Raja Rao Biography

Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Raja Rao (row), with Mulk Raj Anand and R. K. Narayan, is considered one of the most important twentieth century Indo-English novelists. The eldest in a Brahman family of nine children, he was born in Hassan, Mysore State, South India, on November 8, 1908 (although official records list his date of birth as November 21, 1909). Young Rao stayed with his grandfather, a Vedantist, while his father taught at Nizam’s College in the neighboring state of Hyderabad. From his grandfather, Rao absorbed a spiritual foundation in Indian philosophy that is apparent in all of his work. In 1915 Rao joined his father in Hyderabad to attend school and then went to Aligarh Muslim University in North India in 1926. There, under the guidance of Eric Dickinson, a poet and visiting professor from Oxford University, Rao’s literary sensibilities blossomed. In 1927 Rao enrolled in St. Nizam’s College in Hyderabad, majoring in English and history, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1929.

In that same year, Rao’s life changed dramatically. He won the Asiatic Scholarship of the Government of Hyderabad for study abroad and left India to study at the University of Montpellier in France. There, he met and married Camille Mouly, a French professor. She not only encouraged his writing but also supported him financially for several years.

Between 1931 and 1933, Rao published three essays and a poem written in Kannada (his mother tongue) in Jaya Karnataka, an influential journal. His earliest short stories were published in such journals as Cahiers du Sud (Paris) and Asia (New York). During this time, he was also researching the influence of India on Irish literature, but he stopped in 1933 to devote himself fully to writing. At this time, Rao returned to India for the first of his many pilgrimages for spiritual and cultural nourishment. During the next ten years, he visited many different ashrams and religious teachers, including Pandit Taranth, Ramana Maharshi, Narayana Maharaj, and Mahatma Gandhi. In the 1930’s and 1940’s Rao also was active in Indian social and political causes, such as the young Indian Socialist movement Quit India, and worked with Indian cultural organizations.

In 1938 Rao’s first novel, Kanthapura, was published in London. Praised by E. M. Forster as the best novel ever written in English by an Indian, Kanthapura is an account of nonviolent Gandhian resistance in a South Indian village. In 1943 Rao’s spiritual search appears to have been fulfilled when...

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Raja Rao Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Raja Rao was born into a respected Brahman family in Hassan, South India, the eldest son in a family of two brothers and seven sisters. His father taught Kannada at Nizam’s College in the neighboring state of Hyderabad. The earliest influence on young Rao was his grandfather, with whom he stayed both in Hassan and in Harihalli while his father was in Hyderabad. Rao inherited a spiritual orientation from his grandfather; his preoccupation stayed with Rao throughout his life and is evident in all his work.

Rao joined his father in Hyderabad when it was time for him to attend high school. After high school, he was sent to Aligarh Muslim University in North India. These Aligarh days proved to be crucial in shaping Rao’s intellectual growth. Under the influence of Eric Dickinson, a minor poet and a visiting professor from Oxford, Rao’s literary sensibility was awakened. He met other interesting students at Aligarh, such as Ahmed Ali, who became a famous novelist, and Chetan Anand, who became an influential film producer. Rao also began learning French at Aligarh, which contributed to his decision to go to France a few years later. After matriculating in 1927, he returned to Hyderabad to enroll as a student for the B.A. at Nizam’s College. Two years later, he graduated, having majored in English and history.

In 1929, two other important events occurred in Rao’s life. First, he won the Asiatic Scholarship of the Government of Hyderabad for study abroad. This marked the beginning of a new phase in his life; he left India for the first time to study at the University of Montpellier in France. In that same year, Rao married Camille Mouly, who taught French at Montpellier. Camille was undoubtedly the most important influence on Rao’s life during the next ten years. She not only encouraged him to write but also supported him financially for several years. In 1931, his early Kannada writing began to appear in the journal Jaya Karnataka. For the next two years, Rao researched the influence of India on Irish literature at the Sorbonne. His short stories were published in journals such as Asia (New York) and Cahiers du Sud (Paris). In 1933, Rao abandoned research to devote himself completely to writing.

Although he never settled permanently in India, Rao’s awareness of...

(The entire section is 953 words.)