Thursday, June 20, 2024
Writers Cave



Malayalam writer and cartoonist O V Vijayan - SahityakalpThe Legends Of Khasak - Penguin Random House India

First published in 1969, this novel has experienced over 50 reprints, solidifying its status as one of the best-selling books in Asia. Prominent Malayalam Novelist O.V. Vijayan translated the work into English under the title “The Legends of Khasak,” a task he took on himself. The novel has further been translated into French and German. The narrative follows the tumultuous journey of the protagonist, Ravi, burdened by the guilt of engaging in an illicit affair with his stepmother. Attempting a comprehensive review proves challenging for a book of such intricacy. In a mere 163 pages, Vijayan masterfully weaves a tale set in the mythical village of Khasak, situated near mid-20th century Palghat. The narrative introduces a captivating ensemble of characters inhabiting this place rich in myths and legends.
Described as a novel that operates on multiple levels, it explores themes such as old versus new, history versus modernity, rationality versus myth, and concepts like journey, guilt, redemption, and religion. Despite my limited ability to grasp subtleties, discernible layers include the clash between tradition and progress, embodied by the protagonist Ravi, a highly educated physicist. Ravi’s disenchantment with life, stemming from an incestuous affair, leads him on a purposeless journey to Khasak. Entrusted with establishing the village’s first single-teacher primary school, Ravi becomes a harbinger of modernity in Khasak’s storied history. Unexpectedly, the village embraces this change without conditions or judgments, setting Khasak apart.
The novel places significant emphasis on visual settings, expertly conveying the ambiance of Khasak—the swaying palm trees, the Chethali mountain with Sheikh Miyan Syed’s shrine overlooking the village—all as crucial as characters. The sounds, particularly the unique slangs spoken by the diverse people of Khasak, add an authentic script-like quality to the narrative. However, the true essence of the story lies in the multitude of characters populating Khasak—Allapicha Mollakka, the Khaliyar, Appukkili, Shivaraman Nair, Madhavan Nair, Maimuna, and others. The children attending Ravi’s school also leave an indelible mark. The stories emanating from these characters evoke a range of emotions, from nostalgia to sadness to laughter. By the story’s conclusion, Ravi, initially perceived as bringing enlightenment to the backwaters of civilization, discovers that he learns far more than he imparts, a sentiment that resonates with the readers.

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