For many, the death of Raja Rao in Austin, Texas, on July 8 at the age of 98 came as a surprise: who hasn’t heard of the author, one of the three founding fathers of Indian English writing, but how many knew he was
still around and writing till the end? And yet, he’d had it all before he was 30: a 21-year-old graduate of a provincial college in Hyderabad who bagged a scholarship to a French university, his first writing winning him a ticket to the world’s literary circle, to a writing residency in a castle in the Alps, and a debut novel,
Kanthapura, instantly hailed by E.M. Forster as "the best novel ever written in English by an Indian".
Hardly high praise, considering there were only five other novels in that category when Kanthapura came out in 1938—two by Mulk Raj Anand and three by R.K. Narayan. But the odd thing about this IWE trinity was that each was absorbed in reinventing English to suit their own needs,...