The eminent author and scholar broke new ground in Malayalam literary criticism through the method of incisive textual study and has to her credit several books and hundreds of articles
M. Leelavathy, literary critic, has been chosen for this year's Ezhuthachan Puraskaram, the highest literary honour instituted by the State government, for being the first woman to make a “substantial contribution” to the genre of literary criticism in Malayalam.
Announcing this at Ms. Leelavathy's residence at Thrikkakara here on Sunday evening, Education and Culture Minister M.A. Baby said the selection was made by an award committee headed by poet O.N.V. Kurup and comprising Kerala Sahithya Akademi president P. Valsala, poet Sugathakumari and writer M.N. Karassery.
Mr. Kurup, Ms. Valsala, Ms. Sugathakumari and Akademi secretary Purushan Kadalundi were present. The Chief Minister will present the award in Thiruvananthapuram in the first week of December.
Commending Prof. Leelavathy for her remarkable contribution to literary criticism, Mr. Baby said the peculiarity of this year's award was that two of the award committee members — Mr. Kurup and Ms. Sugathakumari — had won it earlier.
“Significantly, two eminent women writers have for the first time won it in successive years now,” he said. (Ms. Sugathakumari won it last year).
Referring to Prof.. Leelavathy as “Ezhuthamma' (mother writer), Mr. Kurup said she was able to carve a niche for herself when the field of literary criticism had stalwarts such as M.P. Paul, Joseph Mundassery, Kuttikrishna Marar and Sukumar Azhikode.
“As a student, it really surprised me to read an article written by teacher on the elegies… That was not just an accident. Over time, she earned a unique position for herself among the few luminaries in literary criticism. What makes her unique is that she has never hurt anyone with her critiques. She only knows to bless and her criticism has always been sober, mild and characteristically gentle,” he said.
Prof. Leelavathy said that she would accept the award with humility. “I don't know if I am eligible for this, but I am no one to question the selection made by a panel of literary stalwarts,” she said.