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K. Satchidanandan

By M.T. Vasudevan Nair Translated from the Malayalam by V. Abdulla
Orient Longman, New Delhi, 2004, pp. 192, Rs. 230.00


M.T. Vasudevan Nair entered the short story scene in Malayalam when it was being dominated by the progressive realists who had wanted to draw their readers’ attention to the social ills around. The characters in their stories were more often social types than individuals with selves and lives of their own. Their focus was on the social content; they paid little attention to form and idiom though they did, perhaps unwittingly, enrich the linguistic potential of Malayalam literature by introducing a variety of dialects and community speech forms. Vaikom Mohamed Basheer and P. C. Kuttikrishnan (Uroob) were two outstanding exceptions to this general trend. While their stories did have a socially relevant point to make, their characters were authentic individuals and they were careful about the architectonics of short fiction.   M.T. Vasudevan Nair, along with his contemporaries like T. Patmanabhan and Madhavikkuty (Kamala Das), took this trend to its logical conclusion by bringing in greater inwardness and subjectivity and by making the stories subtler and their prose, more lyrical. Their characters are mostly solitary individuals caught in moments of introspection. The focus was not so much on the external event as on the inner turmoil of the characters who carried the burden of guilt, discontent or alienation. In the process of introspection, they also unmask themselves and stand before the reader as before a mirror, shorn off their airs. They are hardly social stereotypes; they seldom pontificate. We hear them not from platforms even if in their outer lives they happen to be bureaucrats, entrepreneurs or public figures; it is their souls that speak to us, mostly in whispers, about their most private agonies, personal failures, disappointments, their own deceptive appearances.   The story thus becomes more monologic than dialogic, at times assuming the form of confessions or intimate revelations seldom shared with others, even with their own life-partners. They seem to trust the readers more than those around them; this is how they enter the readers’ minds until their unrealized dreams and unconfessed sins begin to haunt them. They do not ask the readers to repeat their slogans and follow them in a procession, but they demand to be just heard, understood, sympathized, forgiven. In a sense, their characters were the prototypes of the characters in the later ‘modernist fiction’ of say O.V. Vijayan, Anand, M. Mukundan, Kakkanadan, Sethu, Paul Zacharia and others who dealt with the ...

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