Our literary experience is polished to its fineness only when we take our reading journey beyond the borders of our own state.
Translation is a huge boon for readers who aren’t multilingual. Exploring regional writing introduces us to distinctive cultures, traditions and history. Besides, it’s good for the reader’s mind to have an occasional change in perspective, right?
Malayalam literature has carved itself a niche in the literary world through its unprecedented and ingenious narrative styles. Among the thresholds, one can find simplistic works, microcosmic narratives and unforgettable tales that never fail to captivate the readers.
Although it’s almost impossible to pick just five from the vast treasury of Keralite authors, here are some hand-picked titles that I would suggest, some on my TBR and some I’ve read:
1. Goat Days (Aadujeevitham) by Benyamin
Inspired by a true story, Goat Days tells the story of the life of an abused migrant worker trapped in the Arabian deserts. It’s the kind of book that you get emotionally invested in; words that stir empathy, tensed plot twists and memorable characters. Pick this up only if you have the strength to bear a breath-taking story.
2. Childhood Friend (Balyakalasakhi) by V.M. Basheer
Apart from being a romance in a village setting, this book is also a coming-of-age story of Majid and Suhara- two best friends from childhood and how they gradually drift apart as life takes its course. This work is perhaps the most loved of Basheer’s work because of its simple yet heart-wrenching tale. Personally, I regard Balyakalasakhi as an evergreen romance; one that cannot be replaced by any other.
3. Hangwoman: Everyone loves a Good Hanging (Aaraachar) by K. R. Meera
K.R. Meera is a fearless and accomplished writer from Kerala. She introduces bold and poignant women through her novels. Hangwoman, regarded as a contemporary classic, tells a rather eccentric story of a family of executioners with a long lineage, beginning in the fourth century BC. A book perfect for a long, engaging read.
4. The Legends of Khasak (Khasakkinte Ithihasam) by O.V. Vijayan
One of the most unforgettable works written in Malayalam, Khasakkinte Ithihasam continues to mesmerize its readers even after five decades of its first publication. Apart from the plot, this book is esteemed by critics and readers alike for its unique writing style. The village Thasarak, the setting of the novel, has a microcosm of its own, which is what makes the book stand out from other novels of its genre.
5. The Ivory Throne: Chronicles of the House of Travancore by Manu. S. Pillai
A historical non-fiction written in English, The Ivory Throne is a biography of Sethu Lekshmi Bhai covering her life during her reign in the House of Travancore. The title of the book itself got me hooked! If you have a keen interest in reading about the history of royal families, then this book is definitely for you!