‘Kaadu Mattu Kraurya’ to be available in print by year-end

This seems to be the season for the unpublished and forgotten first novels of famous Kannada writers to come back to life.

It was not long ago that the first novel of U.R. Ananthamurthy, Preeti Mrityu Bhaya, was printed after being in hibernation for 50 years. Now, the novel that the late Poornachandra Tejaswi wrote as a 24-year-old in 1962, Kaadu Mattu Kraurya, is seeing the light of day.

One of the best loved writers in Kannada, Tejaswi’s novels and non-fiction works have gone into multiple prints and still top the readers’ choice charts. Kaadu Mattu Kraurya, which is likely to be out in print by the end of the year, was carefully preserved by his wife R. Rajeshwari Tejaswi. Interestingly, Ms. Rajeshwari herself had copied the manuscript of the novel during their courtship years.

“He may have revised it later, but the one I had preserved was the manuscript that I had copied for him,” says Ms. Rajeshwari. “He had never published it in his lifetime saying he was still in the process of revising it.”

Ms. Rajeshwari’s recently published memoir documenting the years she spent with Tejaswi, titled Nanna Tejaswi, has an entire chapter dedicated to how he came to write the novel and how she came to copy its manuscript.

In the chapter titled Bandaru Kadige, she writes about how Tejaswi’s resolve to write a novel had grown stronger after he visited her maternal home deep in the middle of a thick forest in Malnad in 1961.

In the first letter he wrote to her after returning, he says: “On my way back in the bus, I have made up my mind to continue the novel… I will be happy only when I finish the novel and dedicate it to my Rajesh [Rajeshwari].”

In a series of subsequent letters, printed in the memoir, he describes the travails of creative writing. In one of the letters, he writes: “The prospect of becoming non-creative is a scary thought…” Elsewhere he says: “I am not really sad that the novel is not progressing. The slower the process, the more meaningful it emerges.” He talks about the progress of the novel, interspersed with the confessions of love, descriptions of the book he is reading and events such as his meeting with the socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia.

In a letter written to Ms. Rajeshwari in July, 1962, Tejaswi says that he had decided to name his novel “Kadu Mattu Kraurya” and not “Nalini” as he had earlier planned. He also asks her to hurry up on making a fair copy of the manuscript. In his letter the next month, he thanks her for the manuscript, but complains that her handwriting is not neat, though women’s hand is rarely untidy.

The first two chapters of the novel, which were published recently in a Kannada daily, suggest that his awe for the mystery of the forest as well as his social concerns, which are running themes in many of his later novels, can be seen in his first novel. Linga, the protagonist of Kaadu Mattu Kraurya, is a migrant bonded labourer from north Karnataka to a remote Malnad village where he is struggling to get used to life.

Ms. Rajeshwari says that the eagerly awaited novel of Tejaswi, who passed away in 2007, may be out in print by the end of the year.