Narayan, Kerala’s first tribal novelist whose novel Kocharethi's English translation recently won ‘The Economist Crossword Book Award 2011,’ was honoured by the Aikya Malayaraya Mahasabha here on Sunday.

The English version ‘Kocharethi, the Araya Woman,’ published by Oxford University Press, won the best fiction translation award last month. The Malayalam novel, which was published in 1998 and which won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award, was translated into English by Catherine Thankamma, who teaches English at RLV College Trippunithura. The English version is currently a prescribed text for a course on Subaltern Studies at Canada’s Calgary University. The novel already has Tamil, Kannada and Telugu translations and will soon appear in Hindi and French.

K. Sukumaran, former High Court judge, who opened the felicitation ceremony, said ‘Kocharethi’ was the realistic history of the struggles and travails of the Malayaraya tribal community.

The novel, which was the first by Narayan, depicts the history, traditions and sufferings of the tribal community that lived in the mountain folds of the Western Ghats in the early 20 century, through the lives of Kunjpennu and her childhood love and later husband, Kochuraman.

It shows the community’s interface with modernity and its painful separation from its past, culture, myths and rituals and ways of life. It also shows the Malayarayas’ links with the nature and the ecosystem of their habitats and how they were tricked out of their lands.

Mr. Narayan told The Hindu that following massive conversion into Christianity in the last century, there were now Hindu Malayarayas and Christian Malayararas.

Those who belonged to Christianity were far better off.

“The non-Christian Malyarayas are ignored even by God,” he remarked.

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