Tamil literary critic Venkat Swaminathan dead

Venkat Swaminathan rejected the approach of the Dravidian movement and Marxists  

Noted Tamil critic and writer Venkat Swaminathan, who laid stress on aesthetics and rejected the approach of the Dravidian movement and Marxists, died in Bangalore on Wednesday. He was 82 and is survived by his son.

Born in Udayalur in Kumbakonam, he worked in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and spent his professional life in Delhi.  He was very particular about not revealing any of his professional details.  Post-retirement, he lived in Chennai and moved to Bangalore after his wife’s death.

It was late C.S. Chellappa and Ka.Na. Subramaniam who brought Venkat Swaminathan to the literary field and his first work was published in ‘Ezhuthu’ run by Chellappa. He also brought out his own magazine ‘Yatra’.

His book, Kalai-Anubhavam, Velipadu, can be considered a guidebook of aesthetic criticism, says A. K. Perumal, folklorist and his close friend.

“He insisted that art and literature should stem from real experience rather than constructing them from ideology,” said another writer, Sethupathy Arunachalam.

Mr. Arunachalam said although he had bitter personal fights with late Piramil, they were instigated from both the ends.

Once he described writer Sujatha as the Rajinikant of literature. “Rajinikant will do anything to satisfy his fan and Sujatha will do the same for the sake of his reader,” he had remarked.

He was also of the opinion that poet Kannadasan was destroyed by cinema. “Otherwise, most of his criticisms where non-personal and even at places where he was talking about personality it was mostly covered in humour. He also made sure that personal relationship is not spoilt, even though he might criticise someone's creation very harshly,” said Mr Arunachalam.

It was this trait that made him spend days in Tirunelveli with another critic Thi.Ka.Si, with whom he had a lifelong battle.

A relentless reader till his death, Venkat Swaminathan was always open to new generation writing.

Aesthetics of hate

Dalit writer Ravikumar said Venkat Swaminthan’s ideology for literary criticism was aesthetics of hate. “He would either eulogise or demolish and his approach was guided by his personal whim,” said Ravikumar.

“While he had great admiration for classical music and dance, he failed to take into consideration the classical tradition of Tamil literature.

“He called Tamil literature a desert. The sweeping statement probably could have stemmed from his lack of understanding of classical Tamil literature. But he had a passion and the same found articulation in the tone of criticism. It was he who brought in a wide-range of subjects in his approach to literary criticism,” Mr Ravikumar said.

This article has been corrected for a factual error.

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 6:57:59 PM |

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