Will Kannada literature climb Nobel peak again?

The following news item appeared in Star of Mysore on Monday:

Noted litterateur Dr S. Prabhu Shankar yesterday dropped a bombshell when he alleged that a North Indian spoiled the chances of Rashtrakavi Kuvempu getting Nobel Prize in literature.

Dr Prabhu Shankar was speaking at the valedictory programme of the national seminar on Sri Ramayana Darshanam, the magnum opus of Kuvempu, at the Kuvempu Institute of Kannada Studies.

The Nobel Prize Committee was quite impressed by the popularity of Kannada literature. It even had suggested to constitute a committee of Kannada litterateurs headed by Prof. V.K. Gokak to nominate a person for the coveted prize who had excelled in the fields of poetry, novels, dramas, epics, essays and critical analysis.

A consensus opinion had emerged that literature stalwarts existed in individual fields and none covering all the fields. Committee chairman Prof Gokak after pondering had suggested the name of Kuvempu.

All the works of Kuvempu were supposed to be translated into English and taken to Delhi. A terrible catastrophe occured at that stage, explained Prof Prabhu Shankar.

Carrying the translated versions of Kuvempu, Dr. Prabhu Shankar boarded a train to Delhi. But the central Nobel committee had not even reserved a seat for him.

Not just that, a North Indian even threw the precious works of Kuvempu to a corner like garbage. With no place to sit, Prof Prabhu Shankar managed to reach Delhi with great difficulty.

The committee there paid no heed to the excellence of Kuvempu and eventually deprived the great litterateur of the Nobel Prize, recalled Dr Prabhu. “That was a true sad story which had not been disclosed so far. I still feel very bad reminiscing that incident. The callous behaviour of a person snatched the coveted Prize from Kuvempu” he regretted.


YOGESH DEVARAJ writes from Bangalore: If this incident is indeed true, then it’s sad to know that Kuvempu missed an opportunity to become the second Indian writer to win the literature Nobel, after Rabindranath Tagore.

The only consolation is that Kannada literature was considered for the high honour, and is an indication of its popularity at the time.

I guess 1930-1980 is the suvarna yuga for Kannada literature. I doubt if we will ever regain this popularity, given that the readership of Kannada literature is depleting day by day, and learning, reading, writing and proudly speaking our mother tongue is not cool anymore.

If every Kannadiga does his/her bit promptly and with pride, we certainly can keep its glory and greatness alive. It’s understandable if the younger (school-going) generation ask what use we have from Kannada in this flat, globalized world. But it hurts when our generation (working aged 25-45) too voice the same and act in a materialistic sense.

Thankfully, our parents were not “super smart” in making decisions for us and did what they thought was right without worrying too much on the implications. Thanks to them we were able to read and realize on our own why a Kuvempu or Bendre or Karanth deserved a Nobel, and not just being told by a Kannada professor or lecturer about the greatness.