Rao, Raja (räˈjə rou) [key], 1909–2006, Indian novelist, Hassan, Mysore (now in Karnataka), as Raja. Rao took his surname as an adult, and was educated in India and France and for many years divided his time among India, Europe, and the United States. From 1966 to 1980 he was professor of philosophy at the Univ. of Texas at Austin. His novels are considered to be among the finest Indian works written in English. The first, Kanthapura (1938), describes the daily life of Indian villages during a revolt against an overbearing plantation owner. Rao's commitment to Gandhian nonviolence is clearly revealed in his description of the peasants' conversion to the principle of civil disobedience. The Serpent and the Rope (1960) is a semiautobiographical account of a marriage between intellectuals that is destroyed by philosophical discord. His metaphysical novel The Cat and Shakespeare (1965) is a tale of individual destiny. In Comrade Kirillov (1976) he examines the political complexities of Indian liberalism, and in The Chessmaster and His Moves (1988) he treats the quest for identity in various cultural contexts. Rao's works are profoundly serious, reflecting his abiding concern with the potential clashes between pragmatism and ideals. He published two collections of short stories, The Cow of the Barricades and Other Stories (1947) and The Policeman and the Rose (1978), and several works of nonfiction, including a biography of Gandhi (1998).
See studies by M. K. Naik (1972), K. K. Sharma, ed. (1980), P. Sharrad (1987), S. A. Narayan (1988), N. Nanda (1992), E. Dey (1997), A. S. Rao (1999), R. Ramachandra, ed. (2000), R. Mittapalli and P. P. Piciucco, ed. (2001), and M. Sachdey (2006).