Some books leave you pondering in a pool of hollowness and the quickest way is to fill it up with hollowness. With the onset of modernism and post-modernism, there has been a surge of books that narrate tales using magical realism. Magical realism is where reality and imagination meet. To define it, it is a genre of literature in which magical elements are a normal part of a realistic setting. Here is a curated list of book suggestions that are classified based on elements of magical realism. As literature is ever-evolving and readers are bound by different philosophies and are biased to different genres, we understand that this list won’t be enough to include all our tastes but yet it’s a gentle reminder for literary enthusiasts and first-time readers to read these masterpieces of Malayalam literature.
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Khasakkinte Itihasam – O.V Vijayan
With the onset of O. V Vijayan’s literary brilliance, Khasakkinte Itihasam, Malayalam literature came to be viewed in comparison to it. While other novels were caught in the pre-Khasak and post-Khasak era, Khasak’s legacy still stands on a higher pedestal among the literary enthusiasts.
The quest for spirituality and understanding of the deeper realms of existence that arose out of guilt and shame in his past life leads Ravi to embark on a new journey into Khasak. The lives of Khasak are the meeting point of reality and magic that is served with non-cliche views. Allapicha Mollakka, Appukili, Maimuna, and several other characters weave their stories parallel to Ravi’s existence and endeavours in Khasak. Did Ravi find answers to his question or were those questions better left unanswered.?
While some of you already have words brimming, this could be a gentle reminder for the rest of you to read it.
Pandavapuram – Sethu
If reality and imagination were meant to be a binary that co-existed, then Pandavapuram is an apt example. This modernist novel in Malayalam artistically culminates reality and imagination in a way that becomes an inseparable entity. Devi, the central character of the novel takes us through a fantastical narrative of her life and her imaginative love affair. In a patriarchal world where space for women is always measured and kept on an estimate, Devi goes on to create a world for herself in the deepest realms of her imagination which is devoid of boundaries.
Is she able to create a different world for herself? What would be the consequence of seeking the forbidden fruit of pleasure? Sethu’s brilliant portrayal may or may not answer these questions (you will have to find it out yourselves). Pandavapuram is definitely a good read.
Meesha – S. Hareesh
As the title suggests, Vavachan’s Meesha or Moustache is the fulcrum around which the plot revolves. Yet the revolution of the plot is unlike the normal, studded with magical elements and fable-like storytelling that keeps the readers on the hook. Meesha acts as a metaphorical tool, a one-time ticket that gives the fortune of travelling up the social hierarchy for Vavachan who belongs to the pulaya community. S. Hareesh attempts to paint a true picture of casteist atrocities in the society that creates unwanted fissures that divides people.
However, his portrayal of women in the novel underwent severe criticism from the readers. The layered narrative and storytelling technique that treasures the magical moustache and numerous fantasy creatures give the readers scope for catharsis.
Yakshi – Malayattoor Ramakrishnan
In a world of normalities, Malayattoor Ramakrishnan’s novel Yakshi narrates the story through the abnormalities of an unstable mind. Every time a page is turned we are caught in a chain of thoughts, where we are unable to differentiate between normality and abnormality. Fact and myth, normality and abnormality, life and death, and several other paradoxes keep the readers on the hook.
The novel initiates with the introduction of Sreenivasan, a chemistry lecturer who lost half his face due to an accident in a chemistry lab. Research on Yakshis, the sensuous bloodthirsty creatures that woe men, becomes his source of escape from the secluded life in the mental asylum. With the arrival of Ragini, a beautiful mysterious woman, Sreenivasan’s life undergoes yet another revival. Caught in the pangs of love, Sreenivasan marries Ragini. The mystery around Ragini becomes intense in the course of time, leaving the narrator with questions about Ragini’s past and existence. The answer to the question ‘who is Ragini’ might not be direct as you speculate. Why don’t you pick up this novel and find it out yourself?
Manushyanu Oru Aamukham – Subhash Chandran
Subhash Chandran is a much-acclaimed writer in Malayalam short story and novel genre. A preface to Man (Manushyanu Oru Aamugham) is one of the best books in Malayalam. The novel starts during the 1920s and ends around the 2020s. The author narrates the story of three generations and it is stuffed with morals and sins in balance. Not at all a fast read, but never a boring one.
This book is set in four important stages of man’s life – Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. The author traces the various traits of the socio-economic-political scenario of Kerala from the early 20th century to the present day. Each chapter begins with a philosophical thought set out in the letters of the protagonist to his fiance, the story of the aristocratic Nair family of Naara Pillai and his progeny is also brought to light in this novel. The novel also shares a resemblance to Marquez’s 100 years of solitude. The story, however, loiters around the caste system that prevailed in Kerala, the rise of communism, the gulf migration, and present-day nuclear families living in apartments, making it the personal favourite of many readers.
So what are you waiting for? Grab a copy of at least one of these books and start savouring the beauty of Malayalam literature explored through the lens of magical realism. Also, a gentle reminder for those who are overwhelmed by reading anxiety, don’t force yourself to read something because of the popularity or suggestion. When the clouds are clear, you can find yourself lying on the greens and turning the pages.
Happy reading y’all!