Marathi novelist Bhalchandra Nemade chosen for Jnanpith award

Marathi writer Bhalchandra Nemade, who has been selected for the Jnanpith award for 2014. Photo: Vivek Bendre  

Eminent Marathi litterateur Bhalchandra Nemade, whose 1963 novel  Kosala(Cocoon) changed the dimensions of Marathi novel, was on Friday selected for 2014 Jnanpith Award, the highest literary honour in India, by the Jnanpith Selection Board.

The decision to confer the 50th Jnanpith award on 76-year-old Nemade was taken in a meeting of the 10-member selection board chaired by noted scholar, writer, and critic Prof Namwar Singh in New Delhi. The award is likely to be presented to the writer in April, Bharatiya Jnanpith's director Leeladhar Mandloi said

Nemade is the fourth Marathi writer to win the literary honour after VS Khandekar in 1974, VV Shirwadkar alias Kusumagraj in 1988, and Govind Karandikar alias Vinda Karandikar in 2003.

 “Novelist poet, critic, academic, and a relentless advocate of the literary movements and the leader of the post-1960s Little Magazine movement, Nemade has inscribed his name prominently in the annals of Indian literature,” the selection board said in a statement announcing the award.

“Nemade’s contributions to the literary form of the novel are peerless. Not only was  Kosalainstrumental in changing the dimensions of the Marathi novel, but the world of Marathi fiction was transformed with its advent. The mega-novel  Hindu published in 2010 appears to match this feat that  Kosala achieved over five decades ago,” the statement said.

“Traversing an expansive timeline, the manner in which  Hindu leaps through space and time – wielding language and experimenting with structure – is unprecedented in Marathi letters. Hindu prominently showcases Nemade’s linguistic scholarship, his creative dexterity with words and an enclyclopaedic civilisational consciousness,” the statement said acknowledging Nemade’s literary contributions.

Born on May 27, 1938 in Sangavi village in Khandesh, Nemade’s debut novel  Kosala, written in just 16 days,  established him as the enfant terrible of the Marathi literary world when he was just 25 years old. The narrative style of  Kosala’s protagonist Pandurang Sangvikar, who like Nemade moved from rural Maharashtra to Pune, had remarkable similarities with JD Salinger’s acclaimed  Catcher in the Rye.

Graduating from Ferguson College in Pune in 1959, Nemade completed his Master’s degree in Linguistics from Deccan College in Pune and in English Literature from Mumbai University in 1964. After receiving his PhD and D Lit degrees from North Maharashtra University, he taught English, Marathi, and comparative literature at Ahmednagar, Dhule and Aurangabad universities before teaching at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He retired from Mumbai University’s Gurudeo Tagore Chair for comperative literature studies.

He has novels like Hool,  Bidar (1967),  Zarila (1977) and  Zhool (1979) and poetry volumes, Dekhni and  Melody to his credit among other critical essays.  As a critic,  Nemade propagated Deshivad or a theory of nativism that negated globalisation, asserting the value of a writer’s native heritage, and language. He was honoured with Sahitya Akademi award in 1991 for his volume of criticism,  Teeka Swayamvara, and Padma Shri in 2011.


“I am happy to be honoured with the prestigious Jnanpith award. I am proud of the cultural sensibility of Marathi people. They have tolerated my writing. I did not have to go to jail or face any major agitations. I have great respect for Vinda Karandikar, and am proud to be following his legacy, New writers should also take Karandikar’s legacy forward,” Nemade told a local Marathi newspaper in his first reaction to the news.

Congratulating Nemade, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said “The new waves by post-1960s Marathi literature have made revolutionary changes in Indian literature.  Bhalchandra Nemade has been a major contributor to this legacy, and an honour like the Jnanpith award for him is truly honouring Marathi literature.”

Maharashtra Cultural Affairs Minister Vinod Tawade said “The Jnanpith Award for Nemade and Sahitya Akademi’s recommendation to confer the classical language status to Marathi have both come in the same week and both developments have made Marathi people happy and proud.” 

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 11:47:23 PM |

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