Kottayam-born Manu Joseph's debut novel, Serious Men, which has won The Hindu Best Fiction Award, 2010, is a popular read in Kerala as well. And the readers consider it “unputdownable.”
“The book is turning out to be a favourite, with people visiting our stores specifically looking for it,” says Ravi Deecee, chief executive officer of the publishing house D.C. Books.
“We are certainly bringing out its translation in Malayalam and I have been in touch with Manu for that for about two months now,” he says.
For K. Kunhikrishnan, literary commentator and former Deputy Director-General of Doordarshan, Serious Men is an excellent piece of fiction and its wonderful narrative technique sets it apart from the run-of-the-mill. It is a hilarious, rather extraordinary take on people, Mr. Kunhikrishnan says.
He pitches for an award to be instituted for Asian literature as “a lot of good literature is coming out from our neighbouring countries.”
Delhi-based former Ambassador T.P. Sreenivasan views the selection of Serious Men for the award as a tribute to a wordsmith with an exceptional sense of humour.
In a mail to The Hindu, Mr. Sreenivasan says: “I have never laughed out loud so much while reading a book in the silence of the night. The story itself is amusing, as it revolves around the dreams and ambitions of a few serious men engaged in research, but embroiled in human emotions of ambition, jealousy and, of course, love. But just as Hamlet came to be known as a book of quotations, Serious Men could be known as a collection of the most hilarious descriptions of people and situations.”
“Who else, except Manu Joseph, would describe his attractive heroine as a ‘commotion' or an ‘event'? Who else would make the observation, ‘Traditionally on the Worli seaface, infatuation fondled and love cried'? Who else would observe that if Jesus Christ turned wine into water and not water into wine, ‘they would have crucified him much earlier'? Who else will call it a ‘mathematical possibility' if a girl claimed that she got pregnant as a bullet that hit her had passed through a man's scrotum? Indeed, one encounters such humorous aphorisms throughout the book.”
“The novel is contemporary, it has characters that come to life and grasp the imagination, it has lessons for researchers and their personal assistants, but most of all, the serious men and women make the reader laugh in a way he never did. It makes you think. Laugh and think again, only to laugh even more. What else is the purpose of first-rate fiction?” Mr. Sreenivasan says.
“The book's brilliant one-liners and its excellent observations akin to the views of the common man endear it to the ordinary reader. His father, Joseph Madappally, who was a journalist, had done scripts for a few Malayalam movies. So it runs in the family,” says Sabin Iqbal, Editor of the Thiruvananthapuram-based www.yentha.com, which interviewed the writer recently.