Telugu short story from early times to 1930s by Dr. K. K. Ranganathacharyulu

(A review by Malathi).In the past nine years, well over one hundred Telugu stories have been translated and published on this site in an attempt to introduce the intellectual richness of Telugu writers to the non-Telugu readers. But for the two stories by Bhandaru Acchamamba, all of them have been written in the later half of the twentieth century. Additionally, a few articles discussing the nature and peculiarities of Telugu story have been published. Nevertheless, up until now, the origin and the development of modern Telugu story have not been expounded. The present monograph, tolinaati Telugu kathaanikalu: modatinunchi 1930 varaku. Telugu kathaanikala pariseelana [Telugu short stories from early years to 1930s: A Study] by Prof. K. K. Ranganathacharyulu fulfills that gap.

This 120-page long monograph is a meticulous study of the origins and the development of Telugu short story in Andhra Pradesh. The author walks us through the significant elements of the short story in its nascent state during the first three decades specifically.

Prof. Ranganathacharyulu has taken great pains to study the subject objectively and it is obvious in these 120 pages packed with valuable information. Even the title so carefully crafted vouches for his commitment. It says “from the beginning” but gives no specific date. The reason for doing so becomes obvious in his discussion on identifying a given story as the first modern Telugu story. I will come to this later.

During my last visit to India, Prof. Kethu Viswanatha Reddy gave me this book. I found it not only interesting but valuable for anybody interested in studying Telugu short story as a genre. While I was in Hyderabad, I asked the author for permission to publish an abridged version of this book in English. However, as I started working on it, I found it impossible to shorten the text. Hence, I decided to quote a few arguments from each chapter in order to give the readers a glimpse into the nature of Telugu story in its early stages. I earnestly hope that those who can read Telugu will read the original in order to benefit fully from this monograph.

The author opens with a brief history of Sanskrit texts. He states that, initially, the short story has been taking brief accounts from the longer Sanskrit texts and retelling them in the form of kavyas and plays. In the process, it progressed through various stages such as adaptations, translations, and finally settled as modern stories, which is narrating current events and occurrences in colloquial language. The topics discussed in this monograph include a preface giving the background, the Telugu short story (magazines, identifying the first short story, the bloom of Telugu story, anthologies, translations, diversity of themes and variations in styles), famous writers of the early times, and a few more notable stories and writers, and critiquing short stories.

The monograph also includes notes, source list, and a 28-page long appendix of the stories examined by the author, with complete bibliographical data for the purpose of this study.

Here is a brief account of Prof. Ranganathacharyulu’s study.

***

Normally, in a given culture, the short story and the narrative technique would have as long a history as the existence of language itself. In the past, stories had been prevalent in the form oral literature across the world.

In modern times, the changes in production, the industries, and the businesses brought about significant changes in the nature of our lives. Now we have greater latitude in human relationships, experiences, and in our mode of thinking. Printing facilities and magazines made it possible to reach wider range of readership. As a result, the short story attained greater variation in themes, narrative technique and complexity. We refer to the modern story as fictional story because it is a product created by a writer based on his observations of the people and incidents in real life, which have happened repeatedly, and after finding a commonality in his observations.

Like the short story in the other cultures, Telugu short story also has a long history. According to scholars, short story in India has been in existence since the Vedic times. The Bruhat katha written by Gunadhya in the Paisachi language is the first notable writing in Indic languages. Along with Ramayana and Maha Bharata, Bruhat katha also provided writers with anecdotes for kavyas and plays in Sanskrit.

In Sanskrit literature, some stories are entertaining while others are didactic. Vikaramarka charitra, Salivaahana charitra and similar other works are focused on royal families and are imbibed with rasas such as excitement, bravery, and amazement. Stories like Panchatantra and Hitopadesa belong in the category of didactic stories. Usually, they include animals and birds as characters. Most of these kavyas gained circulation in the form of oral literature.

In the Telugu country, there are umpteen stories prevalent only in the oral form. Several scholars such as Gurajada Sriramamurthy, Komanduri Anantacharyulu, Madhira Subbanna Dikshitulu, and Nandivada Chalapati Rao rendered them in the print form. Some of the writers, who are known for their scholarship, put them in pedantic style. A few wrote them in semi-classical style while others wrote in colloquial style. The stories containing romance and ethical values are intended to entertain readers.

In the early years, adaptations from Indian stories into other languages and vise versa are undertaken freely. For instance, chitra ratnaakaram by Gurajada Sriramamurthy is based on Arabian nights. Taking the incidents or events from the original, he modified the names of the people and places as appropriate for Telugu readers.

Whether modern Telugu story has evolved from the ancient works progressively or is it a newly developed form is open for debate. Modern scholars and critics claim that it is not evolved from the ancient works.

The stories mentioned earlier are oriented towards narration. All the incidents and events centered on a single hero. Authors took the story and repositioned it in their own milieu, languages and peculiar styles. On the other hand, modern story is anchored in one theme and also structured. It contains the peculiar characteristics such as opening, organization or scheme, ending, and a distinctive style.  Each writer has a style of his own and each story has a form of its own. Also, the importance of the incidents he creates, the characters he depicts, and the dialogues he develops change according to his point of view and his perception of his audience. The structure in modern short story has no room for expansiveness. Variation in themes, realism, depiction of contemporary life, and human psyche are vital. They belong to the written culture in their entirety. Modern short story is an invented story based on realism. The stories adapted from the oral literature do not belong in this fictional category.

In ancient times, the stories are rooted in the tradition of invoking a sense of amazement in the readers as a whole and taking them into an imaginary world or teaching them the righteous path. The modern story, on the other hand, helps the reader to understand one dimension of truth in real life. Whether the topic is taken from history, oral literature, or mythology, if it contains an awareness of modernity in essence and in perception, it becomes a modern story.

Kolluri Dharmarao identified this distinction between the modern story and the ancient story in his article, “kathaa parinaamam” [evolution of story] published in Andhra Bharati in July 1928. He comments that the stories containing ideas of social reform are harmful to the society. Notably, he believes that the English kept retelling the old stories because they could not give up the didactic nature of the old stories and that the fabricated stories in our society started only after the desire for social reform caught on. Modern story is defined as a story illustrating today’s realism in today’s language as opposed to retelling the old stories in modern language.

Although the modern story belongs to modern times, the name itself is not modern but taken from old times. Ancient grammarians classified the genre of story into five categories: Akhyaayika, katha, khanda katha, pari katha, and kathaanika. Based on the nature of the theme, topic, length, and scheme, each is shown as having a different set of characteristics.

A kathaanika has been defined as:

 bhayaanakam sukhataram garbhe cha karuno rasah

adbhuto[a]sthe sukluptaarthaa no daatthaa saa kathaanikaa.

 These characteristics may be redefined in the context of modern short story as follows:

Bhayaanakam in the modern sense is to create interest in “what next”, suspense, and amazement in the opening. garbhe cha karuno rasah  may be interpreted as including a little sadness, conflict and internal struggle in the scheme of narration. Ending the story with an unexpected twist is adbhutam [Amazement]. Presenting it in a language easily comprehensible to the readers is sukhataram [uncomplicated]. sukluptaarthaa [brevity of diction and meaning or unity of theme] is the same as making the topic brief, and keeping all the elements (the characters, incidents, events, illustration, underlying thought, and conflict) focused on the core theme.

In general, a short story may be defined as one that contains the opening, which can draw the reader in, maintains suspense and curiosity in the reader by describing the internal or external conflict of the characters powerfully, and finishes it with either an unexpected twist or which provokes the reader into thinking. This is only a general statement. Modern story contains more breadth and depth. The critics of the first generation Telugu short story have discussed this subject in great detail.

In modern literature, prose literature has a special place. In the early days, terms such as vachanam and gadyam had been current for some time. In course of time, vachana sahityam became the accepted term. Several terms such as chinna katha,  kathika and kathaanakam were in vogue for a while. Other terms found in magazines are navalika, pitta katha, kalpita katha, and kalpanaa katha. Detective fiction was referred to as nirupaka katha and detective as nirupakudu. Eventually, kathaanika has been accepted and katha became a shorter form for the same genre.

Akkiraju Umakantam is one of the early critics to discuss short story in this period. With his knowledge of English critics like Hudson, and French and Russian writers, he accepted Telugu short story as a separate genre. He adds that Hudson’s theory that the short story originated in order to cater to the readers who are hard-pressed for time is not tenable in our case (Andhra Bharati. July 1918). He further comments that, “A short story gives the same, inclusive pleasure and satisfaction as a play or a novel to the reader. … After reading a story, the reader experiences a suggestion (dhvani). Suggestion is important in a short story. All the elements in the story are anchored in this suggestion.” Umakantam’s validation of Telugu short story, in the light of his scholarship in classics and poetics, is notable.

Andra Seshagiri Rao deserves special mention as a critic from the same period. He comments that, “Readers now live a fast life in cities and have no time to read huge volumes and lengthy novels. Therefore, their interest turned to the short story which can be finished in a short period of time.”

D. A. Narasimham encapsulates the characteristics of a short story. He states that books such as biographies, rajasthana kathavali and Arabian Nights, do not belong in the category since they are not focused on one theme. In his opinion, the important element in a short story is a single topic, which should fill the reader with suspense and imprint itself in the reader’s mind deeply. He makes a special distinction between a short story and a novel and suggests six principles that writer should observe when writing a short story.

1. Short stories also may contain a variety of unusual topics the same as novels.

2. A short story is not a short novel. There is no rule regarding the length for short story.

3. Characterization through dialogues is more difficult than descriptions. However, the best way is to let the reader understand a character through dialogues. With that, the reader understands the story’s environment by himself.

4. Reading a story puts the reader to work. It makes him think. The reader feels satisfied after reading a novel.

5. The reader, who has read a novel, reminisces over it. The short story does not constrain the reader’s thoughts. They (the thoughts) leap forward, and are anxious to befriend new thoughts.

6. Unlike novel writer, story writer gives very little to the reader. He gives ten times more work to the reader than what he has given in his narrative.

Kolluri Dharmarao does not approve of short stories offering social reform messages, although he does comment on short stories favorably. He states that, “There is no other gadget that could goad a reader better than a short story.” Also, he prefers colloquial language as a better means to serve the intended purpose in a story. Regarding the subjects for a short story, he says, “the purpose of a short story is to narrate a topic, taken either from history or fictional social event, and narrate it in a manner that reinforces the traditional Aryan values.”

There are definitive proofs to show that Telugu short story has acquired an independent and significant stature even in its early period.

Magazines:

There is no need to state specifically that magazines have been particularly instrumental in promoting the short stories. Umakantam published his stories in his magazine, Trilinga in 1913-1914. Rayasam Venkatasivudu published his stories in Telugu janaana. Achanta Venkata Sankhyayana Sarma published his notable stories in Kalpalata. Other magazines, which provided platform for short stories during this period, are Suvarnalekha, Sahiti, and Bharati. Between 1916 and 1920, after the First World War, printing magazines slowed down due to the high cost of paper and printing materials, commented Andra Seshagiri Rao. His comment underscores the close relationship between magazines and the progress of short stories. Sujatha is credited with publishing stories by prominent writers such as Malladi Ramakrishna Sastry, Madapati Hanumantha Rao, Oddiraju Sitaramachandra Rao, and so on. In the same magazine, some of the early stories of Chalam appeared. Some critics seem to wonder if other magazines hesitated to publish Chalam’s stories. Along with the stories, the magazines published essays also.

Which one is the first short story in Telugu?

For a long time, critics have been insisting “diddubaatu” by Gurajada Apparao as the first modern short story. Vallampati Venkatasubbaiah states that modern short story should be studied with the assumption that diddubaatu is the first short story. He posits that modern Telugu short story has no infancy and that the short story has come about with full stature, like a well-developed, beautiful figure. And, he believes that diddubaatu contains all the elements of a good story such as brevity, feeling, unity, conflict, and strong structure. However, recent studies indicate that there are other stories published prior to diddubaatu, even though they may not contain all the elements mentioned by Venkatasubbaiah. If we search magazines published in the last two decades of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century, it is possible to find several other first short stories.

Whether diddubatu is the first story or not makes no difference to Apparao’s status. There are stories before his story is published but there are no models from which he could develop. Notably, in terms of his philosophical perceptions and choice of topics, there are no stories comparable to his stories in the latter years either. That is the peculiarity of Gurajada Apparao’s stories. Sripada Subrahmanya Sastry comments on Apparao’s stories only on their remarkable qualities but not its status as the first story.

Some of the stories published before Apparao’s story, and may be claimed as the first story, are:

Lalitha by Achanta Sankyayana Sarma was published in November 1903 in “Kalpalatha” and is named as the first story by Puripanda Appalaswamy. Setti Iswara Rao states that “the style and the language in Lalitha are classical but not modern. Nevertheless, the short story elements such as opening, development, dialogues, the muse [sphurti], and the narrative technique are modern.” Several others have quoted Sankyayana Sarma as the first writer. In another story by the same author, Apoorvopanyasamu, the author depicts the speeches of social reformers and their associations and the tone is one of sarcasm.

From the sources recently made available, Bhandaru Acchamamba’s name came to the fore as the first writer. Her story, strividya, narrated in the form of dialogues, is taken into consideration as the first story. It was published in Hindusundari monthly. Another story, dhanatrayodasi [The Lakshmi puja Day] also has been considered for the same claim. The story was published in November 1902 in Hindusundari. Rayasam Venkatasivudu stated that Acchamamba had been publishing short stories since 1898. His article was published in 1902 in his magazine, Telugu janaana. According to his article, Acchamamba’s stories, Prema pariksha, was published in July 1898 in Telugu janaana, Eruvula sommu baruvula chetu in September 1898, and Lalithaa Saaradalu in September 1901 in the same magazine. Another of her stories, Beeda kutumbamu  was published in February 1904 in Savitri magazine.

Apart from the language in these stories, dhanatrayodasi and beeda kutumbamu are noteworthy in terms of structure. The opening scenes in these stories are completely modern. Until we find other evidence to prove otherwise, we need to state that the stories written by Bhandaru Acchamamba are the first stories in Telugu. If we compare her writings to the activities of the social reformers who had undertaken the women’s issues, we will find Acchamamba’s writings as advocates of women’s individuality.                                                                                                                                                                       ***

Additionally, Prof. Ranganathacharyulu discusses the early stories in other Indian languages and points out the similarities and dissimilarities between those stories and the early Telugu stories.

In the period under discussion, not only the writers with originality but also people in other fields such as social, political and reform movements and research, have written stories. The list of stories published in this period is indicative of the recognition, the status and the importance of the short stories. Akkiraju Umakantam, Andra Seshagiri Rao, Seshadri Ramana kavulu were all scholars of repute. Sankhyayana Sarma was not only a traditional scholar but also knowledgeable in art, music and dance. He was editor of two magazines, Sujanapramodini and Kalpalatha. Famous short story writers like Sripada Subrahmanya Sastry, Veluri Sivarama Sastry and Malladi Ramakrishna Sastry were well-read not only in Sanskrit and Telugu but also several other Indian and foreign languages. Writers like Panuganti Lakshminarasimha Rao, Adivi Bapiraju, Kavikondala Venkatarao wrote short stories in addition to writing in other genres.

Madapati Hanumantha Rao, Kanuparti Varalakshmamma, and Gummididala Durgabayamma, among others, are known for their participation in politics and social reform, and also as writers of short fiction. Famous story writers Chalam and Chinta Dikshitulu were associated with the field of education. Among others who wrote short stories, Gidugu Sitapati was an activist in the language movement and Giri (Nandagiri Venkatarao) was a judge at the district level. Sri Vasudevarao declared himself as belonging exclusively to Hyderabad, wrote stories, which should be labeled as modern in all aspects such as language, style, and themes.

During this period, we also see several writers writing under pennames. Komarraju Lakshmana Rao wrote under the pseudonym, Ramanujarao (brother of Rama), says Adiraju Veerabhadrarao. Other pseudonyms are Bhasudu, Samgha samskari, rasapipasi, okaru, nenu, oka mitrudu and several others.

Approximately, two hundred writers are found in his search. Fifteen of them are women. More than five hundred stories have been discovered by Ranganathacharyulu. Stories written by such writers as Sripada Subrahmanya Sastry, Chalam, and Minimanikyam Narasimha Rao, who became famous later, were published during this period. In this period, the number of stories written by Sripada Subrahmanya Sastry is the highest, up to forty. Stories by Rayasam Venkatasivudu, Chinta Dikshitulu, and Munimanikyam Narasimha Rao ranged from fifteen to twenty-five. Among the writers who wrote from five to fifteen are Chilakamarti Lakshminarasimham, Kanuparti Varalakshmamma, Abburi Ramakrishna Rao, Viswanatha Satyanarayana, Bhamidipati Kameswara Rao and others. It is hard to state that all the stories under consideration meet the criteria of modern story. For instance, most of the stories written by Abburi Ramakrishna Rao were published in 1923. Among them, Suryarao cheppina kathalu [Stories told by Suryarao] are not stories focused on one topic. Most of the writers wrote only two or three stories yet their stories show the characteristics of modern story at an advanced level. Counting the numbers is meant only to show the extent to which the Telugu story has developed in the first two or three decades of the twentieth century. In the magazines, meant exclusively for women such as Telugu janaana, Anasuya, and Savitri, the stories are woven around the characters from mythology and famous historical women. They are not taken into consideration for this study.

Literary organizations and associations also contributed to the dissemination of the story extensively in this period. Sahiti samiti, Kavita samiti, Sodarasamiti, Kavikumara samiti, Saraswata samajam, and Andhra geervana sahitya sammelam are prominent in this period. Writers suffixed their membership status of these organizations to their names along with their educational qualifications. Some writers developed a separate nomenclature for parts of their stories. One practice was to break the story into rangaalu, adhyaayaalu, prakaranalu, and chinukulu.  Giving names to each part was another practice. We can also see including verses at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of a story, as deemed fit. Those who could not do away with tradition followed these methods. Among the places that were featured extensively in these stories are Chennapatnam, Calcutta, Bombay, Hyderabad, Poona, Visakha, Rajahmundry, Bezwada, Nellore, Anakapalli, Bellari and Konaseema. Some of the cities in Burma and Rangoon are also featured in these stories. (The names of some cities have changed since. I believe the author kept the original spellings as appeared in the stories and I followed the same pattern in this article.)

Anthologies

The fact that there are already notable anthologies in this period vouches for the advanced status of short story at the time. Some of them are anthologies of one writer, Chalam, Sripada Subrahmanya Sastry and Munimanikyam Narasimha Rao for instance, and others included stories of several writers, edited by one writer.

Translations

Several critics stated that modern story entered Telugu field, following the introduction of English literature in our country. During the period under discussion, along with original stories, numerous translations also came into existence. Numerous stories are translated not only from English, French and Russian but also from Bengali, Urdu, Hindi, and Marathi. At one point, Krishna patrika published stories under the name of the original author but without the translator’s name. In the early stages, the information regarding the original story or writer was not given in full. Some mentioned the original title while others mentioned the name of the original author only. Some said it was a translation but provided no other information. Several terms such as anukaranam, etti raasinadi, grahimpabadinadi were used to identify a translation. Some called it anuvadam. Among the stories in Indian languages, most stories were translated from Bengali and most of them were the stories by Tagore. In the anthology, trilinga kathalu by Akkiraju Umakantam, six of them were from Bengali. Umakantam does not mention the name but they are Tagore’s stories. Since 1912, several stories of Tagore have been translated without mentioning his name. Among those who translated Tagore’s stories in great numbers, the name of Karumuri Vaikuntarao stands foremost. He and Sobhadevi translated several stories and published under the title, katha guccham. Among the stories translated from Marathi, only Sri Vasudeva Rao’s name appears.

Among the translations from foreign languages, Russian stories appear prominently. Jayanti Brahmanandam (Pseud. oka haindava yuvati) and Kurma Venugopalaswamy in collaboration with Seshubai translated several Russian stories. Ponaka Picchireddy wrote some stories based on French writer, Balzac, and called them anukarana.    

Multiplicity of themes

Telugu story has gained strength in structure as well as in the range of themes in the first three decades itself.

In the early stage, the stories mostly featured woman-centered themes and women’s reform movement. Among the woman-centered themes, widow-related issues are prominent. Child marriages, their consequences, problems faced by widows, their status in the family environment, their experiences, and remarriages are themes for many stories. We see quoting ancient works such as smruthi in order to rationalize the widow remarriage and the Sarda Act opposing child marriages in the stories written by female writers. Some stories depicted parents as coming forward to arrange marriages for their widowed daughters, or widows themselves getting married under the auspices of Veeresalingam or Brahmo samaj of Calcutta. Another important aspect relating to women is education. Promoting women’s education, Bhandaru Acchamamba (women’s education) and Gurajada Apparao wrote stories. Another theme is the identity of prostitutes and their marriages.

Muslim women, women as ideal individuals in a family, women subjected to oppression, suppression, deception, and those who put up with the oppression silently, their tragic lives—all are portrayed in the stories at this time. The names of Muslim women are used as titles for some stories. Bhandaru Acchamamba portrayed women as cherishing self-esteem, strong will, and also capable of mending the moral weaknesses in their husbands. This kind of portrayal of women is not evident in the stories that came after Acchamamba. Chalam’s stories show women from a variety of social strata. Sripada Subrahmanya Sastry depicted courageous and worldly-wise women, wiser than their husbands. We see widows dreaming about motherhood and the conflict between motherhood and love in Chalam’s stories. There are also stories depicting women as ideal housewives. In some stories we see educated, self-disciplined women carrying themselves on equal status with men liberally. We need to make a special note of women in zamindar families, their poise, determination, ego, and their sense of self-worth as depicted in some of the stories.

Several stories depicted the hardships of individuals from several angles within the family and the marital status of couples. Husbands suspecting wives and wives suspecting husbands are treated rather lightly. Often, the suspicions of the wives turn out to be unfounded. The problems arising out of marriages with considerable age difference, subsequent suspicions in the man and his mental struggle are the themes in some stories.

Many stories depicted the conflict between generations. In these stories, we see the youth questioning child marriages and exposing the dishonest attitudes of adults, who claim to be upholding tradition. This appears to be a struggle between the tradition and the modernity. Several stories depicted modern educated youth as ideal. The bridegrooms insisting on meeting the prospective brides is a new trend in these stories. Another new trend is the young men marrying a girl of their choice and without their parents’ intervention. Young men, who go abroad for education, return home with new values, and their altered attitudes—all these figured into the stories. Writers’ own values also are worked into the choice of topics.

Stories of unusual love and romance are also numerous in this period. They included both categories—happy endings and tragic endings. Some of them featured platonic love, successful love, and poetic element in the romantic tradition, while a few others dealt with failed love and broken hearts.

Most of the stories illustrating the economic problems and the changes in the economic world are limited to the middle class. Some of the female writers depicted the families once rich and later ruined, ensuing problems because of their penury and the manner in which the women handled their situations. So also, the problems relating to jobs, loss of jobs, preference of starting a business and living independently as opposed to working for somebody, the high style of zamindars and the lazy lifestyle of the men in Agraharams [endowments bestowed on worthy Brahmins by royal families] are depicted.

Many writers included literary discussions in their stories whenever possible. The works of Kalidasa, Shakespeare, and other English novels found their place in these stories. Stories also take a shot at romantic poetry. Women in these stories appear to be well-read in classics. There are husbands who encourage their wives to read English literature. Similarly, the language issues are also discussed in the stories.

At some point in this stage, self-delusion seeped into the stories. Especially, we see this aspect in Gurajada, Chalam and Sripada. After Gurajada, no writer dealt with the folly of religious beliefs. There are stories with World War I, national and non-cooperation movements as background.

Very few stories discussed politics. Also, stories depicting farmers, their relationship to the land, and the land ownership issues are not found. The only story found by the author is chacchinanta kala gante … There are no stories featuring the oppressed and their issues, not as much as expected at least. In short, the stories published up until 1930, represented only the middle class. At this stage, stories illustrating the delicate angles relating to human nature, their depth, and their inner struggles are next to none.

Variations in structure

The diversity, multiplicity, and the signs of structure, which are common in modern stories are prevalent even in the first two or three decades. In this period itself, the stories have acquired the modern form in language and style. Even when the language is classical, the narrative technique is modern. In course of time, some of the writers developed their individual styles as part of their creativity. Chalam, Sripada Subrahmanya Sastry, Veluri Sivarama Sastry, and Malladi Ramakrishna Sastry developed their own styles. Gurajada Apparao’s stories illustrate density in expression, depth (nirbharata), brevity, and simplicity blended with gravity. We should make a special note of the writing based on pronunciation by Gurajada and Chalam.

Another feature peculiar to style of this period is moving away from the straightforward narration and toward complex narrative technique. We see a wide variety of characters from simple to complex in this period. Also, some stories are told in the first person while others are told in the third person. That the writers are able to narrate the story in the first person even in this period indicates that the Telugu story has developed to a great extent by then. In this period, most of the stories with strong structure are told in the first person. The narration in the first person allows the reader get closer to the writer. We see this first person narration in the stories written by Bhandaru Acchamamba and Kanuparti Varalakshmamma. At times, we see the writer interfering in the narration to comment on the relationship between two incidents or events; so also to comment on the characters. Some writers like Acchamamba and Sripada have used dialogues exclusively to narrate a story.

In terms of opening, construction, and ending, the stories display as much diversity as possible. Also, during this period, we see the titles given to the stories indicative of the nature of the theme and the narrative technique. Some of them are single words like darjaa, bolta, veli while others are two correlated words such as nenu-jonna rotte, aame-eeme.  Some of the titles are complete sentences. For example,  karmamitlaa kaalindi, menarikam tappaledu. Such descriptive and expressive titles indicate how the story proceeds and how it is going to end. They vouch for the writers’ talent.   

***

Further elaborating on these insights, Prof. Ranganathacharyulu discussed some stories by following writers individually under the caption “Prominent writers of early times [tolinaati pramukha rachayitalu].

They are: Bhandaru Acchamamba, Achanta Sankhyayana Sarma, Gurajada Apparao, Madapati Hanumantha Rao, Akkiraju Umakantam, Sripada Subrahmanya Sastry, Gudipati Venkata Chalam, Chinta Dikshitulu, Veluri Sivarama Sastry, Rayasam Venkatasivudu, Kanuparti Varalakshmamma, Viswanatha Satyanarayana, Adivi Bapiraju, Munimanikyam Narasimha Rao, Mokkapati Narasimha Sastry, Bhamidipati Kameswara Rao, Vempati Nagabhushanam, Malladi Ramakrishna Sastry, Sri Vasudeva Rao, Nandagiri Venkatarao, Oddiraju Sitaramachandra rao, Oddiraju Raghava Rangarao, Siriguri Jayarao, Panuganti Lakshminarasimharao, Chilakamarti Lakshminarasimham, and Abburi Ramakrishna Rao.

Critiquing stories

Akkiraju Umakantam has enunciated the importance of the genre of prose in literature in no uncertain terms. He stated that the genre of fiction has the same important place as novel and drama in literature. Andra Seshagiri Rao is the one critic to study a single story of a single writer and analyze it thoroughly. In his criticism of Sripada Subrahmanya Sastry’s stories, he wrote a comprehensive review of the story in which he gave a brief note about short story as a genre, commended the book and the writer, and the purpose of the book. Then he proceeded to analyze the various elements such as classification of themes, structure, and the improprieties in a couple of places as well. While paying tribute to the writer as a social reformer and preacher, Subrahmanya Sastry’s themes are classified into four classes—widow remarriages, post puberty marriages, promoting the idea that business and farming are better than working for somebody, and family life.

Modern critiquing techniques are present in Seshagiri Rao’s analysis. He balances the positive and negative aspects while analyzing the author’s complete understanding of all the elements, his taste in good writing, and his technique. He then summarizes the elements of a short story. He ascertains the relationship between an author’s personal life and the writer contextually. He points out the impropriety of the setting in one story. He believes that variation in the settings in general contributes towards authenticity for readers.

In 1928, an article on the specifics of a short story was published in Bharati. D. A. Narasimham wrote some articles discussing the structure and the nature of short story extensively. He states that literature changes along with the environment, time and conditions, and that, among the literatures, which evolved after the introduction of English literature, the gadya kathaanakamulu [prose fiction] gained in popularity. He also admits that he became knowledgeable after reading short stories published in Bharati and Andhra patrika magazines. Based on his extensive reading of the contemporary stories, Narasimham postulates six tenets. He believes that a short story should be able to penetrate into the reader’s mind deeply as a veritable fact. He also believes that a good writer will have the skill to stay behind the characters and make them narrate the story.

Notably, by 1930, Narasimham studied all the elements and explained them with examples supporting his conclusions.

In reviews of the time, Chalam’s stories stood second to Sripada Subrahmanya Sastry’s stories. His story, Sasirekha (1921) is written in pedantic language yet the theme has created a sensation. Thallavajjhala Sivasankara Sastry wrote the preface to the book dwelling on its philosophical and rational aspects. Arikapalli Lakshminarasimha Rao and others criticized both Chalam and Sivasankara Sastry for their position in 1926. Kolluri Dharmarao is another critic who rejects the modern progressive views prevalent in the stories and criticizes Chalam in strong terms for promoting uninhibited love. He, along with a few other critics, set Munimanikyam Narasimha Rao as a deliverance from the literature created by writers like Chalam. Narasimha Rao’s Kantham kathalu did not receive the status of serious literature during this period, it would appear.

The monograph includes source list, notes and, a list of the stories with complete bibliographical details, the author has reviewed for this study (28 pages). This is a remarkable work.

It is published by Dr. Madabhushi Rangacharya smaraka sangham, Hyderabad. 2008.Also available on avkf.org.

(Review by Nidadavolu Malathi and published on thulika.net, April 29, 2010)