Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 9 : 1 January 2009
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Historical Growth of Short Stories in Tamil and Telugu
A Comparison

A. Boologa Rambai, Ph.D.


"The Short Story is essentially a product of Modern age; it is perfected by great masters from Edger Allan Poe onwards. It is peculiarly a modern growth" - (Mahakavi Sri Sri). In 1842, Edger Allan Poe has defined short story "as a prose narrative requiring anything from half an hour to one or two hours in its perusal; a story that concentrates on a unique or single effect and one in which the totality of effect is the main objective; in the end the form has shown itself to be so flexible and susceptible of so much variety that its possibilities seem almost endless".

The main purpose of this paper is to highlight the historical growth of short stories in Tamil and Telugu from a comparative perspective.

A History of Short Stories

One may claim that in comparison to the history of short story literature in European languages, the short story genre in India is very young. However, ancient Indian didactic literature is full of short narratives as part of long epics. Buddhist literature abounds in short stories narrated by the Buddha and other sages. Parables of Buddha and the parables in Jaina traditions have moved the hearts and spirits of the people of Indian subcontinent for centuries. Moreover, there are many allusions to happenings that hide stories in every piece of Indian literature. In this sense short story is not a new content for Indian literature. However, the focus and form of short story that we have in modern times are somewhat different.

Short stories stand on their own, need not carry any morals (unless we do some conscious research into their deep meanings), and are written in prose. Introduction of prose as the major medium to express thoughts has changed Indian literary scene greatly. The translation of the Bible in prose and making available other materials in prose through the Christian missionary activity helped the spread and acceptance of prose as the chief medium of expression even for literature. Emergence of novel and short story as distinct genres in Indian literatures was made possible by the acceptance of prose in all walks of life.

Pioneers in Bengal

Bengal and Bengali seem to have mastered the modern art of short story and novel writing earlier than other Indian linguistic communities. Bankim Chander Chatterjee (1838-1894) and Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) are the pioneers of that genre. Rabindranath wrote short stories for nearly 15 years (1887-1903). He wrote about 100 short stories like Postmaster, Kabuliwala (kaabulioYaalaa) and Hungry Stone (kShudhita paashhaaN), etc. He followed many techniques in writing short stories. His characters are of the type that the normal humans are exaggerated as abnormal ones. This is his speciality. He was not following anybody's style. He had an individual style of his own.

Tamil Short Story Writers

The first remarkable collection of short stories in prose is by a great Italian Jesuit missionary, Father Beschi 1680-1746 A.D., known for his mastery of Tamil and its literature and literary traditions. He was fondly referred to as Veeramaamunivar. Veeramaamunivar's paramaartha guru kadhaikaL -- a collection of humorous stories, written in the first half of the 18th century, is, indeed, more a collection of stories relating to virtues or lack thereof.

In this prose satire collection, Munivar presented eight stories focusing around his five followers namely maTTi, maTaiyan, Peedhai, mileechan and muuTan. These were certainly short stories and they mark an important deviation in the use of Tamil literary forms. However, the stories were so focused on virtues or lack thereof, critics may have some reservations about their claim to be short stories. George Buffoon says, "Style is the man himself". He criticizes that Veeramamunivar's above-said stories are the style of him, perhaps in the sense that Munivar's focus was more on evangelization than on the creation of a new genre shot story. But, we need to state that no literary writing is without a purpose behind it. So, simply based on the purpose and style, the importance of early pioneers such as Veeramaamunivar should not be dismissed. These stories may be aptly-named tales, not short stories considering modern approaches to short story.

Modern Writers

Next to him in the last period of the nineteenth century are Taandava Raaya Mudhaliyar's panchatandhirak kadhaikaL, Selvakeesavaraya Mudhaliyar's AbinvakkadhaikaL, which are in prose narrative style. These also do not have the strict short story style.

Va.Vee.Su. Iyer (1881-1925) is also considered as an early pioneer of short story through his masterpiece short story kuLatthankarai aracamaram chonna kathai in the collection mangaiyarkkarasiyin kaatal mutaliya kathaikaL, which appeared in 1927.

Va.Vee.Su Ayer's kadhaikaL are emotional stories. All these stories have an introductory part which was given by Iyer. In his stories Iyer narrates all the scenes very interestingly.

From 1927 - 1933 there was a dark period in the Tamil short stories.

Manikodi Period - 1933

This period was the Golden period for Tamil short stories. In this period enthusiastic young creative writers are encouraged and they are considered to be more important. In 1935, B.S. Ramaiah enriched and uplifted the Tamil short story to the international level. He reshaped the structure and the theme of modern short story. The writers of MaNikodi period were called as MaNikodi group and each and every one of this group flourished in their own style of writing. This group was very successful in making short story a a major literary genre in Tamil.

Pudhumaippitthan (1906-1948) impressed his readers through deep themes, moral implications, variety, artistry of his style and narrative method.

This MaNikodi group laid the masterly foundation for the genre of modern Tamil short stories.

Kalki And Anna Period

Apart from this Manikodi group, there were some other short story writers who were very popular in the Short Story world. Kalki (who paved the path for many short story writers through his editorship of some magazines) and Anna (C. N. Annadurai) are some of the leading writers that I should mention here.

Kalki's style is neither a traditional standard style nor a spoken style. His writing style was in the mid way of the standard language and the spoken language. This means that he used the speech variety in the conversation of the characters. His man aim was that the writer's theme must reach the readers completely. The author appeared himself as the story-teller in most of his stories.

In 1934 Anna started writing short stories. His first short story titled kokkarakkoo was published in the monthly magazine Anandha Vikadan. His last one was kadhaiyin Ullam. He has written 89 short stories. His main themes of the short stories focused on the elimination of social evils including superstition and oppression of communities based on caste discrimination, etc.

While Kalki strove his best to bring in changes within established norms of Tamil society (hard to define, but easy to understand!), Ann focused on transcending these "norms" which he considered hindering the progress and onward march of Tamil/Dravidian society.

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Language Shift Among Singaporean Malayalee Families | A Comparative Study of Gojri Double Verb Constructions | Trade in the Madras Presidency, 1941 - 1947 A Doctoral Dissertation | Conceptualization of Nationalism through Language - An Analysis of Malaysian Situation | Status of Urdu and Efforts and Strategies for Its Inclusion in the Mainstream of Indian Life | Language Learning Strategies - An Evaluation of Compensatory Strategies | Marriage and Self in the Selected Works of Henry James and Jayakanthan | King Richard II - Analyzing the Political Discourse of Power | Engaging Autobiography as an Expression of Self - Maya Angelou's Autobiographies and Her Black Self | Onomatopoeic Words in Manipuri | Historical Growth of Short Stories in Tamil and Telugu - A Comparison | The Gujral Committee Report on Urdu | HOME PAGE of January 2009 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

A. Boologa Rambai, Ph.D.
Department of Tamil
Dravidian University
Andhra Pradesh

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