The English edition of U.R. Ananthamurthy's novel Bharathipura was released amidst a torrent of interpretations

It's a growing up novel,” said eminent social scientist Shiv Visvanathan, releasing the English edition of writer U.R. Ananthamurthy's Kannada novel “Bharathipura” published by the Oxford University Press. “When I read it, it felt like we finally had a bus to our town,” said playwright K.V. Akshara comparing it with Ananthamurthy's earlier novel “Samskara.” Akshara was one of the speakers at the release on Thursday. “It is a novel of our times, but Ananthamurthy does not offer modernity as an alternative,” said culture critic N. Manu Chakravarthy, who has introduced the book.

For everyone in the packed audience, “Bharathipura” (1973) translated by Susheela Punitha, continued to reinvent itself with new meanings. Decoding its multiple layers Shiv Visvanathan said, “It was tough to resist the three temptations: reading it as history, anthropology and autobiography. Even then it eluded me,” he averred. Every word, he realized after multiple readings, existed in the neighbourhood of affinities and oppositions, and the protagonist Jagannatha is only a pretext to see “change”. “The novel is the collective confession of an era that believed in change,” he observed.

“I feel it provides an intellectual road map for the turbulences of our times,” said Akshara. “Samskara is a self-contained world with a tight structure. But the change in the landscape of Bharathipura is striking. Jagannatha, like everyone and everything else in the novel is left open-ended, and therefore keeps reinventing himself from time to time — making himself available to various movements and politics of our times.

“It is not easy to put integrity of thought into practice, Bharathipura captures those intense moral dilemmas,” explained Chakravarthy. Written in the Seventies, the novel “anticipated the heterogeneous movements of progressive society. It is a work built on many ambivalences and contradictions, ” he added.

“Several things work on my consciousness,” said U.R. Ananthamurthy, “and giving thrust to my ideological position, I interrogate, question and reflect on them as a novelist.” Coming to terms with Lohia, Marx… through such creative interrogations, “the process may not always be successful, but ideas are important to me,” he emphatically said.

Speaking on the challenges of the translator, Punitha said “a novel gains meaning not only through its language but also through its metaphors. It's in the interpretation of the metaphors that the text could fulfil objectives not envisaged by the translator or even the author.”

The “bus” was on the move and touched new destinations.