Literary Review

O.V.V.’s magic

Photo: Mahesh Harilal  

It is exactly a decade since O.V. Vijayan passed away. Still no discussion on Malayalam literature is complete without a reference to Vijayan’s celebrated novel Kazhakinte Itihasam (The Legend of Kazhak). Many regard Kazhakinte Itihasam, published in 1969, as the last great novel of Malayalam literature. Over 50 editions have been printed and sold in the past 45 years.

Kazhakinte Itihasam was a transformational novel. While illustrious fellow writers like Thakazhi, Keshav Dev, Basheer and M.T. Vasudevan Nair looked outward and drew themes from the socio-economic struggles in an unequal society and the exploitation of a feudalistic structure, Vijayan looked inward into the human mind and saw the inner conflicts, loneliness, anguish and suffocation as fertile ground for his story lines.

The novel begins with the protagonist Ravi arriving as a teacher at a tribal village called Kazhak (identified with the real world Tasraak). The novel captures Ravi’s transformation from his radical past to his current life as a seeker of spiritual truths and values. A generation of young educated Malayalis frustrated with the conditions in Kerala saw in Ravi and his spiritual journeys their own troubled conscience and, in Kazhak, their own village. Like Arundhati Roy’s Aymanam, Tasraak has become a place of pilgrimage for literary lovers in Kerala.

The success of Kazhakinte Itihasam also came from its literary style and its refreshingly inventive language. Vijayan’s prose continues to mesmerise the Malayali mind. Vijayan has often been compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, both consummate practitioners of magical realism.

Vijayan’s later novels like Dharmapuranam, a political satire, also received wide attention. Vijayan was one of India’s most well known cartoonists and had a deep understanding of the power play in the Indian politics.

He received several literary awards and was also honoured with Padma Bhushan in 2003. Yet, like many other talented regional writers in India, he is hardly known outside his region.

No Indian has won a Nobel Prize in Literature since Rabindranath Tagore received it in 1913. India’s regional literature, like Indian cinema, must be seen as part of our soft power and should reach out to the world at large.

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Printable version | Apr 30, 2021 9:45:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/literary-review/ovvs-magic/article7164258.ece

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