Enduring love for literature

Gururaja Shyamacharya Amur’s (1925-2020) departure acquires a symbolic dimension in view of the anti-intellectual and anti-academic atmosphere that pervades the contemporary literary scenario in Karnataka. Cultural polemics based on societal and political issues and an effervescent creativity that relies more on experiences, ideas and attitudes rather than a meaningful dialogue with language are vying with one another to gain attention. These forces are abetted by media which revel in exaggeration and adulations.

Dr. Amur who excelled as a scholar and literary critic for seven decades was a brilliant student with a firm grounding in English, Sanskrit and Kannada. He obtained a doctoral degree in English for his much-celebrated treatise, ‘The Concept of Comedy: A Restatement’ (1963) and occupied various academic positions in Karnatak University, Dharwad and Marathwada University, Aurangabad. He had stints of academic research in Yale University and Santa Barbara University, California as a Senior Fulbright scholar (1972-73). He was sponsored by the British Council to work as a researcher in the United Kingdom. He was awarded the D.Litt. degree by Karnatak University in 2012.

Enduring love for literature

He laid greater emphasis on his writings in English prior to his retirement and shifted his focus towards Kannada literary criticism, thereafter. He was slightly disillusioned with literature as an institution during the last decade of his life and pursued philosophical and spiritual pursuits as evident by his works on Mahabharata, Bhagavad-Gita and Dakshinamurthy Stotra. However, all these phases were suffused with academic rigour and his major interests were interwoven.

Dr. Amur occupies a unique position among the literary critics in Kannada. He was not swayed by the demands of literary/social movements and stuck to the canons of literary theory and criticism as practiced in the West, even though he was familiar with the tenets Indian Poetics. He could apply the theory and the tools obtained there to Kannada literary works belonging to various genres. His scholarship was not confined to the British and American varieties of literary practices and encompassed the continental modes also. He did not enter the portals of now prevalent cultural criticism and managed to have his say without any bias. But academic scholarship if it becomes an end in itself, could prevent a critic from observing emergent social patterns and the consequent creative modes.

Dr Amur has published about thirty books in English. They constitute three domains. He has written extensively on Indian writers in English. He has edited many books containing essays that serve the purposes of pedagogy. He has done yeoman service to Karnataka by translating many literary classics from Kannada into English. They include, ‘The Spider and the Web’ a very competent translation of many important poems by poet Da.Ra. Bendre. He has translated novels such as ‘Sandhyaraaga’ by A.N. Krishna Rao and ‘Om Namo’ by Shantinatha Desai. His monographs on Manohar Malgonkar, A.N. Krishna Rao, Dattatreya Ramachandra Bendre and Shantinath Desai serve as useful introductions to the writers and their oeuvre. ‘T.S. Eliot’s Poetics’, ‘Ideas and Images’ and ‘Saints and Poets’ all the three published by Writer’s Workshop, Calcutta, represent Amur’s foray into more theoretical topics.

Noted critic Giraddi Govindraj releasing collection of plays of Girish Karnad and a book by G.S. Amur at a function organised by Manohar Granthmala in Dharwad.

Noted critic Giraddi Govindraj releasing collection of plays of Girish Karnad and a book by G.S. Amur at a function organised by Manohar Granthmala in Dharwad.  

Amur has carved a niche for himself in Kannada as a literary critic of enduring merit. He has published forty odd books all of them dealing with literary criticism. He has adapted various modes of writing such as Book Reviews, literary biographies, practical criticism, literary theory et al. It is a matter of curiosity that all his writings are confined to modern Kannada literature. Pre-modern Kannada literature spanning ten centuries is conspicuous by its absence in his literary musings. However, he has written extensively about fiction, poetry, drama, criticism and other literary forms. Fiction was his forte, as evidenced by well-thumbed volumes surveying Kannada novels and short stories. He made it a point to study a writer in all aspects of his life and writings as a continuum. ‘Bhuvanada Bhagya’ a full-length study of the life and works of Da.Ra. Bendre, won him the prestigious Central Sahitya Akademi award. This is pioneering work tracing the evolution of a writer through his entire career and evaluating his works in their entirety. It goes to the credit of this great writer that he could write another book ‘Ommukha’ delineating Bendre’s poetics and discussing the merits of his translations. He has written similar analytical and objective books on Kuvempu, Shriranga and U.R. Ananthamurthy.

Prof. Amur was deeply concerned about the themes and forms of literary works. He was interested in the internal dynamics of a work caused by literary devices such as metaphor, image and stylistic idiosyncrasies. He could also trace the evolution of a writer during his career. His vast reading and an ability to retrieve them at will helped him in making comparative assessment. He could overcome regional and personal bias unlike many of his illustrious peers. His writings on Kuvempu in general and ‘Sri Ramayana Darshanam’ in particular, bear witness to this. Similarly, he could transcend literary movements and write about great writers such as Masti Venkatesha Iyengar, Shivarama Karanth, Yashwant Chittal, Lankesh, Tejasvi, Devanuru Mahadeva, Veena Shanteshvara and Vaidehi with equal concern and competence. Amur was intellectually so active till the very end, and his huge volume on Dakshinamurthy Stotram came out early this year.

Amur preferred the matter of fact, academic writing and did not seek limelight at any point of time. Nor did he aspire to be the darling of the media and crowds by making deliberate controversial statements. He was not a great orator, but had the desire of a teacher who wants to communicate, in fact, he was very stimulating in personal conversations. Success, in terms of awards and accolades did not come to him as a matter of course. He had to wait for them. He has received Central Akademi Award, Pampa Prashasti, Rajyotsava Award, Nrupatunga Award, and Karnataka Sahitya Akademi Lifetime Award and many other prizes.

I had the fortune of meeting him frequently after he shifted his residence to Bangalore because we lived in the same locality. We used to have long conversations mostly about academic and cultural issues. Lately, he was more concerned about life in its philosophical aspects. He was drawn towards Indian Philosophy in its myriad aspects. He used to remember Dr. Subbaramaiah, a professor of Nuclear Physics and his spiritual mentor with great reverence and fondness. I do not want to forget his affection for me. I represent many of his students scattered all over the country. We should celebrate the life of pious persons like Dr. Amur rather than mourn his death. It’s my wish to end this note by recording my tributes to his late wife, Shantha Amur, who held a degree in Physics and was an abiding source of inspiration to him.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 6:50:05 AM |

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