Raja Rao’s Kanthapura part 2

January 4, 2008

I get so much traffic to my post on Kanthapura and it seems most people are looking for Cliff’s Notes or something. Then I found this post by Manu Saxena, a plot summary of the book, of sorts:

The story, at the beginning, is very boring. That sort of sets the tone for the entire book.    

The language one comes across in Kanthapura is strange and unlike anything else seen before. It is a highly bent, broken and battered form of the English we are all accustomed to. The words are dull and short, and are selected carefully so as to generate the maximum amount of boredom possible among readers.

The story has two main individual leaders, Mahatma Gandhi, who, very wisely, chooses to remain out of the novel, and Moorthy, the main protagonist. The story takes off, if it ever does, when Moorthy, a young Brahmin, suddenly gets influenced by the Mahatma. He starts spreading the Mahatma’s message among the villagers. He visits the city sometime during the beginning of the narrative, and returns a ‘Gandhi Man’. The villagers, in the absence of anything better to do, start taking Moorthy seriously. [Whose Life? Kanthapura]

Then there are 14 comments agreeing with Mr. Saxena, most of them saying “I couldn’t even get past the first 10 pages.” Okay, seriously, that bad? Yeah, okay, I like to read complicated stuff, but I’ve read much worse (Evelina, anyone?) All commenters are welcome. Was I reading the same book? My edition had copious footnotes–is that the key here?  Hints, please.

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One Response to “Raja Rao’s Kanthapura part 2”

  1. anonymous Says:

    some people are more easily pleased than others. Moreover, there are a lot of very complicated novels from the western tradition that are just as if not more complicated than raja rao’s, but they are typically A) a lot more accessible to a western audience, and B) they have more to say on a wider range of subjects to begin with. The book is more poetic than many novels, but it’s way too much of raja rao or the narrator talking and not enough of his characters. A good contrast would be E.M. Forster’s Passage to India, where the characters talk a good deal more than the narrator. Unless the author is especially witty, clever, or otherwise inherently entertaining (as a novelist should at least attempt to be if they’re expecting any kind of success in the traditional sense) then they fail. This book fails because it’s really pretty boring. I work thirty hours a week and have 17 credits. I had to read this book in a couple weeks with an hour or two a day where I could sit down with the book, and it was a chore every time. I really enjoy reading, but this book just broke my will down as few have.


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