Rao, Raja

Rao, Raja
▪ 2007

      Indian novelist and short-story writer (b. Nov. 8, 1908, Hassan, Mysore [now Karnataka], British India—d. July 8, 2006, Austin, Texas), was, with R.K. Narayan and Mulk Raj Anand, one of the pioneers of English-language fiction in India. Rao placed a greater emphasis than his contemporaries on metaphysical questions and was successful in expressing the lyrical cadences of Indian speech and thought in English. His second novel, The Serpent and the Rope (1960), considered his masterpiece, was a philosophical semiautobiographical account of a young intellectual Brahman and his wife seeking spiritual truth in India and the West. Rao was descended from a distinguished Brahman family in southern India. He studied (B.A., 1929) at Nizam College, Hyderabad, and then left India for France to study literature and history at the University of Montpellier and the Sorbonne. His first novel, Kanthapura (1938), dealt with village life during the Indian independence movement. In 1939 he returned to India, where he edited a journal and engaged in underground activities against British rule. After World War II he alternated between India and France before joining (1966) the philosophy faculty at the University of Texas at Austin; he became professor emeritus there in 1980. Rao's works included the novels The Cat and Shakespeare: A Tale of India (1965), Comrade Kirillov (1976; published first in French, 1965), and The Chessmaster and His Moves (1988); the short-story collections The Cow of the Barricades and Other Stories (1947) and The Policeman and the Rose (1978); a collection of essays, The Meaning of India (1996); and The Great Indian Way: A Life of Mahatma Gandhi (1998). The University of Texas's Raja Rao Publication project announced plans to issue previously unpublished manuscripts, notably volumes two and three of the The Chessmaster and His Moves trilogy.

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▪ Indian writer
born Nov. 8, 1908, Hassan, Mysore [now Karnataka], India
died July 8, 2006, Austin, Texas, U.S.

      Indian writer of English-language novels and short stories.

      Descended from a distinguished Brahman family in southern India, Rao studied (B.A., 1929) at Nizam College, Hyderabad, and then left India for France to study literature and history at the University of Montpellier and the Sorbonne. His first novel, Kanthapura (1938), dealt with the Indian independence movement. After returning to India in 1939, he spent the war years editing a journal and engaging in underground activities against the British. After World War II he alternated between India and France before finally joining the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin in 1966; he became professor emeritus there in 1980.

      Rao's second novel, The Serpent and the Rope (1960), considered his masterpiece, is a philosophical and somewhat abstract account of a young intellectual Brahman and his wife seeking spiritual truth in India, France, and England; it plays on the dialogue between Orient and Occident. His other novels are the allegorical The Cat and Shakespeare: A Tale of India (1965); Comrade Kirillov (1976), an examination of communism; and The Chessmaster and His Moves (1988), which is peopled by characters from various cultures seeking their identities. Rao's short stories were collected in The Cow of the Barricades and Other Stories (1947) and The Policeman and the Rose (1978). He also wrote The Great Indian Way: A Life of Mahatma Gandhi (1998).

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Universalium. 2010.

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