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Epiphanic Fiction

Rohini Mokashi Punekar

By S. Diwakar . Translated by Susheela Punitha
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 166, Rs. 450.00


There is hardly any doubt that Kannada has one of the richest traditions of literary writings and debates, reflecting a largely uninterrupted continuity from pre-colonial to modern times. For whatever awards are worth, it is perhaps not accidental that its writers have received the highest number of Jnanapith awards in post-Independence India. Assured of their bedrock of literary output and open always to literatures across the world, Kannada writers have written their own works and translated from the best writing available, always evolving as the social context changed, in terms of literary form and content. As with other Indian languages, short fiction has had a long history in Kannada and has been perhaps its most significant form of expression. From the early decades of the 20th century to contemporary times, writers have represented the complex tangled realities of their times in short, frequently epiphanic, fiction that arrests the reader with its novel and profound ways of seeing the world. From Masti Venkatesh Iyengar, Kuvempu through Niranjana, Sriranga, U.R. Ananthamurthy, Yashwant Chittal, P. Lankesh, Tejaswi to Devanuru Mahadeva, Mogalli Ganesh, Vaidehi, Sara Abubakar and scores of others in each of the four broad literary movements of modern Kannada literature: Navodaya, Pragatisheela, Navya and most recently Dalit-Bandaya, the Kannada short story has shape shifted to assume a myriad protean forms. The stories included in the Hundreds of Streets to the Palace of Lights are in fact a good example of the changing contours of the Kannada short story tracing as they do the different stages of the author’s literary career and correspondingly the larger literary debates of the region. S. Diwakar is a significant presence amidst the galaxy of very great writers in the literary landscape of Karnataka. This collection of his short stories translated into English by Susheela Punitha along with the author’s and translator’s notes contains a lucid and comprehensive introduction by the well-known critic C.N. Ramachandran. It should be possible therefore for the nonKannada reader to make an informed entry into the fictional worlds of Diwakar’s creations. The book under review is yet one more offering from OUP’s remarkable attempts to make the best writing from the bhashas available in English translation: all praise is due to its editor Mini Krishnan’s pioneering efforts in the Indian publishing world. A poet, essayist and an established translator from European, African and Latin American ...

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