Saturday, March 1, 2008

Malayalam Books – non fiction

My in-laws came this week and Dad brought me some books as a gift. He probably didn’t know he got the ideal gift! All were Malayalam non-fiction. Something I hadn’t been exposed to in a long while. Was pleasantly surprised to find that every single one of the books were good and gave me something to think about. Dad mentioned that they were selected by a priest friend of his who is also an avid reader. I am laying two of these books out here so if any of you wanted to get a Malayalam fix of quality you can go for these.

I had heard a lot about Balachandran Chullikkadu. Mostly that he is a poet and remember pictures of him with medusa like hair and stuff. Had read some of his poems when I was probably too young for them as I didn’t understand much. So I had ignored him as a most modern poet. Reading his book now I can’t imagine why I would give him such a label. Even in prose his poetic nature comes through. Although his memoirs – at least quite a few of them – are not what I would want to dwell on much, the beauty of the language cannot be ignored. Because Malayalam is infused with commonly used English words whose native equivalents are not easy to digest, it is difficult for writers to use pure Malayalam without having these ‘outstanding’ English words in them. Chullikkadu has no such problems. Language flows effortlessly for him even when describing the crudest parts. I didn’t catch it at first as I started the book with a prejudged mind. But over time I was so engrossed in the beautiful usage of words that I was floored. He even has some poetic lines of his in there. The one that affected me the most was the description of his thoughts that came out during the death of his estranged father. One simply cannot ignore the force of his language that slowly gets you…I used to love OV Vijayan who is my favorite prolific Malayalam writer that I believe has an extraordinary talent with Malayalam word flow. This one comes pretty close.

Neermathalam Poothakalam
Written by the world renowned poetess and writer Madhavikkutti/Kamala Das. Her English poems are known around the world. She has written a book in English with Andrew Arkin that has her prose as well as poems and is available from Dad was saying that she is known to be a little off in the head these days and my answer to that was “but that does not matter because if you read her books you will feel like respectfully prostrating before her”J This book is a classic example. It is her childhood memories and comes out haphazardly. But you hardly notice. It mostly touches the people in her childhood connected to the many Nair ancestral families that are networked with her own famous Nalappatt family. She also reminisces about her uncle the famous poet Nalappatt Narayana Menon. It does not go too much into detail about her equally famous Mother and poetess Balamaniamma most likely because they did not spend much time together. A blessed writer of both Malayalam and English whose calibre stands up well with any other good writer in the world.