Although Malayalam book publishing is thriving, despite the emergence of e-books, it is very rarely that a reader is treated to a substantial critical study like the one under review. All the 10 essays in the collection stand out for their objective, erudite and analytical approach. Most of the essays are laudable contributions in comparative studies in literature and they bring out the cream of excellence through a process of literary churning. The collection is an asset to modern Malayalam criticism.
The first essay is a comparative study in perspective on the myriad stories of Lord Rama in Malayalam from early 12th century to the period of Kumaran Asan. Based on the style and periods of the poets, there are three phases in Rama narratives: early 12th century Ramacharitha, devotional period of Thunchathezhuthachan and the modern 20th century. While earlier poets portrayed the characters as perfect, based on certain events, 20th century poet Kumaran Asan sets a model by presenting Rama and Sita from a different point of view.
The second essay is on Kuchela and Sree Krishna and we are told that there are 22 poems in Malayalam on the subject, but the famous ‘boat song’ by Ramapurathu Warrier is a trendsetter that helped in the development a new aesthetic approach to Malayalam poetry.
The third essay is based on a poem Ujwala Muhurtham by Vyloppilly Sreedhara Menon, which is based on a theme drawn from the Ramayana. Here also the author conveys the essence of the narrative poem.
Apart from Lord Rama, there is a commendable study on the development and evolution of the milieu of Krishna cult and devotion from Vedic times and in various forms of devotion, including the famed legend of Radha and Krishna. There is also an interesting comparison between Krishna and Jesus Christ. The reference to history and myth is inconclusive. In all the three essays the writer skilfully criss-crosses between modernity and classical writing.
N.V. Krishna Warrier was one of the best literary editors in Malayalam and an outstanding poet who was ever alive to social realities and decadence of ethical values. He is described as a poet who chose the medium of lyrical narrative. This is a debatable conclusion as Krishna Warrier had shown enormous diversity in his style and themes. Krishna Warrier is known as a poet who vociferously protested against inequalities in socially and economically evil systems.
Two other essays in the collection are on modern individual writers. Novelist Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai is most renowned for his comprehensive portrayal of realistic characters and profiling of life in its entirety. He represents a period in literary history that transformed and heralded a new movement in fiction. His romantic characters are not typically ideal. The other novelist that the author has critically approached is Uroob (P.C. Kuttikrishnan), whose voluminous Sundarikalum Sundaranmarum is viewed from the novelist’s standpoint of artistic sanguinity. The underlying tone of the novel is always one of hope and human love.
Three other essays deal with general critical postulates.
The first on psychological criticism enunciates diverse Western assumptions with a typical quote from F.R. Lewis and concludes that Dr. M. Leelavathy has been the best critic following this approach. Western and Eastern thoughts and theories are correlated in another essay which among other things examines catharsis and Aristotelian principles.
Studies on early contributions in comparative literature is a comprehensive article quoting from various authors such as P.K. Narayana Pillai, M.R. Nair, Kesari Balakrishna Pillai, Joseph Mundassery and so on who were pioneers in comparative critical studies in Malayalam since they were scholars par excellence.