Vinoy Thomas
Penguin India
January 15, 2023
Final Verdict

About the Author

VINOY THOMAS hails from Nellikkampoyil, Iritty, in north Kerala. A schoolteacher by profession, he is one of the most promising young writers in Malayalam. His short-story collections include Ramachi, Mullaranjanam and Adiyormisiha Enna Novel. His debut novel, Karikkottakkary (English translation soon to be published by Penguin Random House India) was selected as one of the five best novels in the DC Books competition. His second novel, Puttu (Anthill), won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for the best Malayalam novel of 2021. In 2019, Ramachi had won the same award for short stories. Vinoy has also authored a children’s book, Anatham Piriyatham. His short stories have been made into movies. He is also a gifted scriptwriter and has to his credit a few acclaimed movies.

About the Translator

Nandakumar K.

NANDAKUMAR K. is a Dubai-based translator. His co-translation of M. Mukundan’s Delhi Gadhaka
(Delhi: A Soliloquy) won the 2021 JCB Prize for Literature. His other translations include A Thousand Cuts, the autobiography of Professor T.J. Joseph, which won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award; The Lesbian Cow and Other Stories by Indu Menon; and In the Name of the Lord, the autobiography of Sr Lucy Kalapura. Nandakumar is the grandson of Mahakavi Vallathol Narayana Menon.

Anthill by Vinoy Thomas- Ties in the name of Cultural Society, Family, and Religion

Haritha T Chandran reviews Vinoy Thomas’s Anthill (Published by Penguin India, 2023) originally written in Malayalam and translated into English by Nandakumar K.

In the Anthill, Vinoy Thomas’s world of Perumpadi is extremely reminiscent of the tantalizing tale of the early settlers of Macondo in Gabriel Garcia Marques’s one hundred years of solitude. If you have been craving a book to consume after devouring 100 years, you are at the right place.

Remnants of a clan running from their transgressions and tribulations settle themselves down in the inhospitable valley of Perumpadi, with the yearning to escape the moralistic jurisdiction of the unforgiving gaze of Malayali society.

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The Storytelling by Vinoy Thomas

Away from the petrifying gaze of customs and civility, Chinna and her son Paul (who would later be called Paul Sir with reverence ), running from disgrace Paul brought into the family for his cannabis abuse, settle down in the outskirts of Kannur called Perumpadi along with thirteen or fourteen families who had already established their base in the crude landscape.

Amidst the cannabis fever dream, the village bourgeoned and flourished. Among the bilimbi trees multiplying with little effort and fertilizers, a populous untouched by trivialities of morals thrived.

Recommended Reads: Ministhy S on translating Malayalam novels, Ramacharitmanas, and more.

But soon, Paul Sir and ebbs of morality found the unperturbed ecotype. Mediating and settling the quarrels of the natives of Perumpadi became the prime interest of Paul Sir. Miscreant turned moralist Paul sir, placated and quenched the social disturbances sprouting in the village with great dexterity.

Perumpadians, never known to dig up another’s past or try to discover their provenance, found themselves in the hot water of disputes born within the village. Goddess Bhavani to MP Chathunni Nambiar found themselves molded by the willpower of Paul Sir and his succeeder Jeremias.

The Characters

The novel is rich and bursting with characters and brimming with tales of atypical and primordial existence. The novel carries a carnivalesque spirit, the characters push back against the shackles of virtue and the stories are no less strange than a fairy tale ( a gross one, that is). But the reader is soon annulled of moral restraints.

Your ears soon adapt to the dazzling cacophony that Vinoy Thomas drops you in. The reader slowly forgo their moral prejudices and learn the logic of the village. But the reader, along with the villagers, is maneuvered and molded by the moral compass of Paul Sir, who drags us back to reality.

Trouble was brewing on the horizon for the villagers. Seeds of destruction are sowed with Jeremias’s objection to the wedding of Neeru, the librarian and the Guardian of the long-discarded village library, and the subsequent marriage of her to Jeremias’s closeted son. The turbulence of morality that flowed through the village would soon meet its end in the most catastrophic turn of events.

Vinoy Thomas’s Perumpadi is stubbornly Andros-centric, as observable when the writer proclaims,

“…., there was no romance other than the instinct to mate”.

The world is perceived through the eyes of men. The crux of the workings of the world operates and is fueled by the insatiable urge of selfishness and lust.

Even the women in the world of Vinoy Thomas wield the world with the vigor of a man’s spirit. In the writer’s defense, the women tethered to a society configured within patriarchalism operate in the man’s ways and the realistic portrayal of women in a man’s world would approximate to what Thomas presents in the book.

The resemblance of the premise of the novel to that of the popular Malayalam movie Churuli, directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery, adds an intrinsic depth of unreason to the stories.

Vinoy Thomas

The novel by Vinoy Thomas re-poses the notion of a kind of quaint circularity of human civilization. A consort of people who escaped the moral burdens of Kerala society find themselves smothered in societal burdens that gradually tighten the noose around their necks.

Perumpadi natives, with the uncanny metaphor of ants and anthills, are declared to be doomed just as all civilization that strives to transgress the norms is.

Anthill is a spectacular read filled with characters the author portrays with authenticity. The book delves into the core of the patriarchal and androcentric society of Kerala with much ease and caliber. The book aptly awarded the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award, is a book worth delving into.

Favorite quote

Wife, husbands, children, grandchildren, father, mother, sibling- what relationship do they all have with one another than membership of humanity? What relationship do humans have among themselves beyond having the kind of social life ants do?

Vinoy Thomas in Anthill

Have you read this heartwrenching tale  that questions the veneer
of respectability people try to put up in their lives? What do you think of it? Drop a comment below and let us know!

Haritha T Chandran

Haritha T Chandran

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