Word As Mantra (The Art of Raja Rao)

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Item Code: NAG618
Author: Robert L Hardgrave, Jr
Publisher: Katha
Language: English
Edition: 1998
ISBN: 9788185586830
Pages: 216 (5 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 290 gm
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About the Book


This collection brings together some of the best and most recent international scholarship on Raja Rao.


Edited by Professor Robert L Hardgrave, Jr, Word as Mantra provides diverse critical as well as persona I perspectives on Raja Rao - the writer. the teacher. the philosopher, the man - and commemorates the coming of age of Indian English writing.




For more than thirty years, Raja Rao has honoured the University of Texas at Austin as a member of its faculty and, in retirement, by his continued involvement in the intellectual life of the community. The University, in recognition of his contributions, honoured Raja Rao at a one-day symposium, “Word as Mantra: The Art of Raja Rao,” on 24 March, 1997. Organized by the Center for Asian Studies in cooperation with the Harry H Ransom Humanities Research Center, the symposium brought scholars and friends from around the world to celebrate and honour Raja Rao: as author, philosopher, teacher and mentor. The symposium was supported by the Marlene and Morton Meyerson Centennial Chair in Asian Studies at the University of Texas and assisted by the Rockefeller Foundation.


Born in Mysore State in South India in 1908, Raja Rao was educated in India and continued his studies in French language and literature at the University of Montpellier and the Sorbonne. While in France as a student, he began writing in his native Kannada and in French, but settled on English as his major medium of expression. His first novel, Kanthapura, was published in 1938 in London. Among the novels and stories that followed, The Serpent and the Rope, 1960, brought him recognition not only as one of India’s greatest writers, but, without regard to nationality, as a master of English prose. In 1969, the Government of India honoured Rao with the prestigious Padma Bhushan and in 1988, he became the tenth recipient of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.


Raja Rao joined the faculty of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Texas in 1965, teaching courses on Indian religion and philosophy. He retired as Professor Emeritus in 1980, and resides with his wife Susan in Austin.


The symposium “Word as Mantra,” honouring Raja Rao, provided the occasion for the Sahitya Akademi to present Rao with its Fellowship, the highest honour conferred by the Akademi on any Indian writer and one reserved for those who have achieved the greatest distinction in the world of letters. The then President of the Akademi, U R Anantha Murthy, made the presentation. “At eighty eight, Rao is one of the most innovative novelists now writing,” Anantha Murthy said. “Departing boldly from the European tradition of the novel, [Rao] explores the metaphysical basis of writing itself, and of the world through his works of fiction. His concern is with the human condition rather than with a particular nation or people. Writing to him is sadhana, a form of spiritual growth. That is why he would go on writing even if he were alone in the world.”


The papers of the symposium, included in this volume, explore the world and word of Raja Rao through various themes. Robert D King provides a personal insight into Rao as a teacher. C D Narasimhaiah, R Parthasarathy, Yamuna Kachru and Braj B Kachru address Rao’s work as a whole, especially his masterly use of English as a language of India. Makarand Paranjape focuses on The Chessmaster and His Moves, and Winfred P Lehmann takes the Rigveda as a vehicle to examine Rao’s use of language. Raman Srinivasan relates the work of Raja Rao to “a poetics of post-traditional technology.” Edwin Thumboo, of the National University of Singapore, participated in the symposium, with a paper entitled” The Cat and Shakespeare: Words with Nine Lives,” that we were unabie to include in this volume.


The efforts of many people went into the success of the symposium and in the preparation of this volume. I would like to thank Jeannie Cortez, Administrative Assistant for the Center for Asian Studies, for her logistical work in symposium arrangements, and Anne Alexander, Adminsitrative Associate for the Center, for her assistance in preparing the papers for publication. Finally, I would like to thank Katha for making the publication of this volume possible.






Raja Rao: A Personal Tribute


The Example of Raja Rao


Raja Rao, Teacher


Raja Rao: Each Work a Magic Casement


Raja Rao: Madhyama and Mantra


Context, Creativity, Style: Strategies in Raja Rao’s Novels


The Difficult Pilgrimage:

The Chessmaster and His Moves and its Readers


Raja Rao: Master of Language, Rigveda 10.81.7


Blinding I: Toward a Poetics of Post-Traditional Technology


Presentation of the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship to Raja Rao


Acceptance Speech



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