About the Book
Increasingly possessed by a yearning to escape the ennui of an indifferent marriage and the empty but comfortable lifestyle of a bureaucrat, Raghu decides to visit the small patch of ancestral property in his native village.
As he relives the past, old grudges are aired, exposing the faultlines in relationships but also subliminally forging bonds with the land and his people.
The novel moves between the two worlds - the past and the present - with pungent, earthy humour and sharp insights. The narrator's voice as he recounts the sights of his land and his experiences is powerful, sensuous and direct and moves inexorably to the apocalyptic moment when he finds his roots.
About the Author
Malayatoor Ramakrishnan (1927-1997) was a top ranking Malayalam novelist. He started as a distinguished writer of short stories and humorous skits and as a cartoonist in Malayalam periodicals and newspapers. He dabbled in script writing for several Malayalam films as well. His forte, however, was the novel. Verukal, a Sahitya Akademi winner, has been translated into Hindi, Tamil and Kannada. Yantram won the prestigious Vayalar Rama Varma Award. Malayatoor rose to the top in the Indian Administrative Service from which he voluntarily retired in 1981 to devote himself to full-time writing. He took to politics desultorily and was well known for his strong leftist leanings. He was for a brief period the Editor of Janayugam, a well-known Left weekly. His wife died soon after him and they leave behind a daughter and a son, both married.
The translator V. Abdulla was born in Kerala in 1921 and educated in Madras where he spends most of his time. One of the leading figures in a well-known Indian publishing company from which he retired as Director, he set goals for translations into English from his native Malayalam. He presented to English readership well-known Malayalam writers like Vaikom Mohammed Basheer, S.K. Pottekkat and M.T. Vasudevan Naif. His fifth full-length translation is Verukal, a work of grace and strength.
In the passing away of Malayatoor Ramakrishnan, Malayalam literature has lost an outstanding writer whose novels and stories have given great pleasure and delight to Malayalees over the last fifty years.
K.V. Ramakrishna Iyer-that was his real name-was born in 1927 in Palakkad, Kerala. He belonged to a Malayalam-Tamil brahmin family, an ethnic group who speak a Malayalam colourfully peppered with Tamil idiom, of which he made delightful use in some of his writings. He began life as an active leader in student politics, then became a tutor at a college, went on to become a practising advocate, combined freelance journalism and cartooning, later became a magistrate and finally retired as an IAS officer. He was in the Kerala cadre where he rose to the position of secretary and revenue board member. He identified himself with the undivided Communist Party of India, though he was not a cardholding member. He even contested, unsuccessfully, for election to the state assembly as a party-supported candidate.
Ramakrishnan was a multi-faceted genius. In addition to being a writer, he was a good painter and had a gift for political cartooning. Although he started his writing career as a humorist, he soon developed into an outstanding writer of Malayalam fiction. His flair for humour endeared him to readers from every section of society.
His noteworthy Malayalam novels include Verukal (Roots) which was semi-biographical, Yanthram (The Machine) which won the Vayalar and Sahitya Akademi awards, Anchu Centu (Five Cents of Land), Yakshi, Ponni and more than a dozen others. He has written about 300 short stories which have been published as anthologies. Four of his works, Yaks hi, Doorways to Death (a collection of two novellas), Five Cents of Land and Verukal, have been published in English translation. The English version of Yakshi was broadcast by the BBC last year.
Nine of Malayatoor's novels have been made into Malayalam films for which he wrote the scripts. Yakshi was a popular hit and Gayatri won the state award for the best Malayalam picture of the year. He also tried his hand as film director in Odukkavum Thudakkavum (The End and the Beginning).
Malayatoor put a voluntary stop to his career in the IAS almost two years before retirement. He felt that bureaucratic trappings were stultifying his d]evelopment as a writer. His outspokenness and tenacity earned him many enemies and he was not popular with the powers that be.
A bon vivant, he was quite bohemian in his ways. He enjoyed the bottle and this self-indulgence proved to be his undoing. During his last days he could hardly move out of the house. His wife, Veni, a victim of Parkinson's disease, was confined to the wheelchair. But till the end, his creativity as a writer and cartoonist remained undiminished as friends who received his famous postcards will testify.
When Malayatoor crossed seventy last year he was busy working on a new Malayalam novel and his first novel in English. Sad to say, both remain unfinished. He died on Saturday, 27 December, not waiting to usher in the new year.
Malayatoor Ramakrishnan stood tall among contemporary writers of fiction in Kerala. Malayalee readers, wherever they live, will miss the great storyteller with his trademark puckish humour.
I was close to him in his later years and will miss him deeply. His famous postcards, with text and cartoon intertwined, will no longer arrive to delight and keep me informed.
Friend, may you rest in peace.
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