Malayalam lost one of its finest modernist writers with the death of George Varghese Kakkanadan in Kollam on Wednesday. He battled cancer for over two years, and was 76.
Known simply as ‘Kakkanadan' (pronounced Kaakkanaadan), he was one of the harbingers of modernism in the genres of Malayalam novel and short story. He leaves behind a rich oeuvre, several of his works landmarks in the history of literary modernism in Malayalam. Moving with ease from apocalyptic visions to tantric imagery, he made his works representative of an important strand in the larger modernist trends in arts, literature and culture in India.
Kakkanadan was a rebel, both in life and literature. His rebellion extended from his selection of themes and use of subversive language to his careful crafting of the philosophy of angst into the writing. He often traversed the sweat zones of life and spoke of the valleys of the unknowing. With a stunningly violent style, he shook the very roots of the progressive literary sensibilities of the 1960s and 1970s and its innocent certainties. His was a world of dark tones and darker people, many of them social rejects.
He often spoke of the seamy side, the world of puss and blood. Each of his works was an act of rebellion against accepted elitist social mores and codes. Sex, like violence, was a leitmotif in many of his works; at times as a resonant chant, at others as an explosive outpouring of raw human power that transcends both the demonic and the divine.
Kakkanadan's major novels are Sakshi (1967), Ezham Mudra (1968), Vasoori (1968), Ushnamekhala (1969), Kozhi (1971), Parankimala (1971), Ajnathayude Thaazhvara (1972), Innaleyude Nizhal (1974), Adiyaravu (1975), Orotha (1982), Ee Naaykkalute Lokam (1983) and Barsaathi (1986). His most noted short story collections are Yuddhaavasaanam (1969), Purathekkulla Vazhi (1970), Aswathamaavinte Chiri (1979), Sreechakram (1981), Alwar Thirunagarile Pannikal (1989), Uchayillaatha Oru Divasam (1989) and Jaappaana Pukayila (2005). He has other novels, short story collections, travelogues and essay collections to his credit.
He won the Central Sahitya Akademi Award, the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award and other awards.