Literature’, as the dictionary meaning says, is “The writings of a period, language, or country, especially those kept alive by their beauty of style or thought”. In simple terms, it is anything constructed from a meaningful arrangement of words
The story of Malayalam literature can be associated simultaneously with the origin of Malayalam itself. The first recorded evidence of its literature is dated back to 13th century. Malayalam is often referred to as a poetic language. The language is affluent in every genre of literature. Although each successive generation has added its own contribution to Malayalam literature, the ancient texts are still influential. Due to the lack of printed medium, the literature of ancient period reached their audience through performances like dramas, art forms like Kathakali, Ottenthullal, Koodiattam etc. and through recitation like indigenous ballads and folk songs. It also found its way to the younger generations in the form of bedtime stories. Apart from indigenous literary works, translations from other languages have further enriched the Malayalam literature
Thunchath Ezhuthachchan is considered as the ‘Father of Malayalam Literature’. His works like the Adhyathmaramayanam, Bhagavatham, Ramayanam etc..
remain as the classics of Malayalam literature. The style of poetry which he popularised is known as ‘Kilippattu’. Ezhuthachan along with Kunjan Nambiyar and Cherussery were the most influential poets of the past. Three of them collectively is known as ‘The Great Trio (mahakavitrayam)’ of the past (earlier period). Their contribution to the development of the language is incomparable and will be long cherished. Many of the literary works of the time still remain unrivaled and will remain so
Because many of the rulers of the period were patrons of art and literature, literary and artistic works were always appreciated and rewarded. A number of poets adorned the courts of these rulers. Irayimman Thampi’s ‘Omana thinkal kidavo…. ‘ is one of the best lullabies ever created. N. Kumaranaasan, Vallathol Narayana Menon and S. Parameswara Iyer are together known as ‘The Great Trio’ of the modern (later) period. They revitalise and further enriched Malayalam literature with their contributions. G Shankarakkurup is the first recepient of the Gyanpith Award, one of the highest recognitions for literary work in India. He was followed by Thakazhi, S. K. Pottekkad and M.T. Vasudevan Nair to win this honor
With the advent of the Europeans, Malayalam literature saw colossal changes, both in its style and language. It was greatly influenced by western literature. By the mid 19th century christian missionaries like Benjamin Bailey and Herman Gundert published dictionaries and grammer books. Gundert setup the first printing press in Kerala at Kottayam. The improvement in printed media helped the literary works reach the comman man and hence popularising it
Under the benison of a resourceful array of poets and authors, the modern Malayalam literature is fast ahead in its class, style and quality, than any other Indian language. Poets of the modern time include Changumpuzha Krishnapilla, Vyiloppilly Sridhara Menon, O.N.V. Kurup, N.V Krishan Warrier, Vayalar Rama Varma etc… Apart from them authors like Kesavadev, Thakazhi Sivashankara Pillai, Vaikom Muhammad Bashir, Ponkunnam Varkey, M.T Vasudavan Nair, O.V Vijayan, S.K. Pottakkad, P.C. Kuttikrishnan and dramatists like E.V. Krishna Pillai, Thoppil Bhasi, T.N Gopinathan Nair, K.T Muhammad etc… have made valuable contributions to the enrichment of literature. In addition to them, critics like P.K. Narayana Pillai, Kuttikrisha Marar, M.V. Paul, S. Guptan Nair, Joseph Mundassery, and authors from various other branches futher enriched the Malayalam Literature
Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (b. 1912)
started off as a small-town lawyer but took to full time writing later and won himself the Sahitya Akademi Award (1957), Soviet Land-Nehru Award (1975) and Jnanpith Award (1984). His Chemmeen (The Shrimps) is one of the few works of fiction in an Indian language to gain worldwide recognition. The novel has been translated in all the major Indian languages and also in quite a few foreign languages. The film version of Chemmeen received the President’s Gold Medal in 1966
M. T. Vasudevan Nair (b. 1933)
The famous Malayalam story-writer, novelist and editor has to his credit a number of fine films as well: he has written the script for a number of outstanding films besides having directed a few. Winner of several awards including the Jnanpith, Vasudevan nair, popularly known as M. T., burst into the literary scene with his maiden work, Nalukettu (the ancestral home of a Nair joint family), followed by Asuravithu (Asuravittu; Demon’s seed: the son born to undo the family). The latter novel, written in a prose with poetic quality, bears the stamp of his genius, his mastery in subtle delineation of characters with great psychological insight
O. V. Vijayan (b. 1931)
is undoubtedly the pioneer of modern fiction in Malayalam. A cartoonist, novelist and short-story writer, Vijayan has to his credit five novels, including Khasakkinte Itihasam (The Saga of Khasak, 1969), Dharmapuranam (The Saga of Dharmapuri, 1985) and Pravachakante Vazhi (The Way of the Prophet, 1993) besides many collections of short stories and articles and a book on his own masterpiece, Itihasathinte Itihasam (The Story of the Saga). Vijayan who started his career as lecturer in Kerala, soon opted for full-time journalism and making cartoons
T. Padmanabhan (b. 1931)
a distinguished short-story writer in Malayalam, has been writing since 1948, except for a brief period between 1963 to 1969. He has been credited with bringing the modern Malayalam short story nearer to the subjective intensity of the lyric. Many of his works have been translated into various Indian and foreign languages. It was when the short story reached a saturation point as a result of the repeated depiction of romantic idealism and social commitment that T. Padmanabhan emerged on the scene with a unique and highly individualistic idiom. Among his major works are Prakasam Parathunna Oru Penkutti (A Girl Who Spreads Radiance, 1955), Oru Kathakrittu Kurishil (A Story writer on the Cross, 1956), Makhan Singhinte Maranam (The Death of Makhan Singh, 1958) , Kala Bhairavan and Gouri (1993).
Madhavikutty (b. 1932)
is the pen-name adopted by Kamala Das in her Malayalam writings. Though internationally renowned for her spirited poems in English, Kamala Das nee Madhavikutty has penned some brilliant short stories in her mother tongue. Her pseudonym represents the more intense and confessional self of this feminist writer. Her stories first appeared on the Malayalam literary scene in the 1950s, and later more frequently, in the sixties. She unleashed in them the pent-up world of female urges, frustrations and wild sexual fantasies, thus exposing the raw side of human identity. Madhavikutty’s focus has always been on the tormented female self craving for love, but doomed to be cheated, exploited and abandoned. She replaced the self-pity that was a staple element of conventional women’s stories with a subversive, vengeful imagination that demythified love, sex and even death. Her principal works include Naricheerukal Parakkumbol (When Bats Fly, 1960), Thanuppu (Cold, 1967), Madhavikuttiyude Kathakal (The Short Stories of Madhavikutty, 1982), and Neypayasam (Rice Pudding, 1991) and Ente Katha (My Story).