Raja Rao: Scholar, Philosopher, Literary Artist


The Raja Rao Publication Project


The Sacred Wordsmith Raja Rao Memorial Literary Endowment has been established in 2003 as a non-profit organization with a major editorial and publishing undertaking: The Raja Rao Publication Project. It aims to preserve, research, edit and manage Rao’s literary legacy (his unpublished novels, short stories, poetry, essays, correspondence and much more), for contemporary and future readers around the world who are interested in his fiction and thought. We are in the process of securing funding that could enable the undertaking of a project of archival preservation of Rao’s manuscripts, as well as the preparation of scholarly and web-editions of selected works.

Dr. Letizia Alterno,

Current Editor-in-Chief of The Raja Rao Publication Project

Dr. Letizia Alterno is associated with the Department of English and American Studies, the University of Manchester, UK. She is the author of Raja Rao: An Introduction in the Contemporary Indian Writers Series, in print with Foundation Books, New Delhi. Her publications include several articles on the work of Raja Rao, particularly on his innovative use of the English language within the tradition of the Indian novel in English. She is the author of Raja Rao's obituary published by The Guardian (http://books.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,,1822076,00.html) after the writer’s death on 8th July 2006. She is currently editing a critical anthology that explores the significance of Rao's work today, the title of which is Raja Rao’s Work in the Transnational Era.

A Letter from David Iglehart, Ex Editor-in-Chief (written before Raja Rao's death )

Dear Friends,

Raja Rao is ninety-seven, and his face shines without any trace of sadness. After many difficulties with his health, he has a new clarity and the frequent desire to summarize his ideas on life, art, philosophy, and the variety, continuity, and depth of Indian experience.

The task before us is formidable. Raja Rao's wife, Susan, has filled half a room with boxes of his highly creative, insightful manuscripts, the outpouring of a lifetime. This includes four unpublished novels, stacks of short stories, hundreds of articles and essays, interviews, poetry in French, class notes, informal notes, plans for scholarly projects, and correspondence with Indira Gandhi, Octavio Paz, and Andre Malraux.

My own interest in Raja Rao is longstanding. I studied with him for many years as an undergraduate and graduate student at The University of Texas, and I remember the excitement of his lectures and long walks with him that guided my career and life in many ways. Under his direction I received a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature with a concentration in Sanskrit and Indian theories of art.

As a part of the Raja Rao Publication Project, I have edited The Daughter of the Mountain, which is the second volume of his trilogy based on The Chessmaster and His Moves. The manuscript for this second book consists of over 750 typed pages--many are covered densely with his hand-written notes.

Dr. Winfred Lehmann at The University of Texas and I estimate that the task of organizing Raja Rao's papers and seeing them into print will require a three-year editing project. Raja Rao has often said that for a good project help will come. The Raja Rao Publication Project is only partially funded at this time. Any help coming from those who have benefitted from the work of this great man will enable his work to live in the hearts of generations of readers and thinkers.


David Iglehart

DAVID IGLEHART is an award-winning writer whose work has been published in literary magazines and online collections, and whose book of short stories, An Atmosphere of Eternity: Stories of India was published in 2002. Currently he is a featured columnist with Sulekha.com. He holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature, and he served as a teaching assistant for Raja Rao in the 1970s. Iglehart wrote his doctoral dissertation, "A Comparative Study of the Rasa Theory of Aesthetics" under Raja Rao's supervision and spent a year in India on a Fulbright scholarship, studying Indian theories of art. He resides in Austin, Texas, where he teaches, writes, and visits Raja Rao regularly. Iglehart has maintained a life-long love of India and travels there often. The second book in Raja Rao's trilogy based upon The Chessmaster and His Moves has been edited by David Iglehart, Ex Editor-in-Chief for the publication project, and is awaiting publication. The third book is complete and will be edited and published soon.

Raja Rao's Unpublished Manuscripts, a Preliminary Inventory

The Daughter of the Mountain (vol. 2 of The Chessmaster and His Moves trilogy), 750 pages
A Myrobalan in the Palm of Your Hand (vol. 3 of The Chessmaster and His Moves trilogy), 400 pages
The Railway Line
Song of Women (English translation of unpublished Kannada original)
Unnamed novel written in 1992

Short Stories
The Ganges and Her Sisters (collection of stories)
Large number of unsorted stories

Transcribed collection from the 1960s
Large number of handwritten speeches

Indira Gandhi
Andre Malraux
Octavio Paz

Other Works
Poetry in French
Play: The Cat and Shakespeare
Travel account: a trip to India with Paul Jollis
Essays and articles: over 500
Radio broadcasts in French, transcribed
Class notes for courses taught at The University of Texas, 1968-80
      Interview at Indira Gandhi Center in New Delhi
      Interview about Andre Malraux
      Box of missing pages from other manuscripts
      Large drawer of unsorted papers
      Trunk with itinerary papers in Trivandrum, possibly containing Kannada original of Song of Women
      Notes on his talks