BENGALURU: An English translation of U R Ananthamurthy’s last book will be launched in Bengaluru on Wednesday.
Titled Hindutva or Hind Swaraj? it discusses two texts, Veer Savarkar’s Hindutva and Mahatma Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj, and the paths they have shaped over the last 100 years. Ananthamurthy (1932-2014), an influential Kannada writer who did not shy away from taking political stands, is best known for Samskara, a novel that used the metaphor of death rites to explore philosophical and cultural questions. A Jnanpith laureate who was also shortlisted for the Booker, he had antagonised Modi supporters by declaring he would rather not live in a country with such a prime minister. The book, published by Harper Collins, is translated by Vivek Shanbhag, a much acclaimed writer of fiction in Kannada, and Keerti Ramachandra.
Shanbhag tells Express about the significance of the book.
When did Ananthamurthy write it?
He wrote it in his last days. It took him a few months to complete. Unfortunately, he was not alive to see its publication. The book is an attempt to understand the rise of right wing politics in the last few decades and why we are attracted to it.
Ananthamurthy saw RSS politics as the anti-thesis of Gandhian politics. Does the book provide additional context in the wake of Narendra Modi assuming power?
The book is not just about Sangh politics. It is about the choices we, as a nation, have made in the last hundred years. It is also a critique of our notion of development. It is critical of all political parties. Hind Swaraj was written by Gandhi in 1909 and the first version of Hindutva by Savarkar in 1923.
Tell us about the translation.
It was challenging. This is not an academic text but a creative response to our political and social situation. Ananthamurthy’s narrative is layered, and has many undertones. He brings up certain culture-specific images to analyse current situations. It was not easy to bring these into English. Keerti is an experienced translator and working with her has certainly improved the quality of this translation.
How was the book received in Kannada?
It was discussed widely and has already gone into three editions. The initial response to the English translation has also been good. I hope readers will be able to appreciate the far-reaching impact of the ideas discussed in this book.
Writer-historians Ramachandra Guha and Rajan Gurukkal release and discuss Hindutva or Hind Swaraj? at Alliance Francaise, Vasanthnagar, at 6.30 pm on Wednesday.