Known for ushering in a whiff of modernism in Malayalam novels in the 1960s, novelist George Varghese Kakkanadan, who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 76, was a great storyteller who charmed readers through challenging Malayalam writing styles of the time.
It all began 50 years ago in New Delhi where he was having a cushy job in Railways. But he saw his stint with Railways a part of the journey to his cherished destination: a novelist. And when he felt that he reached the destination after a 10-year journey, he disembarked from Railways.
He himself had once said that he found Railways uncertain and so sought a way out to take him to the tracks of writing. Though he had started writing much before the railway stint and even wrote the novel Vasoori, it was his second novel Sakshi that brought him laurels.
The book had a great impact on the younger generation of Malayalam readers and was credited with breaking new grounds in Malayalam literature. Though labelled by his readers as a ‘formidable ultramodern Malayalam writer,' Kakkanadan himself was of the view that modernism in literature has no convincing rationale.
Style of writing
During an interview with The Hindu several years ago, he said “the writings of Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and even Kalidasan had all the ingredients which work to make a literary creation modern. It is just my style of writing which was interpreted by readers as modern.”
There were times when he completed a novel within two months. The first two were followed by Ushnamekhala, Ajnathayude Thazhvara, Parankimala, Ezham Mudra, Edavapathi, Barsaathi, Ee Naikaluday Lokam, and Orodha, which won him the 1984 Kerala Sahithya Akademi award. Then came Mazha Nizhal Pradesham, Colossus, and other short-story collections.
The compulsive writer began to experience ‘inertia' with the publication of Colossus. A cataract operation in 1998 and diabetes led to the disinclination though there was no dearth of ideas. During the interview, he said his magnum opus was yet to come and that he was working on two novels.
One of them he named as Kshatriyan, which he said would be his own story and his swan song. “Its publication will take time since I do not want to compromise on quality”. But fate had it that Kakkanadan had to finish his journey without completing it.
Though he had the opportunity to closely know veteran Communist leaders and his house was a hideout for leaders such as M.N. Govindan Nair and T.V. Thomas during the days when communists were hounded, Kakkanadan had said that he was never impressed by Communism and that he never had any political leanings.
“I believe in God, but it confuses me when someone asks me to indentify the God I believe.” In his words, the members of all religions are fundamentalists, but it is when these fundamentalists get converted into fanatics that they thirst for each others blood.
Kakkanadan had admitted with pride that the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky had a tremendous influence on him and his works. But his source of inspiration was life itself. He was of the opinion that young Malayalam writers are writings and Malayalam literature as such would grow richer through them.