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Creativity and Reality

N. Sivaraman

By Azhagia Periavan
Tamilini, Chennai, 2000, pp. 128, Rs. 50.00


Azhagia Periavan (Aravindhan) is one of the young Dalit writers in Tamil who claim attention for their authentic and honest portrayal of the life of the oppressed classes. The portrayal is, on occasions, too real and raw to be art, and a conscious process of transformation of the raw material into finished product might have made the stories richer and given the writer also a kind of training in critical intelligence. One must, however, quickly add that there is critical intelligence in Azhagia Periavan, but deliberation on questions of choice, repetition, and tone would have definitely carried his work beyond doubt into the realm of creative achievement. A good writer is better because of the exercise of his critical powers.   The collection, Theettu (December, 2000), has thirteen stories, seven of which were published in various journals from May 1997 to October 1999. Two of the short novels—Theettu and Kuri—have won awards in the competition conducted by Kanaiyazhi for short novels. In his commitment to his dalit identity and cause, he exhibits extraordinary sensitivity to life—his early life, as the blurb points out— and language, but dilutes art with open sympathy. In the second story, Poovarasampoo Peepee, Rathinam returns to his native village after many years, as part of a mission to propagate equality and eradicate caste (p. 41) vows retribution in the end, just before he leaves the village (p. 48). Such confrontations, though not contrived, weaken the artistic tension the story has successfully built up. Even without the last nine lines the story would rest on the strength of the authentic recollection of childhood joy, pain, humiliation and helplessness. His readiness to speak through the central character for the dalit cause makes the end of the story loud. Children, with their innocence, dreams are another compelling presence in his stories. Their joys, quarrels and yearnings are set off against the self-seeking exploitation of the dehumanized adult world.   The title story, Theetu, an ambitious and reasonably successful attempt at capturing the eventful but sad life of Kamatchi, who falls (Does it not have the tragic dimension of the fall of a great hero of epic magnitude?) from the already poor life of the wife of a casual labourer to the misery of a resistant, reluctant and unwilling prostitute, and finally a woman soliciting men—for money—and a mad woman, is a compression of a long life. The short novel, loaded with ...

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