By O. V. Vijayan
The novel is a spiritual odyssey into the human psyche. Gurusagaram differs in language, vision and characterisation from Vijayan’s earlier works. It explores the theme of the immanence of the Guru in every human encounter. The central character Kunjunni is a journalist from Kerala, working in Delhi, going on an assignment to report the Bengal partition of 1971. He undergoes an excruciating experience both spiritually and physically to learn how to annihilate all forms of ego. The novel dramatizes the sorrow of a broken family and delves into the meaning of relationships and human loneliness through memories, meditations and conversations. According to Vijayan, this novel was greatly inspired by the teachings of Karunakaraguru of Sree Santhigiri Ashram near Thiruvananthapuram. Vijayan underwent a spiritual transformation after meeting the guru and this change also reflected in his writings, the best example being Gurusagaram.[It won many major awards including the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award (1990), Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award (1990) and Vayalar Award (1991).
About the Author:
Ottupulackal Velukkuty Vijayan (2 July 1930 – 30 March 2005), commonly known as O. V. Vijayan, was an Indian author and cartoonist, who was an important figure in modern Malayalam language literature. Vijayan was the author of six novels, nine short-story collections, and nine collections of essays, memoirs and reflections. His first novel, Khasakkinte Itihasam appeared in 1969. It set off a great literary revolution and cleaved the history of Malayalam fiction into pre-Khasak and post-Khasak.
Translated into English as The Saga of Dharmapuram by the author himself
Published as a book in 1985, Dharmapuram is a savage political thriller which recalls Swift in its fierce loathing of what politics has made of India, and Voltaire in its outrageously hilarious ridicule of public postures and ideological pretensions. After the English translation made its appearance in 1987, Khushwant Singh had said of the book, ‘Not the kind of novel you forget in a hurry’ while the Times Literary Supplement referred to it as ‘dangerous stuff and cut to bone.’ Vijayan himself described the act of writing Dharmapuram as a process of ‘cleansing’ one he does not wish to repeat.
Mathuram Gayati (Sweet is the Music)
Published in 1990, Mathuram Gayati (Sweet is the Music) is an extended allegorical fable of a post-holocaust world where the two hemispheres of earth are apart and at war, and can onlu unite again through the harmonious, un-analysable power of love, which alone can bring together the divisive energies of the universe.
Kovilan received the highest critical appreciation for his later work Thattakam, a powerful and poignant portrayal of generations of people in his ancestral hamlet. The novel unfolds itself through innumerable anecdotes sprouting from legends, oracles, revelations, fantasies and historical events. Its structure closely follows the magic of loosely connected episodes being integrated into a meta-narrative, reminiscent of the great Indian epics. The narrative invents its own time and space that allows free passage of countless generations across the past, the present and the future. In this mission, Kovilan develops a linguistic symphony that blends the dialects and language of myriad social strata. Thattakam won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1998.
About the Author
Kandanisseri Vattomparambil Velappan Ayyappan, popularly known as Kovilan, was a novelist as well as freedom fighter from Kerala and is considered as one of the most prolific writers of contemporary Indian literature. In all, he had authored 11 novels, 10 collections of short stories, three essays and a play. Though the settings of his stories varied from military camps in frozen Himalayas to obscure village in Thrissur, he brought to bear a universal dimension on them transcending the limitations of space and time. Kovilan was a recipient of the Kerala government’s highest literary honour Ezhuthachan Puraskarom in 2006 in recognition of his contribution to Malaylam literature. He won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award in 1972 and 1977, the Kendra Sahitya Akademi award in 1998 and the Vayalar award in 1999.
By Lalithambika Antharjanam
Translated into English as Agnisakshi: Fire, My Witness by Vasanthi Sankaranarayanan
The only novel of one of Kerala’s leading women writers, Lalithambika Antharjanam’s Agnisakshi is a telling account of a woman’s life glowing as though purified in the ‘fire of sacrifice’. Set against the history of Kerala, and life, customs, habits, and culture of the Namboodiri community, along with the fervent cries of the Indian National Freedom struggle, the characters act out their unforgettable roles: Tethi, the dazzling but disappointed bride who renounces worldly life; Unni Namboodiri, whose adherence to the Vedic way of life destroys his personal happiness; and Thankam, Unni’s Nair cousin and the mighty Aphan Namboodiri’s daughter, seeking her own liberation from the past. Originally serialized in Mathrubhumi Illustrated Weekly and published as a book in 1976, it offers a moving portrait of upper-class, upper-caste Kerala society just before and after Independence while recounting a woman’s struggle for social and political emancipation. It won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1977.
About the Author
The Sahitya Akademi Award winning firebrand writer who helped shape Kerala’s feminist literature and was an active participant in the social reform movements of Kerala in the early 1920s—Lalithambika Antharjanam was born in 1909 to a traditional Namboodiri household in Kottavattom in Kollam district, Kerala. Her chosen form was the short story, which she described as ‘the art form best suited to the powerful interpretation of a comprehensive union of thought and emotion.’ In over a hundred short stories written between the late 1930s and 1970s, Antharjanam depicted the plight of Namboodiri women in Kerala while also shedding light on the effects of the Partition in Punjab and Bengal. Agnisakshi was her only novel while her autobiography Aathmakadhakkoru Aamukham (An Introduction to Autobiography) is also a very significant work. Besides this, her published oeuvre includes six collections of poems and two books for children.