I always have great regards for my mother tongue, Malayalam and its tradition of rich literature. Malayalam is not an old language. It is in fact a mixture of Tamil and Sanskrit that emerged hardly a few centuries back in its current form. But one reason for the growth of Malayalam as a language was its receptive nature. Compared to other classical languages, Malayalam always opened its windows to get itself influenced from other languages and cultures from the beginning. On one side a culture of accepting and appreciating the translations of classics from other languages, both Indian and international exposed our writers and readers to the latest trends of world and national literature. On other side the trend of Malayalees going out of state (and out of India) for earning their livelihood opened doors of new experiences for writers to explore. In this post I would like to write about four Malayalam books written at different times that I read recently.
Kakkanadan was one of the fearless sound of modern Kerala. He wrote powerful novels about the political and social reforms of sixties and the uncertainties that preceded. I read his novel Ushnamekhala (Humid region) a few weeks before his passing away. Ushnamekhala details the life of an idealist young man who believes that Communism is the only cure of oppression and feudalism. He works hard with his comrades for the realization of that goal, but circumstances, the death of his father and extreme poverty suffered by his family, makes him to abandon it midway and abscond to a city. He makes it big there, but his conscience never give him peace. After long time he returns to his village to find that the party which he believed will be the cure for oppression is on the way to become the biggest oppressor.
Avanavante Aanandam Kandethanulla Vazhikal (One's own means to find his pleasures) is a path breaking novel by C V Balakrishnan. The novel explores sin and sexuality. It deals with a man's worries about his impotency and his journey to recover his manhood. With the rural Kerala of sixties as the background, the novel develops like a mythical story. The novel begins with a man reminiscing his first experience with a woman, in his childhood. In between legends and superstitions he is on his sinful way to get back there. An accident with a snake woman makes him impotent. Worried he tries anything possible to get it back. The novel is based on the childhood of the novelist. According to him these are visions that formed when children looked into life of adults and adults went on their adulterous life without knowing they were being observed. Children made stories of what they saw and these are what resulted.
Kodakara puranam (The Epic Of Kodakara) is originally a blog by Sajith Edathadan, who calls himself Visalamanaskan, The Broad minded. When the blog about the humorous experiences of the writer in his village and in Middle East where he works, became a hit among malayalee diaspora, they published the selected posts into an immensely comic and satiric book. The language is pure oral Malayalam, the style is simple and engaging, stories are intriguing and blunders are that happens to us quite often (though we never admit like Sajith).
Aadujeevitham (A goat's life) is a book that created quite a stir recently. This novel, written by Benyamin, is about the life experiences of a man who worked in Middle East as a slave. He reaches there through a visa send by his relative. His sponsor takes him to the middle of a desert and makes him to work among goats and camels. This was in contrary to what was told to him. The novel details his step by step transformation from a normal human into goat like creature and the subsequent escape. The novel contains all the heat that Najeeb experienced in the desert and makes the reader experience it again. Told in simple prose devoid of any plot techniques or other gimmicks, this book is like a rod of red hot forged steel. I expected it to be like The Alchemist, but it is better and a more satisfying read. .