings. D. R. Nagaraj, a late Navya critic wrote ones in Vibhava magazine about this. If you allow me to quote him, just listen to this in D. R. Nagaraj’s words, “When ideologies like nationalism and spirituality become the apparatus of the state, a section of the intelligentsia has no option other than to seek refuge in bunkers of individualism. Individualism becomes the politics of the disillusioned.”

As a contrast, the Dalit Bandaya movement of 1970’s gave Kannada literature a social relevance. The leftist ideology was the watchword of this movement. This movement also rendered a great contribution to the treasure of Kannada fiction as the exploited and marginalized people came forth to the main stream and wrote in their own dialects. Devanuru Mahadeva who wrote Kusumabaale is the most noteworthy writer among them. But as every movement, even these two movements had their own flaws. Some of the Navya writers were branded for metaphysical write-ups and some from Bandaya were stigmatized as sloganeers.

Then the postmodernists came to the forefront. They took the essence from Navya movement and activist attitude from Bandaya. Celebration of middle class and cosmopolitan storytelling made this genre popular as it built certain aesthetic taste in the readers as well. But again, some of the writers were the victims of the mediocre created by this style.  Post modern genre did not emerge as a powerful literary movement as the earlier duo did. As another Jnanapeeth award winner Dr. U. R. Ananthamurty puts it, “Movement gives focus on the scattered creative writing. But the real creativity as a whole, even though inspired by the movement, peers beyond that.”

Hence this quality, as a whole can be taken as strength as it welcomed more experiments and convergence in the art forms. Short story writer Nagaraj Vastarey, an architect by profession who is well known for experimentalism in fiction forms, puts all his poems and short stories in one collection and when read as a whole; it gives a feel of delight, which one gets after reading a fiction. This is a success of the new fiction form.

Hence the fictions of the new writers who started writing after post modern genre got carried away neither by their immediate parents nor their ancestors. They are writing in a freewheeling space. They break the rules and often rejoin them. As a result they had a plenty of space for experimentation without any mediocre. And thus, the new Kannada fiction is flourishing with the beauty of tucked fabrics with a new set of enthusiastic writers.

In earlier paragraph I was talking about the space, I feel I should elaborate this point. The space where the writer’s creative world evolve, not only plays a significant role in deciding the form and content of his creative work but serves as the voice as well. It cannot be completely disagreed if one claims that the occupations in which the writers are in influences their fiction content. But it is inescapable to notice that the contemporary generation is freer from the good old hang-ups to moralize the content. The themes are mostly urban centric but some of the new writers who gained momentum from the rural background write with rural essence which give them the expression of transcendence. The changed societal scene which includes the converged media, malls, FM channels and social networking sites also plays a warp and woof in the new literature.

Some writers came to a forefront through the short story competitions conducted by the vernacular newspapers like Prajavani, Vijaya Karnataka and Kannada Prabha. Many of the writers have their own blogs and some of them contribute to the web portals avadhi.mag and kendasampige.net. The entire scenery is refreshing with a modified set of writers for the changed readers. After the women readership drastically came down due to the invasion of cable television networks, as in the other languages, the number of fictions in Kannada also came down. But it also had an advantage; the readers who are very few in number are very serious consumers of constructive fiction.

When it comes to the use of language, the growth is significant. Uninhibited usage of new language has brought the new fiction its own beauty. The changed language of expression in the changed world has a fresh manifestation pertaining to novel ideas. The use of new language provides as a great tuck to keep the fabric in an attractive shape.

But as like as in any setup, there are some loopholes even here. In one of the earlier paragraphs I was talking about breaking the rules. As William Strunk says, breaking rules are always ideal but to break the rules, we should first know what the rules are. I feel perturbed to make a point that the deep study of past literature is lacking in our new generation. The fast food culture which has seized our tongue to the healthy food intake has come in the way of our attitude towards perceiving the literature also. This is a major impediment of our times.

Story telling without excitement is different from storytelling without spirit. Some fictions in the new era glitter with the colour of excitement and lack the luster of spirit which in turn affects the contemplation of storytelling.

It is good to see that in Kannada each writer writes in his own structure. This can also be taken as a drawback as there are very less seminal works in the new fiction. The cut throat experimentation has come in the way of creating seminal works. Lack of strong decision making attitute has brought severe fluctuations in a writers’ mind and as a result there are no vibrant write ups in the new era.

Despite all these complaints I would like to conclude this talk with an end note. In Kannada new fiction, quality superiors the quantity when it comes to recent write-ups. The tucked fabric, however small, is in good shape and likely we can expect that it fetches some good results in coming days.

References:

  1. ‘Sirigannada- Anthology of contemporary kannada writings’ edited by Vivek Shanbag
  2. ‘Beyond Bangalore’ edited by Kruti.R
  3. Article in Times of India newspaper ‘English poetry by Indians is as good as Indian fiction’
  4. C.N. Ramachandran’s forward to Jayant Kaikini’s short story collection ‘Dots and Lines’
  5. U R Anantmurty’s interview in Mugulu magazine
  6. D R Nagaraj: ‘A note on modern Kannada writing,’ in Vibhava magazine

Presented on 5 October 2012 at: All India Young Writers’ Festival,Sahitya Akademi Auditorium, New Delhi-01

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