Friday, September 2, 2011

Khasak's Legend

Khasakkinte Ithihasam is a Malayalam novel written by the late O V Vijayan, who was one of the brightest novelists in India. This novel is considered a landmark in Malayalam literature. No wonder it is the most sold novel in South Asia and on which most studies were done in Kerala. Never was something so huge, profound and of epic proportion created in Malayalam.

Created is the apt word because the whole world of Khasak, though inhabited by common humans, possess some kind of a nightmarish dream like quality. Laden with myths, superstitions and legends Khasak is a village that struggles to come in terms with the diverse communal population that it houses.

The novel starts when Ravi reaches Khasak to open a single teacher school. The school is the idea of the Hindu Nair community of Khasak as they have to send their kids to a distant place for education. It is a blow for the Mollah of the village as even the Muslim kids desert his religious classes to attend the school. The novel deals with the life of Ravi in Khasak and the bizarre characters he encounters there. Also playing havoc in Ravi's life is his troubled past and pangs of guilt to escape from which he taken up the job.

Both Khasak and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez came out at almost same time. The parallels between both cannot be ignored. As this first novel was written in an incredibly long time period, the evolution of Vijayan's intellect can also be mapped as the novel progress to its tragic doom. The picture of a righteous Ravi who comes to Khasak with a guilt ridden conscience and his becoming one with the superstitious people of Khasak by sharing with them their life, misfortunes and beliefs can be an allegory about a confused generation.

Vijayan has himself translated the novel to English as Legends of Khasak. Critics' opine that it can be considered as a standalone work as it differs considerably from the original.

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  1. Sounds like a great book. Clearly I don't understand Malayalam, but I'll see if I can get my hands on the English translation here in Pune. I'd like to read some nice Indian literature for a change. Great review!

  2. Its a great novel. But it seems the English version translated by Vijayan himself is totally different from Malayalam one. I am also searching for that.