U.R. Anantha Murthy, our greatest living novelist?

In the mid-1980s, he stormed into the pages of The Illustrated Weekly of India as “one of the 50 most important people” in the country. But the trajectory of the Kannada writer, critic, academic and public intellectual U.R. Anantha Murthy has not always been smooth, consistent or ascendant.

In his home land in recent years, URA has been the target of revanchist right wing forces, many his compatriots, who can only spot opportunism behind his thoughts, words and deeds. His peevish unaceptance of S.L. Bhyrappa as a peer and/or equal, belying his 79 years, is now the object of media ridicule, at least from sections of it.

Yet, it will please none of Anantha Murthy’s detractors, indeed many of them might in moments of humility write this down as their biggest failure, that URA’s literary star continues to shine incandescently on the national horizon and that he is spoken of in the same breath as the very best and brightest.

Two Sundays weeks ago, in an interview in The Times of India, the Booker Prize winning Kannadiga, Aravind Adiga, was asked about the writers who excited him.

Adiga’s response:

“Many regard Professor U.R. Anantha Murthy as India’s greatest living novelist. If anyone has not read his novel “Samskara“, I urge them to do so.”

This week, Chandrahas Choudhury reviewing the new English translation of URA’s Bharathipura, in The Wall Street Journal online, writes:

“Ananthamurthy brings to his material considerable gifts as a technician. His deft segueing between third-person narration and the protagonist’s inner monologue allows us to experience the novel’s world simultaneously from within and without.

“Although Susheela Punitha’s translation is often uneven, it releases into English this work of formidable interpretative power by a writer who warrants the title, as much as Amitav Ghosh or Vikram Seth, of India’s greatest living novelist.”

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: The U.R. Anantha Murthy interview

The mahaan elastic buddhijeevi of the year?

CHURUMURI POLL: Smooth, smart, stupid?

URA: A people’s manifesto for the 2008 elections

Is Anantha Murthy‘s Samskara a little too sexy?

URA: ‘India is the loser if Hindus become communal’

S.L. Bhyrappa versus U.R. Anantha Murthy

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34 Responses to “U.R. Anantha Murthy, our greatest living novelist?”

  1. Ramesh Raghuvanshi Says:

    We Indian have taken novel form of Western civilization. Novel form developed in Western countries as social criticism.Christan believed in communities living,what are conflict, tussles in communities that to show that is main concern of novel,Main theme of novel of western society how to live in this world?Hindu way of live fixed up how to live in this world.Ultimate aim of Hindu is how achieve MOKSHA.our Hindu novelist describing what are difficulty to achieve MOKSHA.So compere western novelists our novelist are immature pigmy .Murthy is not novelist at all Indian novelist are don’t understand the true aim of novel writing

  2. Deepak Says:

    Ha ha ha, what a joke. Who the hell are Arvind Adiga and Chandrahas Chowdhury to confer such certificates of greatness? They are nobodies in the field of literature and such certificates hold no value. And churumuri’s exultation about URA is mainly due to the fact that he is a Hindu hater and baiter and not for his literary talents.

  3. Mahesh Vijapurkar Says:

    I’d like the find which has heritage value in a museum.

  4. tsubba Says:

    c’mon deepak. URA is an awesome read.

  5. "mudi"malnad Says:

    Our own Tejaswi (Karvallo), Chiththala (Shikari), including Bhyrappa (Parva) are all better novelists than URA. Since he (& Karnad) had more ‘dhilli connecson’ they got all those awards.
    There was a time whenever mr. Sha.Balu Rao ( he was with kendra sahitya academy then), used to visit bangalore (from delhi) he used to get royal treatment from all these” samskarees”
    No sane or greatest living novelist will call the other novelist “Rahugrastha” (thannanthe parara bagevade….)

  6. sarvagna Says:

    :*Brahmins the 2nd in India,5th in Asia,11th in world most comunity*15% of India and 70% of gujarat’s business handle by Brahmins*Brahmins is the 4th most richest community in the world*Brahmins have 260 diffrient types of surnames .*35%NRI in India are brahmins

    proud to be brahmins… :) Yet U R Anantha Murthy has not realised it and uses all the languages against Brahmins.
    i dont know who calls him great Novelist.He has won laurels because being close to political bigwigs not cos fro his writings.there are thousands of his contemporaries who are never behind laurels.

  7. chandrakant Says:

    what really pisses off in this argument is the prejudiced comments of a senile writer ie., Shri UR A are given more pages than the well researched and thought provoking writings of Shri SLB. Probably a writer’s place is in the readers heart and in that SLB is light years ahead of URA. For the ganging up of URA and his coterie against SLB read Pratap simha’s article in the Kannada Prabha of Jun issue. May better sense prevail on churmuri commentators too!!

  8. mounaprasad Says:

    This phoney novelisht is a creation of the media and vested interests to further communist/liberal(?) ideology/agenda. His hobnobbing with politicians is well known and it is not a mystery how he got a site allotted for himself in dollars colony.When was the last time this guy wrote a decent and readable novel. Bharatipura and Samskaara are age old novels but are still kept in the news by URA’s friendly media people. His creativity has long gone dry and he is trying to compensate for that by throwing tantrums and issuing asinine statements against SLB. Kaiyalli agadiddavanu Mayi parachikonda anno haage.


    Also there was a recent article by Sumateendra Nadig, on how this Gnana-Phitta backstabbed his mentor Gopala Krishna Adiga..a must read for everyone who wants to know the truth about Anantha muthree…

  9. Yella Ok Says:

    Despite his petty mindedness about SL Bhyrappa, one cannot deny URA his share of good novels. But the greatest living novelist in India – hmmm.

    Also wonder if Adiga has read samskara in kannada or the translated form, if he has read bhyrappa, tejaswi, kuvempu, karanth, chittaala and the others.

  10. Anurag Murthy Says:

    I think Aravind adiga is doing a wonderful tribute to these great giants of our great amalgamation of wisdom.
    In comparing kuvempu karanth or tejaswi bhyrappa or ananathamurthy bhyrappa we should not act as overly mature lads. as readers we should assimilate the wisdom and not hold them one against another. they are all great in their fields.
    when they teamed up for unification with rajkumar
    when they dreamt of united karnataka
    when they understood and upheld kannada when we started to go with the wind
    when they reminisced us about greatness of pampa ,nrupatunga , basavanna and akka mahadevi
    when they spoke about innumerable aspects and branches of haridu hanchi hoda karnataka
    when they still in their 70-80s represent and head unesco and huge cultural theatrical heritage organizations’
    when URA and SLB fight in such a miraculous way so that they bring out the essence as well as publicize to just arouse the latent reading habit in user for their very moderately priced publications.
    when they all live such a gentleman’s life with a generous smile without expecting in return for their modest lifestyles

    we , not even doing a bit in our technological era will certainly be miniscule to even comment on their works.
    They are jewels and we should not attempt to demean someone to uphold someone else.

    They are so wise that they saw what would happen to our generation a decade ago
    to hear something like
    bayake thotada beliyolage karana ganagala ringana.
    would make my day

  11. chriskb Says:

    I have a hard time understanding the mind of URA. His work seemed to scream for a social revolution to get rid of many social ills plaguing our caste ridden society. May be we expected him to be a ‘modern Basavanna’, forgetting that he is just a novelist – probably an opporrtunist who exploited and disappointed many.

  12. sanjeeva Says:

    Greatest living novelist! Aha, what a good joke to hear after a long time! At a random, how many people can name the novels written by URA And, to how many languages his novels have been translated? And how many novels have seen reprints?

  13. Curry Hurry Says:

    URA is not quite worth the urea he spouts out. Even here Churumuri cannot stop taking potshots at Bhyrappa.

  14. Chombuka Says:

    U R Ananthamurhty once said i am secular because i married a christian!!!
    How can you even consider him a novelist when he has such dumb concepts/thoughts?.
    Bias forms the basis of all his writings.
    To confer him as the greatest is an insult to all novelists.

  15. Alakh Niran Says:

    Anantha Murthy’s attitude can be best judged by the fact that he sent his children to English medium schools and later on turned into a staunch Kannada medium education supporter.

    He is very good in talking and talking without telling anything really worth to note. He can go on and on and on… and on………….

    I have read his Bharathipura, Avasthe, and Samskara. These were good for their times, and have long lost their importance in the light of modern Indian society.

    Since all his abilities to write novels have dried up, he now writes commentaries, takes potshots at SLB and does nothing else. His political stance is similar to his pro-Kannada stance.

    Thanks to churmuri for having brought this issues out of nowhere… What was the reason for this gimmick after all?

  16. Ragu Says:

    haagalkayi ge bevinkayi saakshi!!

  17. adu haagene Says:

    Aravind Adiga will very soon get some (Indian literary) award for his great work and contribution to the literature.

  18. chanakya Says:

    You gone mad? URA got awards by begging. He is happy in barking against Byrappa, who is a good writer. URA just barks….barks….and barks. So he is the greatest living ‘barker’ of the time..

  19. Poli Hudga Says:

    URA ROCKS!!! SLB SULKS!!! … get the drift?

  20. Brahmappa Says:

    Whatever Arvind Adiga smoked to come up with such an opinion is clearly the solution for India’s corruption, time travel and all other problems plaguing humanity.

  21. albeso Says:

    Seriously? Churumuri – is this the best article that you could find. URA – a womanizer, cheat, a guy who stabbed multiple people in the back – you guys can do better!!!

  22. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Churumuri should raise above “The greatest dead Indian novelist” and “the greatest living Indian novelist” themes!

  23. A Journalist Says:

    Aravind Adiga knows nothing about Karnataka or Kannada. His knowledge is superficial. He is a shallow writer.

    Why waste time on him?

  24. vishwa Says:

    it’s a foolish argument to say URA is greatest living novelist. Just because somebody prints review of his book in wallstreet journal it does not make him great.writer’s attitude shows that anything printed in english media is great.It’s the readers who should decide who is great, who is political activist more than writer(b..d who supports maoist killing their own people).

  25. Pulikeshi the Last Says:

    URA is one of our greatest minds. If only he were not so self-absorbed, like his contemporary Lankesh, another great mind, Karnataka perhaps would not be in the sorry state it is in today. Both wanted to do the right things for the wrong reasons, personal aggrandisation and love of luxury among them.

    As Bhyrapaa says in his epigraph for “Mandhra,” what do we get if we look into the reified heart of the artist and forget what we have direct access to, his work?

  26. Deepak Says:

    Wow! The greatest living novelist visited Freedom park to meet the cleanest living politician to give him juice and make him break his fast. How touching!! It was truly a sight for sore eyes!!!

  27. tuluva Says:

    yes, ura is the greatest novelist, and kummi aka ‘maNNina mommaga’ is the greatest living politician. ura asked kummi to take care of his health etc..

  28. dr ramesh Says:

    there are perfectly legitimate reasons to criticize URA, yet one can’t ignore his intellectual prowess. remember few years back, HDK had asked URA who, but greatness of both these gentlemen is to think big ,think ahead and work towards building a better karnataka.

  29. shankar Says:

    Picture worth 100000000 expletives.

  30. Pagan Says:


    You should give *puke* alert when posting such links.

  31. Chinakurali Says:

    I agree with Mr Shankar i thought something else in the write up and it turned out same old trumpet of URA all kannada readers know what he is and how he is? and more over why should we need a certificate from a person who him self is writing in English and not in Kannada. What can we expect from that person to comment on URA or any kannada writer to know the works of a person especially a literary work u should know the essence of language and little knowledge of the culture of that language.
    Ene aagali idhanthu satya URA yavathu ella helo ashtu Shreshta aagiralilla aagodu illa. All his greatness was created by the people around him just as for Godmens nothing else he is neither great by his works nor by his deeds.

  32. Neeraj Says:

    ‘Churmuri’ wants lot of traffic and comments on her blog and hence she has knowingly written a ‘flame’ / ‘bait’ article. She seems to be a shrewd one. Fit to become a ToI journalist or better a ‘Special’ mallu movie script writer……

  33. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Dr Ramesh is the Mani Shankar Aiyar of Kumaranna!

    MSA talks about Rajiv Gandhi’s Panchayat Raj; Dr. Ramesh talks about Grama Vasthavvya; both Rajiv Gandhi and HDK were/are dreaming big. Rajiv Gandhi unfortunately was assassinated; HDK has assassinated BJP hopes (according to Dr. Ramesh).

  34. Raghavendra H Says:

    I have read resonable number of novels of both UR Anantha murthy and SL Bhyrappa. For me, UR A is nowhere near SL Bhyrappa in gripping the readers with his fine art of story telling. Also – I don’t see the same depth in UR A’s novels as I see in SL Bhyrappas. As one of the commentators rightly said – SL Bhyrappa is light years ahead of UR Anantha Murthy.

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