One of the most thought-provoking writers of Indian literature, Jnanpith-winning Kannada writer U R Ananthamurthy passed away due to renal failure at a private hospital here on Friday evening.
The 82-year-old Padma Bhushan, who described himself as a “Gandhian socialist’’, had been undergoing dialysis for several years, but was admitted to hospital a fortnight ago after he fell seriously ill. Ananthamurthy suffered renal failure on Thursday night and died of a cardiac arrest on Friday at around 6 pm, Medical Director of Manipal Hospital H Sudarshan Ballal said.
A proponent of the navya (new) movement in Kannada literature and professor of English literature at the Mysore University, Ananthamurthy was lucid, incisive and controversial in his writing. Much of his work, including his most acclaimed book Samskara, dwelled on questions from his Brahminical roots and the customs and rituals that came with it. The caste system in India, of which Ananthamurthy was a fierce critic, formed the basis of much of his work.
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Apart from his 1966 novel Samskara, which was made into film in 1970, Ananthamurthy published three novels, one play, six short story collections, five poetry collections and six collections of essays in Kannada apart from several pieces on English literature.
Ananthamurthy did not shirk from taking political positions and was critical of right-wing politics. He unsuccessfully contested Lok Sabha polls in 2004 and was tipped to make it to Rajya Sabha several times. Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, Ananthamurthy had openly campaigned for the Congress party. He had even courted controversy by saying he would not like to live in a country ruled by Narendra Modi.
“Like Savarkar, Modi is not religious but he wants to build a nation based on Hindutva, which will make India like Japan during World War II. Such nationalism is dangerous,’’ Ananthamurthy had said. He had later withdrawn his remark, saying it was made in an emotional moment and that he had “no other home but India”.
Condoling the writer’s death, PM Modi said, it was “a loss to Kannada literature”. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi also condoled his death. “He contributed immensely not just to Kannada literature but brought great wisdom and insight to some of the most pressing national issues. His loss will be deeply mourned,” Rahul said.