Bangalore: A towering figure in the world of literature, Udupi Rajagopalacharya Ananthamurthy, who died here Friday, was modern in his sensibilities and the intellectual underpinnings in his literary works questioned many deeply-held beliefs. Like his literary works, Ananthamurthy's strong political views were also striking, often landing him in unseemly situations and controversies.
A multi-faceted personality and rated as one of the best writers in the country, 82-year old Ananthamurthy won acclaim from critics and fans alike. In his literary life, the Kannada writer won the Padma Bhushan in 1998, Jnanpith award in 1994 and the state Rajyothsava award in 1984, while his nomination for the 2013 Man Booker International Prize brought him to the attention of a Western audience. He was also the Vice-Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi University in Kerala during late 1980s.
A socialist in political belief, he also tried to dabble in politics contesting the Lok Sabha and Rajya elections once each unsuccessfully and courted controversies quite often with his views that generally were against the BJP and Sangh Parivar. At the height of the recent Lok Sabha poll campaign, Ananthamurthy had said he would leave the country if Narendra Modi becomes Prime Minister but later did a U-turn, saying the remark was made when he was overcome by emotion. "That was too much to say because I can't go anywhere except India," he had said but his remarks had raised the hackles of BJP and many others who questioned his "intolerant" attitude and disrespect towards a possible popular mandate in favour of Modi.
Ananthamurthy had said if Modi comes to power it may result in a "shift in our civilisation." "I have a feeling that we may slowly lose our democratic rights or civil rights when there is a bully. But much more than that when there is a bully we become cowards."