Telugu literature Society

Chaso, as inspirer

The 25th Chaso Sphoorti Meet held in Vizianagaram was an occasion for littérateurs to revisit and get inspired by the late Chaaganti’s works

Great works of art and literature, and great writers and thinkers, cannot be left to fend for themselves for too long. Because, it is not often that we really or fully understand them, and more, every age has the need to seek and create anew their relevance in order to draw sustenance from them.

Chaso or Chaaganti Somayajulu was recognised as a master of the modernist short story form in Telugu from the time his first stories were published in the early 1940s. It coincided with the rise of the Progressive literary movement in Telugu. He often said that he initially wrote his stories with an intention to set a model and demonstrate how a Marxist understanding of human beings and society, aiming at a society free from exploitation, creative human excellence and genuine social satisfaction and joy, could be expressed in realistic, modern short stories. Nevertheless, it was a rare instance of a writer emerging fully evolved at the very beginning.

Take any of his celebrated and popular stories like Vaayluleenam, Kumkudaaku, Parabrahmam, Yenduku Paarestaanu Naanna and Empu, or some of his less discussed but equally penetrative explorations into human nature like Chokka-Botchu Tuvvaala, Maatru Dharmam or Ponee Tinu, you find that in each of them he unravels a facet of life, a big canvas indeed. A new form every time. A distinctive creative and stylistic approach to each story

Visionary and a littérateur(top) Celebratory event to mark Chaso’s anniversary (left) Chaso By arrangement

Visionary and a littérateur(top) Celebratory event to mark Chaso’s anniversary (left) Chaso By arrangement  

Chaso wrote just about 45 stories — most of them just four or five pages long — over a period of five decades (1942-1980), long time gaps separating concentrated spells of writing. Almost all of his stories are rooted in the provincial rural and small town life of north Andhra — Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts. By being resolutely local, and clued to the specificities of his characters, their specific lingos, the landscape, and the changing socio-economic relations, his stories acquired a stunning universality. It is as if brevity itself enables this superabundance of signification and discovery in his stories.

Chaso has been celebrated as one of the principal figures who deepened and consolidated the lead given by Gurajada Appa Rao, the pioneer of modernism in Telugu literature, in establishing the short story form as a socially purposeful and progressive medium. Yet he always felt that his stories did not receive the kind of critical and interpretive examination and acclaim they richly deserved.

Chaso passed away of cancer in 1994. It was left to Chaganti Tulasi, Chaso’s daughter, and herself a remarkable short story writer, translator and critic, to take charge and promote the critical discussion on the relevance of Chaso and the kind of beacon light he could be to emerging writers. Tulasi launched an annual event in 1995 to observe Chaso’s birthday on January 17, titled very appropriately as Chaso Sphoorti (Chaso’s Inspiration) in Vizianagaram, the town where Chaso spent all his life. The event soon became an annual pilgrimage for lovers of Chaso’s stories and his admirers, An award to an emerging Telugu short story writer, a lecture or two on some aspect of Chaso’s stories by invited speakers, a reading of a story of Chaso (he always meant them to be read aloud) have been the main features of this event. There have been a couple of bigger seminars too. The annual Chaso lectures, his poems, annotations on his stories, and his literary correspondence with other leading lights of Telugu literary modernism (like Srirangam Narayanababu, Sri Sri, Arudra, Ronanaki Appalaswamy) have come out in book form.

Having tirelessly worked for creating greater awareness about the finer nuances of Chaso’s stories for 24 years, Tulasi decided to conclude it with a final one this year. The 25th Chaso Sphoorti meet was held last Friday in Vizianagaram. Three books – critical essays and opinions on Chaso, and a photo album on 25 years of the event were released on the occasion. A new volume of Chaso’s stories, some newly discovered, is in the offing.

“Chaso belongs to the whole world. I am sure his admirers and the Telugu literary world will continue to revisit his stories and take inspiration from the high standards he set for himself and the purpose and relevance of literature and the short story,” says Tulasi. Fitting words.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 8:57:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/the-hindu-friday-review-telangana/article30642898.ece

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