The man who wrote 1,001 novels: Kovvali Lakshmi Narasimha Rao

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Kovvali Lakshmi Narasimha Rao, from Andhra Pradesh in India, wrote about 1,001 novels in his lifetime.

He was born in Tanuku in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. In his 63 years, Kovvali Lakshmi Narasimha Rao (1912-1975) was a prolific story-teller, writing in his native Telugu language.

His aim was to bring reading to the people. He wrote in the language of his community, and introduced the masses to reading.

Kovvali mainly wrote about the social issues of the times. These included women’s issues, highlighting the need for education, the problems of child-marriage, and advocating for widows to be allowed to remarry. His female characters were strong, loving, kind, and role models for their children.

Initially, these views led to the banning of his books for being ‘ugly and unhealthy’ for women. His critics also said his books were simplistic and overdramatic.

But Kovvali continued writing, and writing, and writing. His goal was not profit, but cheap, easily accessible reading material.

Eventually more and more people, particularly women, bought his books. His themes of love, sexuality, and freedom, on the rise during the Progressive Movement from 1935, were in high demand.

His writings are the equivalent of popular literature, known as airport literature—but in his time, they were referred to as railway literature. Light, readable, and entertaining.

Kovvali wrote about a novel a week; some in two days. The traditional paper size in the British Commonwealth during this time was foolscap, before the adoption of the smaller size A4 paper, and the now common paperback novel dimensions. However, Kovvali’s books were printed on much smaller paper size for mass production.

Although he wrote novels, he is also noted for writing film script dialogues for famous Telugu movies, such as Ramanjeneya Yuddham, Talli Prema, and Maa Gopi.

The Bangalore University conducted research on Kovvali Lakshmi Narasimha Rao and his writing career, with the assistance of his two sons, Kovvali Nageswara Rao and Kovvali Lakshminarayana. In 2009, the Acharya Kottapalli Veerabhadra Rao press published 18 of his novels as a compilation called Kovvali Navalalu Konni.

Due to this work, Kovvali’s books are still in the marketplace, and still making a difference in his local community.

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