Ananthamurthy has been in news recently, not for what he has written- he hardly writes these days, because he feels that his themes and subjects are being addressed today by young Kannada writers, so he doesn't really need to add anything. Fair enough- but because of his criticism towards BJP and its PM Candidate Mr. Narendra Modi. He has promised to leave India if Modi is elected, while the BJP has promised to sponsor his one-way flight ticket out of the country. I won't bicker about the political stance of Ananthamurthy which I find baseless and constantly shifting. At one point in an interview he begins by proclaiming that he is anti-Congress, and then, a few sentences later, goes on to say "...No one can call me anti-Congress..." In the course of several interviews, he has gone on to support and oppose almost all the alliances in post-colonial political history of India. But let me just stop here- I would be doing an Ananthamurthy here if I use a book review to target the writer's politics, like the writer of this short story collection himself did while reviewing S.L. Bhyrappa's novel 'Aavarana', calling Bhyrappa a 'fundamentalist' and 'communal', while pushing in a few sentences about the actual book in question.
The stories in 'Stallion of the Sun' are indeed progressive in that they develop with each passing story in terms of style and themes. Ananthamurthy's prose is simple- there are no big words thrown in for effect, because Ananthamurthy doesn't need them. He has big themes for that. His subjects are somehow the victims of social and political changes of post-Colonial India, struggling through the changes of society and culture. His are the stories criticizing his own Brahmin community and its discrimination against the untouchables. He designs his stories to scratch the cultural biases of his community- in 'Ghatashraddha', for example, a Brahmin boy and an untouchable named Kateera enter woods in order to search for a missing friend. The Brahmin boy tries to dispel his fear of the dark by holding the hand of Kateera, to which Kateera replies, 'How can I, a low-caste holeya, touch you?' Its an important sentence in the story, wherein the divide in the society is lade bare- a Brahmin trying to seek solace with a Dalit is restrained from doing so all because it will violate the norm of a Brahmin society. The title story is a sad (and equally humorous) account of the meaninglessness in the life of the narrator's friend. The narrator has made it big, while his friend has remained stuck to the rural, village life, and yet, he hasn't failed- even though the whole premise seems to suggest so. He hasn't failed because the friend completely understands and enjoys the meaning of life- this friend of the narrator's, he finds comfort in simple things, and smiles even at a time when his family seems to be falling apart around him, before his own eyes.
One can go on about the stories in this short book and derive meanings and themes, but it won't be enough, for Ananthamurthy's stories have no single morals- in a few pages, they build worlds which both criticize and celebrate the modern society in all its forms. His characters are, as Arenas says in a completely different context, uprooted and placed in an alien culture. They are in search of their past- through people, objects, places- and sometimes they do find it, only to realize that the past they had been romanticizing is a past that never was. When one reads Ananthamurthy, one is left with a powerful sense that they understand the society they are living in, a little better.