Raja Rao archive donated to UT’s Ransom Center

3/13/97 Photo Tom Lankes     Morris story     RAJA RAO,88-year-old literary scholar and former UT Professor, will be the subject of an upcoming symposium at UT-Asian Studies.
3/13/97 Photo Tom Lankes Morris story RAJA RAO,88-year-old literary scholar and former UT Professor, will be the subject of an upcoming symposium at UT-Asian Studies.

The estate of Raja Rao has donated the archive of the late author and philosopher to the Ransom Center at the University of Texas. It’s a notable acquisition in part because Rao is widely considered to have been one of India’s most noted authors, having received the Neustadt International Prize for Literature and other honors.

Rao taught philosophy at the University of Texas from 1966 to 1980. His stint at UT began after he visited Austin in the early 1960s to lecture on philosophy, invited by Texas Dean John Silber. The lectures were so successful that UT’s philosophy department hired him in 1966.

Rao wrote many works of fiction, short stories, poems and essays. His fiction included “Kanthapura” (1938), which dealt with nonviolent resistance in a southern Indian village; “The Serpent and the Rope” (1960); and “The Chessmaster and His Moves” (1988). In 1964, The New York Times called him “perhaps the most brilliant – and certainly the most interesting – writer of modern India.”

He also wrote “The Great Indian Way: A Life of Mahatma Gandhi” (1988), about Gandhi’s time in South Africa.

The archive includes his manuscripts and other materials, including unpublished works, and will be available to researchers once processed and cataloged.

Rao, who died in 2006, was born in southern India in 1908 and earned his bachelor’s degree at Madras University. He did postgraduate studies in literature and history at the University of Montpellier and at the Sorbonne, and his archive contains materials in various languages. He knew Jawaharlal Nehru, a leader of the Indian Independence Movement, and lived at Gandhi’s ashram in the 1940s.

In 1964, he won the Indian National Academy of Letters’ Sahitya Akademi Award for Literature for the “The Serpent and the Rope.” He received the Padma Bhushan Award – one of India’s highest awards for literature — in 1969. And in 1988, he won the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

Rao retired from teaching in 1980, and afterward, he rose each morning at 6:30 to meditate and walk the hike-and-bike trail.

“It was one of the most joyous times in our life, ” his wife, Susan Rao, told the American-Statesman shortly after his death. “He would talk about Indian philosophy and just enjoy nature. We’d be walking along, and suddenly he’d stop and he’d go, ‘Susan, stop, look at that shadow on the trail; it’s so beautiful! Look, the trees are blowing, it’s like they’re waving at us.’ And he would talk to trees, and he would actually hear answers back. (Once) he told a tree that he was a Brahmin — he was very, very proud of being of the Brahmin caste in India, which was the priestly caste — and the tree told him back, ‘Yes, we’ve known about them for 4,000 years.’ ”

Ransom Center gets grant to digitize archive

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 PHOTO BY: Ulf Andersen/Gamma Liaison. © 1997 Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas has received a $126,730 grant to digitize more than 24,000 pages from the Gabriel García Márquez archive.

The grant came from the Council on Library and Information Resources, the Ransom Center said Monday, with funding by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Beginning in June 2016, the 18-month project, titled “Sharing ‘Gabo’ with the World: Building the Gabriel García Márquez Online Archive from His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center,” will involve scanning manuscripts, notebooks, scrapbooks, photographs and ephemera from the archive and making them accessible online. The materials date from 1950 through 2013.

“This project is notable for many reasons, including providing online access to copyright-protected archival material by one of the most revered literary figures of our time,” said Stephen Enniss, director of the center. “There are few opportunities for researchers to access digitized archives of contemporary authors. This initiative is possible due to the enthusiastic support and endorsement of García Márquez’s family.”

The archive opened for research on Oct. 21.

UT gives reasons for keeping Garcia Marquez archive price secret

In a new letter to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the University of Texas argues that the release of the purchase price of the recently acquired archive of Latin American literary giant Gabriel Garcia Marquez should be kept secret because its disclosure would put the university’s Harry Ransom Center “at a disadvantage in negotiating advantageous prices on future acquisitions.”

“This is particularly true when the Center acquires the archive of a major figure for a substantial sum,” the letter says. “The release of that price information becomes a new benchmark by which future archives are valued.”

The American-Statesman and the Associated Press requested the price of the archive when the purchase was announced in November. In the past, the university has provided such information, and the resistance in the case of the Garcia Marquez archive is unusual. As reported in earlier stories, the price for the archive could well exceed $1 million.

The university also revealed Wednesday that it had erred in not informing Garcia Marquez’s widow of the requested information, and it asked the attorney general’s office to consider “any other arguments submitted by the third party regardless of our error.”

The attorney general’s office is expected to make a ruling on the request in early 2015.

Nobel Prize-Winning author Gabriel García Márquez’s archive acquired by Harry Ransom Center

The Harry Ransom Center has acquired the archive of Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel-Prize winning author of “One Hundred Years of Solitude” (1967) and “Love in the Time of Cholera” (1985).

The influential author, one of the leading lights of Latin American literature, died in April at the age of 87.

Gabriel García Márquez in 2002
Gabriel García Márquez in 2002

“This acquisition marks an important extension of the Center’s literary holdings,” Harry Ransom Center director Stephen Enniss said in press release. “García Márquez has had as important an influence on the novel of the second half of the 20th century as James Joyce had on the first half.”

Spanning more than half a century, García Márquez’s archive includes original manuscript material, predominantly in Spanish, for 10 books, including the above and more than 2,000 pieces of correspondence, including letters from Carlos Fuentes and Graham Greene.

It also includes drafts of his 1982 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, more than 40 photograph albums documenting more than nine decades, two Smith Corona typewriters and five computers on which he composed many of his greatest works and scrapbooks documenting his career via news clippings from Latin America and around the world.

Highlights in the archive include multiple drafts of García Márquez’s unpublished novel “We’ll See Each Other in August,” research for “The General and His Labyrinth” (1989) and a heavily annotated typescript of the novella “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” (1981).

“Heir and admirer of literary innovators like Jorge Luis Borges, Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner, García Márquez experimented with intricate narrative structures, with lush and winding long sentences, with the clash of the ordinary and the impossible,” said José Montelongo, interim Latin American bibliographer at the university’s Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection. “He was a master of the short form in novellas that read like Greek tragedies set in the Caribbean, as well as a consummate long-distance literary runner, master of the sprawling novel in which everything fits, including history and crime and love and miracles.”

The archive will reside at the Ransom Center alongside the work of many of the 20th century’s most notable authors, including such Márquez influences as Borges, William Faulkner and James Joyce.

Other Nobel laureates represented in the Ransom Center’s collections are Samuel Beckett, J. M. Coetzee, T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Doris Lessing, George Bernard Shaw, Isaac Bashevis Singer, John Steinbeck and W. B. Yeats.

Future plans relating to the archive include digitizing portions of the collection to make them widely accessible and a university symposium to explore the breadth and influence of García Márquez’s life and career. The García Márquez materials will be accessible once processed and cataloged.