We use the artists and writers who dare to live outside the safe boundaries of our day-to-day lives in the way that ages ago, communities used scapegoats — to pile our sins and dreams on them and then drive them out or slaughter them. Or allow them to slaughter themselves. John Abraham, Surasu, Victor Linus — all died before their time. Surasu and Victor Linus ended up as unidentified bodies at least for a while. A Ayyappan was one such figure on whose thin shoulders rebellious youth (if there are any still in this cyber-world) could bundle their dreams and their rebellions. It helped that he was a wonderful poet, too.
He died as he lived, an anonymous dead body in a bus stand, seen accidentally in the mortuary by a doctor who recognised him. His cremation too created a hullaballoo with a postponement, and protests by the poet’s friends and admirers. Finally, of course, the establishment took over. One wonders how the poet would have liked being kept in a refrigerated box for the public to view and then being cremated with state honours, gun salute included. It seems fitting though that his dead body also had a piece of paper with a poem titled Pallu or Teeth scribbled on it, some words undecipherable, but startlingly prescient nonetheless:
Ambu ethu nimishathilum
Vedante koora kazhinju
Ranthal villakinu chuttum
Oru maravum maram thannilla.
(An arrow might pierce my back any moment. I run in fear for my life, beyond the hut of the hunter. A few people sit around the lantern, thinking greedily of the taste of my body. No tree gave me shelter.) One wonders if he saw the dark hunter close and ran for his life before he fell...
A recent and interesting experiment has been Sethu’s Pennakangal brought out by DC Books. The author has picked six women from his books and
re-written, re-cast some of the incidents and compiled them into one book. Oddly enough, the very fact of compiling these fragments has changed the way the characters enter the reader’s mind. Whether the book can be called a collection of short stories or a novel is a moot question and I suppose, an unimportant one. It is an interesting book, all right.
Mathrubhumi Books has brought out a bunch of short story collections from the younger generation of writers. Six of them are before me, Violet Poochakalkku Soo Vekkan Thonnumpol by Priya AS, Pachayude Album by Dhanya Raj, Neechavedam by E Santosh Kumar, Marana Vidyalayam by Susmesh Chandroth, Kazchakkulla Vibhavangal by KV Anoop and Sylvia Plathinte Masterpiece by Sreebala K Menon. All are accomplished writers. As ever, some of the stories are very good, some pedestrian. But seeing these stories grouped together, one feels reassured that Malayalam still has creative energy.
A biography of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Priyappetta Gabo by R V M Divakaran has also been brought out by Mathrubhumi books. What is different is that this is not a translation or an adaptation, but a fresh and fairly well-written biography with rare photographs. After all, Malayali readers accepted Marquez as one of their own right from the ’70s. M N Karasseri’s book of essays on religion and politics starts being controversial with its very title which is Islamika Rashtriyam Vimarsikkapedunnu. He begins by differentiating between Islamic politics and Muslim politics and goes on to discuss a whole lot of troublesome topics including Hussein in Ramarajya. As always, Karasseri’s prose is clear and unequivocal and a pleasure to read.
Two well-loved figures in Malayalam writing are being showered with well-deserved awards. Dr M Leelavathi, critic and scholar, has received the Ezhuthachan Award among others recently. And poet Sri Vishnunarayanan Namboodiri has received the Vayalar Award, the Vallathol Award and the Mathrubhumi award among others.
A column by Ashtamoorthi in Janayugam caught my eye. He writes about three houses, one is the house already written about by Chandramathi, the other two are houses the columnist visits — one a house of mourning with a solitary occupant and the other a house teeming with people. But in both houses, the loneliness created by the absence of loved ones is evident.