A.K. RAMANUJAN (1929-1993), Indo-American*
(Ramanujan would remark to friends that he was the hyphen between Indo-American)

Attipat Krishnaswami Ramanujan was a poet, translator, linguist and folklorist. He was born in Mysore, Karnataka, to a Brahmin Iyengar family that loved and encouraged learning. He received his BA and MA degrees in English language and literature from the University of Mysore. Ramanujan taught at several universities in South India, after which he pursued a graduate diploma in theoretical linguistics from Deccan University in Poona, where he was a fellow. At the age of thirty, he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship at Indiana University, where he would also complete a Ph.D in Linguistics. In 1962, Ramanujan joined the University of Chicago, where he enjoyed an illustrious career as Professor of Linguistics and Professor of South Asian Languages and Civilizations. He taught across several departments, as well as set up the University of Chicago’s South Asian Studies program. Ramanujan also taught at several prestigious U.S. colleges such as  Harvard University, University of Wisconsin, and University of California-Berkeley. Ramanujan was fluent in many languages, including English, Kannada and Tamil.

Ramanujan’s critical work in Indian folklore and translations of Indian classical literature are highly regarded around the world and taught in colleges in India and the U.S. His essays, such as Is There an Indian Way of Thinking? take theoretical approaches from linguistics, in better understanding cultures, religious influences and ways of thinking, via a context-sensitive approach. Ramanujan is considered to be one of the cornerstones of Indo-American poetry, with his poems being an exploration and testament of immigrant life along with the reminiscence and preservation of his Indian culture.

In 1976, the government of India honored Ramanujan with the prestigious Padma Shri, one of its highest civilian awards, for his significant contributions to Indian literature and linguistics. In 1983, he was awarded the MacArthur Prize Fellowship.

Ramanujan passed away on July 13, 1993, in Chicago, Illinois, as a result of an adverse reaction to anesthesia during preparation for surgery.




The Striders. London: Oxford University Press, 1966
Hokkulalli Huvilla, No Lotus in the Navel, 1969
Relations. London, New York: Oxford University Press, 1971
Selected Poems. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1976
Mattu Itara Padyagalu and Other Poems, 1977
Second Sight. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986
The Collected Poems of A. K. Ramanujan, 1995
Uncollected Poems and Prose (Oxford India Paperbacks), 2005

The collected essays of A.K. Ramanujan, 2004

Translations and Literary Studies
The Interior Landscape: Love Poems from a Classical Tamil Anthology, 1967
Speaking of Siva, 1973
The Literatures of India. Edited with Edwin Gerow. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974
Samskara. (translation of U R Ananthamurthy’s novel) Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1976
Hymns for the Drowning, 1981
Poems of Love and War. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985
Folktales from India, Oral Tales from Twenty Indian Languages, 1991
“Is There an Indian Way of Thinking?” in India Through Hindu Categories, edited by McKim Marriot, 1990
When God Is a Customer: Telugu Courtesan Songs by Ksetrayya and Others (with Velcheru Narayana Rao and David Shulman), 1994
A Flowering Tree and Other Oral Tales from India, 1997

Ramanujan’s Work Translated:
Poems and a Novella: Translated From Kannada, 2006, A. K. Ramanujan (Author), Tonse N. K. Raju (Translator), Shouri Daniels-Ramanujan (Translator).
This book contains a translation of Ramanujan’s Kannada novella Mattobbana Atma Charitre (Someone Else’s Autobiography) and the poetry collections Okkulalli Hoovilla (No Flower in the Lotus),  Mattu Itara kategalu  and Kuntobille (Hopscotch).





Obituary in The Independent

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