Stories behind the stories
‘Katha-Nepadhyam’, published by TANA Publications, discusses the background and the origin of stories as told by the respective writers. Man’s...
‘Katha-Nepadhyam’, published by TANA Publications, discusses the background and the origin of stories as told by the respective writers
Man’s interest in the ‘story’ can be traced back to the primitive days when men had to indulge in tremendous physical labour, and had to travel many days to cover even short distances. Obviously, the most sought after person of those societies was a story teller who could narrate stories to entertain and re-energise the people. The unparalleled prestige that the writers enjoyed in Indian literature can be amply asserted in the example of ‘Valmiki’ who became an important character to the sequel of ‘The Ramayana’ and that of ‘Vedavyasa’ who was the progenitor of the Pandavas and Kouravas in ‘The Mahabharata’.
For a long time,writers were considered divinely inspired. William Wordsworth’s definition for poetry-"the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility,"- implies the same. But writing was realised more as craft and writers as mere craftsmen, afterwards. The old Indian proclamation ‘nan rishi kurithe kavyam’, comes closer to that modern dictum as the ultimate craftsmanship should transform a writer into ‘rishi’, a sage.The one thing that many readers don’t realise is that, they are more fascinated by the writer behind the work than even the protagonist of the work.
When writing is realised as a craft, the reader would be naturally inquisitive of the different tools and methods involved in it. Edgar Allan Poe, a path breaking poet, short story writer and a critic says, “I have often thought how interesting a magazine paper might be written by any author who would- that is to say, who could - detail, step by step, the processes by which any one of his compositions attained its ultimate point of completion. Why such a paper has never been given to the world, I am much at a loss to say- but, perhaps, the authorial vanity has had more to do with the omission than any one other cause. Most writers- poets in specially - prefer having it understood that they compose by a species of fine frenzy- an ecstatic intuition- and would positively shudder at letting the public take a peep behind the scenes, at the elaborate and vacillating crudities of thought- at the true purposes seized only at the last moment- at the innumerable glimpses of idea that arrived not at the maturity of full view- at the fully-matured fancies discarded in despair as unmanageable- at the cautious selections and rejections- at the painful erasures and interpolations- in a word, at the wheels and pinions- the tackle for scene-shifting- the step-ladders, and demon-traps- the cock's feathers, the red paint and the black patches, which, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, constitute the properties of the literary histrio.” Like the green room of a theater, the workshop of a literary histrio appears cramped and messy to the others but, when he himself guides them, there, it would be fascinating as well as thrilling.
Though Poe’s predecessors and his contemporaries felt that it was a sacrilege to discuss the origin and the process of the development of any of their works, his successors fulfilled his desire and ‘Paris Review’ interviews are monumental examples to it. And ‘Katha-Nepadhyam’, published by TANA Publications accomplishes the desire of Poe more accurately.
‘Katha-Nepadhyam’ was started as feature article by the then editor of the Sunday magazine of Andhrajyothi daily, R M Umamaheswara Rao; an avant-garde editor. He published thirty four articles starting from August 17, 1997, to June 21, 1998 and since then the idea of bringing them in a book form had been floating around. The idea was finally taken up when Jampala Choudhary, a connoisseur in literature, took interest in it and relegated the responsibility to Vasireddy Naveen, the editor of ‘Katha Sahithi’, with a Midas touch. 34 articles were published in the journal and it is felt that they are to be appended by the stories with which the articles were associated. To make it more comprehensive Naveen procured 25 more articles and brought it out in two volumes. The editors of this innovative book are to be complimented for the ingenious concept and great execution.
The editor simply asked the writers to choose one of their stories, and write the background for it. The way that they understood the issue and reacted to it varied, and the articles do reflect the character of the writer concerned.No two writers are alike and their concerns, priorities and goals are different.Some of them went to the point directly and some indulged in digressions. Some were boldly truthful and some fictionalised to evade the main issue. Some of them are out and out autobiographical and some are in the confessional mode. Some are reminded of the people and situations that were the prototypes and settings respectively.Some became pensive due to their empathy with the sufferers and some felt complacent by the critical acclamations, popularity and awards that that story got them. But all the accounts of the writers are quite interesting and absorbing. Reading the story followed by the background by the writer is a grand literary feast.
Katha-Nepadhyam’ is an interesting book for the common reader, a handbook for the upcoming writers and a valuable addition to the libraries. The printing quality of the book is amazingly great. The cover page is decorated with the pictures of the masks which clearly imply that, all said and done, literature is also a performance. The greatest irony of literature arises from the dichotomy between the writer and the man behind the mask of the writer.
That ‘Katha-Nepadhyam’ is an experiment, successfully carried out only in Telugu and not anywhere else in the world, one of the very few achievements of modern Telugu literature. What more do we say except suggesting the editors trio to bring out one more volume covering the remaining writers worth including!
(The writer is a bilingual short story writer, novelist and poet, who writes in Telugu and English)