Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rediscovering Malayalam literature

Every time I go back home, I get more addicted to Indian writing. This time was no different, with Ramachandra Guha's "India After Gandhi" being largely polished off on the train to Bangalore, while "Sea of Poppies" was my companion on the flight back to the US. "The Last Mughal" was left half-read, while MT Vasudevan Nair's "Naalukettu" was unread when I left India.

Achan described it as an 'emotionally charged' book, and that made me decide to keep it for a sunny day. And am I glad that I did not read it in India, at a time when you relive so many memories in the space of three weeks. Just reading it brought back the sights, sounds, and smells of summer vacations spent in Thrissur. Although everything was relatively drama-free in reality, I could relate with the events narrated in the book. The politics of the family, the socio-economic divisions, the rituals all struck a chord. Rarely does a book leave me with a sense of being hit by a cyclone, and "Naalukettu" did just that. The story climaxes in the last twenty pages or so, leaving the reader with a sense of wonder. Somehow, there seems to be something incomplete in the story, and one can only conjecture.

I think Gita Krishnankutty has done a wonderful job of translating the original version from Malayalam, and I hope to see MT's masterpiece "Randa moozham" (Second Turn) translated and out in the market soon. The story deals with the Mahabharatha, told through the eyes of Bheema. Prem Panicker (formerly of cricket-blogging fame, I dare say) has a wonderful take on the storyline, with his own personal touch here. It's like I have often wondered what the Mahabharatha would sound like if it were to be retold from Karna's point of view.

PS: My previous post on discovering Malayalam literature is here.

Update from April 2009: I managed to pick up and go through a copy of "Randa moozham" thanks to that treasure trove for all grad students - an inter-library loan.


Nikhil Narayanan said...


Second Turn is available.


Soultan of Swing said...

Hi Nikhil,
Thanks for pointing me to the amazon link. 115$ is rather steep! The $15 one is from a new seller, and based on past experiences, I'm very wary of buying stuff from folks who have just launched their online store!

Anonymous said...

About what you said about seeing Mahabharatha through Karnas eyes, I think 'Ini Njan urangatte' has a section. The book itself is epic seen through Draupadis eyes ( knowing you, you would know this :) )

Soultan of Swing said...

Hi Anonymous,
I had not heard about "Ini Njaan Urangatte" till you pointed it out in our comment. I have not read any of the great Malayalam writers, with the exception of Madhavankutty and MT. So my knowledge of the field is very limited!