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The calf became an orphan

Robert J. Zydenbos


Robert J. Zydenbos

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  • 1 Quoted in Joshi 1981: 163.

The Kannada language... has hardly received from European scholars the recognition and attention which it deserved. It is the most mellifluous of all the Indian vernaculars, and the richest in capability and force of expression.
-J.F. Fleet1

1The present study is about fiction in Kannada (also known as Canarese), one of the most highly developed literary languages of India. What J.F. Fleet, a nineteenth-century colonial civil servant who was one of the rare early researchers in the field of Kannada language and literature, has expressed about the state of Kannada studies in his time still holds good today: the study of its literature has been sadly neglected not only by foreign scholars but also by Indian scholars outside the Kannada-speaking state of Karnataka, for reasons which will be stated below. This study deals with fiction in Kannada which has appeared since India attained independence in 1947 and focusses on those themes which are found in this literature and which are not known in the major Western literatures because they represent problems which are specific for the culture in which this literature is written.

2To my knowledge, this is the first doctoral dissertation about Kannada literature ever submitted at a university in the Western world. Also I believe that it is the first dissertation dealing with culturally specific themes in a modern Indian literature from a literary point of view. This work is therefore a pioneer work in its kind, and such writings can demand much from their readers; but I hope that my readers will enjoy the adventure of exploring this literature as much as I did.

3While writing this work I have kept in mind that it may be of interest not only to Indologists but also to those who are working in other disciplines, for instance in comparative literature or anthropology, i.e. for people without any specialized knowledge about Kannada, its literature, Karnataka or even India. Since we are dealing here with a largely unknown literature, I have given elaborate summaries of the literary works that are discussed in the dissertation, which perhaps would have been less necessary in the case of certain other literatures. Also I hope that the work will reach not only Western readers, but an Indian readership as well. Because I have kept these various kinds of possible readers in mind, every reader will unavoidably come across passages in this study that are unnecessary for him or her: thus the Indian reader will wonder why I explain matters concerning Karnataka and India which are obvious to him, and mutatis mutandis the Western reader will think the same. I hope that the readers will bear with me in such cases and skip over those passages without being very irritated. Likewise, I hope that whenever my criticism of certain things seems a bit harsh to my readers, they will realize that such criticism is an expression of my concern for a land and a people that I have learnt to appreciate deeply.

4Pioneer work often runs into opposition in established academic circles, and I consider myself fortunate that at the Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht in the Netherlands, where I received my training in various Indological subjects, I received ample encouragement for this work. The Netherlands Foundation for the Advancement of Tropical Research (WOTRO) must be mentioned here for financially enabling me to undertake the project, and the University of Utrecht again for awarding me the doctorate for this dissertation in 1989.

5Another consequence of this being a pioneer work is that no publisher for it could be found immediately. The Kannada language and its literature have yet to receive the recognition that e.g. Bengali and Tamil already have received in scholarly circles, and a book about Kannada literature is as yet uninteresting for commercial academic publishers. Under such circumstances it is fortunate that the Institut français de Pondichéry has accepted the work for publication.

6In the transcription of Indian words I have basically followed the internationally accepted standard system. However, in the case of a few words which have become so common among English readers that they have entered into English dictionaries, I have used the Anglified spelling, as also in the case of common Indian names and the names of authors wherever a commonly accepted Latin spelling exists. Thus I have written e.g. 'Brahmin', 'Virasaiva' and 'Gowda' instead of 'Brāhmaṇa', 'Vīrasaiva' and 'Gauḍa'. In contemporary usage, the anusvāra is used in Kannada script to represent the homorganic nasal, and I have represented this in the text by either n or m, as seemed most suitable in each given situation. Also we must realize that the Latinized spelling of many authors' names is not standardized, and often the authors themselves are inconsistent in the spelling of their names.

7It goes without saying that a work such as this could not have been undertaken without the help of many other people. In the first place, I am very grateful that I could study under my teacher Prof. Dr. K.V. Zvelebil, whose example inspired me to take up Dravidian studies. Acknowledgements are not really necessary for all those who know I am indebted to them, yet I would like to mention here the names of a few people in India who in different ways (of which they are perhaps not completely aware) have contributed to the completion of this study: Chaduranga, G.H. Nayak, H.M. Nayak, Mrs. Vijaya Dabbe, K. Narayan (in Mysore), the Niranjana family and Sumatheendra Nadig (in Bangalore). But I wish to make it clear that for any errors that are found in this work, they are not to blame. My thanks are of course also due to my Kannada teacher in Heidelberg, Pt. K. Parameswara Aithal, and to the late Miss V. Jayalakshmi of Cre-A Publishers, Madras, who gave me my first Kannada novels. I wish to dedicate this book to my daughter Charumati, who was born while the work was in progress, and to the memory of my father, who supported me throughout and did not live to see the book in print.

8Mysore, March 1996


1 Quoted in Joshi 1981: 163.

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© Institut Français de Pondichéry, 1996

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