“Smarakasilakal,” authored by Punathil Kunjabdulla in 1977, is a Malayalam novel that unfolds within the backdrop of a mosque and its surroundings. The central figure is Khan Bahadur Pookkoya Thangal, a distinguished member of the affluent Arakkal family, characterized by a unique amalgamation of dignity, benevolence, and insatiable lust. In his autobiography “Nashtajathakam,” Kunjabdulla reflects on the genesis of “Smarakasilakal,” tracing its origins back to a screening of Satyajit Ray’s “Pather Panchali” in Aligarh. Conceived on a broad canvas, the novel emerged from childhood impressions of his hometown and its people in pre-independent Malabar. Many characters in the narrative find inspiration in real-life individuals from his hometown.

Regarded as Kunjabdulla’s magnum opus, “Smarakasilakal” holds a distinct position in the author’s literary oeuvre. In an interview, he asserted that it stands as his singular novel, with subsequent works representing variations with some modifications. The novel received critical acclaim, earning the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 1978 and the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1980. By February 2013, over 65,000 copies had been sold. Kunjabdulla’s fictional craft distinguishes itself historically from his contemporaries, diverging from themes of the ultimate futility of human life, exploring instead the complexities of death and emptiness.

Punathil Kunjabdulla has secured a place among Malayalam authors. His writing, though simple, intricately paints a vivid picture of people and places, evoking a strong sense of humor and mockery. The narrative, rather than focusing on a singular character, delves into the lives of a multitude of people in a village whose existence revolves around the zamindar Khan Bahadur Pookkoya Thangal.

Punathil Kunjabdulla, an Indian writer from Kerala, was a medical doctor by profession. Kunjabdulla, being a practitioner of the avant-garde in Malayalam literature, left behind a literary legacy comprising over 45 works, including seven novels, fifteen short story collections, memoirs, an autobiography, and travelogues. Notably, his work “Smarakasilakal” (Memorial Stones) earned recognition from both the Central and State Akademi.-WILLIAMSJI MAVELI

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