Raja Rao

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Raja Rao (8 November 1908 – 8 July 2006) was an Indian-American writer of English-language novels and short stories, whose works are deeply rooted in metaphysics. The Serpent and the Rope (1960), a semi-autobiographical novel recounting a search for spiritual truth in Europe and India, established him as one of the finest Indian prose stylists and won him the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1964. For the entire body of his work, Rao was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1988. Rao's wide-ranging body of work, spanning a number of genres, is seen as a varied and significant contribution to Indian English literature, as well as World literature as a whole.


  • “I am a man of silence. And words emerge from that silence with light, of light, and light is sacred. One wonders that there is the word at all ‐Sabda-‐and one asks oneself, where did it come from? How does it arise? I have asked this question for many, many years. I’ve asked it of linguists, I’ve asked it of poets, I’ve asked it of scholars. The word seems to come first as an impulsion from the nowhere, and then as a prehension, and it becomes less and less esoteric – – till it begins to be concrete. And the concrete becoming ever more earthy, and the earthy communicated, as the common word, alas, seems to possess least of that original light. The writer or the poet is he who seeks back the common word to its origin of silence that the manifested word become light. […] Thus the word coming of light is seen eventually by light. That is, every word-image is seen by light, and that is its meaning. Therefore the effort of the writer, if he’s sincere, is to forget himself in the process and go back to the light from which words come. Go back where? Those who read or those who hear must reach back to their own light. And that light I think is prayer.”
    • from his Neustadt Prize acceptance speech (June 1988):
    • [1]
  • “We cannot write like the English. We should not. We can write only as Indians” because the “tempo of Indian life must be infused into our English expression. . . . We, in India, think quickly, and when we move we move quickly.” ... “There must be something in the sun of India that makes us rush and tumble and run on. . . . Episode follows episode, and when our thoughts stop our breath stops, and we move on to another thought. This was and still is the ordinary style of our storytelling.”
    • [2]
    • preface of His first novel, Kanthapura, written in 1937
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