Marxist thinker and Tamil writer Kovai Gnani no more


Noted Marxist thinker, Tamil scholar and literary critic Kovai Gnani died in Coimbatore on Wednesday due age-related ailments. He was 85 years old and is survived by two sons.

Born Pazhanisamy in 1935, he studied Tamil literature at Annamalai University. He served as Tamil teacher for about 30 years. He wrote under the name Kovai Gnani and his works, all in Tamil, include 28 critiques, 11 anthologies, and three works of poetry.

“He never identified himself with any political party or movement. He was a voracious reader and well-versed in both Tamil and English. His in-depth knowledge in Tamil moved him towards Tamil nationalism. But he was particular that any nationalism should be firmed anchored in Marxism,” said write S.V. Rajadurai (SVR), who had worked with him since 1965 and ran a magazine Parimanam and wrote for Nigazh edited by Gnani.

Mr. Rajadurai said he was one among the Marxists who introduced Italian communist leader Antonio Gramsci to the Tamil political and literary world.

Though he lost his eyesight at the age of 55, Gnani’s pursuit of knowledge continued till his last days. He played a major role in founding the Vaanampaadi poetry movement. He was editor of several Tamil literary magazines, including Parimanam, Velvi, Nigazh and Tamil Neyam. Of these, Tamil Neyam is a treasure trove of information on the lives and works of Tamil scholars.

“Unlike political parties that viewed Marxism merely as a political idea, Kovai Gnani approached it primarily as a philosophy. He reiterated the ethics in Marxism and that allowed him to strike a chord even with environmental issues along with another Marxist thinker S.N. Nagarajan,” said Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) MP Ravikumar.

Mr. Rajadurai said though he was a Marxist, Gnani never allowed his ideology to come in the way of his personal friendship. “He would always be surrounded by friends from all political parties and movement,” he said.

Writer Jayamohan, one among them, always considered Kovai Gnani as his Guru. “I met him in 1989 and he remained a guide to all my writings and creations. It was he who introduced me as a writer to the Tamil world and my stories like Padugai and Bothi were published in his literary magazines,” said Mr. Jayamohan.

According to the website he was always concerned with Tamil Virtue (Aram) and the Tamil way of thinking. “In his view, Tamil Virtue implies equality and socialism. We can easily call Gnani a Tamil Marxist,” said the website.

“He tried to understand Tamil literature and Marxism through each other. He understood humanity through the two and tried to bridge the two in his works,” says his youngest son Madhavan Palanisamy.

He was the recipient of Iyal Virudhu given by Canada Illakiya Thottam and Pudhumai Pithan Vilakku Virudhu and many other awards.

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Printable version | May 13, 2021 12:29:55 PM |

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