Kerala: From the library of God’s Own Countr...

Kerala: From the library of God’s Own Country

featured image for god's own country, Kerala

A long shoreline with serene beaches, tranquil stretches of emerald backwaters, lush hill stations and exotic wildlife, are just a few of the wonders. Most of the state is engulfed in rich greenery which ensures a very calming experience at all times. Bestowed with a pleasant and equable climate throughout the year, Kerala is a tropical land where one can relax and be at ease.

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Kerala isn’t just a destination; it’s a saga of experiences, and you can live through this saga via these books here!

Title: Moustache
Author: S. Hareesh
Translator: Jayasree Kalathil
Publisher: Harper Perennial India

Blurb: Vavachan is a Pulayan who gets the opportunity to play a policeman with an immense moustache in a musical drama. The character appears in only two scenes and has no dialogue. However, Vavachan’s performance, and his moustache, terrify the mostly upper-caste audience, reviving their memories of characters of Dalit power, such as Ravanan.

Afterwards, Vavachan, whose people were traditionally banned from growing facial hair, refuses to shave off his moustache. Endless tales invent and reinvent the legend of his magic moustache in which birds roost, which allows its owner to appear simultaneously in different places and disappear in an instant, which grows as high as the sky and as thick as rainclouds—and turn Vavachan into Moustache, a figure of mythic proportions.

Originally published in Malayalam as Meesha, S. Hareesh‘s Moustache is a contemporary classic mixing magic, myth and metaphor into a tale of far-reaching resonance.

Price: Rs. 389 || Pages: 360

Title: Antigod’s Own Country: A Short History of Brahminical Colonisation of Kerala
Author: A. V. Sakthidharan
Publisher: Navayana

Blurb: What is the history of those depicted as asuras in India? What happens when Adivasi, Dravidian, Buddhist and Dalit narratives, with their egalitarian spirituality, confront an invasive Brahminism? What is the counter-narrative to the ritually re-enacted murders of Mahishasura, Ravana and Bali? Is the trouble over Sabarimala merely about unrepentant patriarchy?

Antigod’s Own Country reveals the histories that are contested in the South Indian state of Kerala. At the centre of the story, A.V. Sakthidharan charts the asura king, Mahabali, whose subjugation—commemorated annually as Onam—became symbolic of the fate of the first peoples of the state in the face of Aryan domination.

Price: Rs. 168 || Pages: 186

Title: A Preface to Man
Author: Subhash Chandran
Translator: Fathima E.V.
Publisher: Harper Perennial India

Blurb: Ann Marie reads fragments of her dead husband’s unfinished book, and the many love letters he sent her, and in them the social and political events of the time. As she ponders the writing and the years that the brilliant Jithendran squandered working for a toy company that makes drum-playing monkeys, the narrative gives way to the sweeping saga of a village by the river Periyar. Grappling with issues of equality, love, caste, religion and politics, Thachanakkara is a microcosm of twentieth-century Kerala.

Told through the history of three generations of a feudal Nair family, this sprawling story is reminiscent of the craft of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s A Hundred Years of Solitude and has the scale of Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Those Days. A Preface to Man is an artistic meditation on human existence and is a contemporary classic.

Price: Rs. 374 || Pages: 480

Title: The Man Who Learnt to Fly But Could Not Land
Author: Thachom Poyil Rajeevan
Translator: P.J. Mathew
Publisher: Hachette India

Blurb: Born into a family of rural wealth and near-feudal influence in a village nestled in British Malabar, Koyiloth Thazhe Narayanan Kottoor knows little of want. But as a patriotic fervour grips the country in the last decades of the Raj, a veritable avalanche of new ideas and ideals shapes the young KTN. As he grows from a boy who takes to writing not only as art but also as a tool of social change, to an activist enamoured of varying philosophies and enmeshed in India’s freedom struggle, he grapples with hardship, love, lust and a search for meaning in a reality that forever disappoints. His is a tale both deeply personal and political – tracing a web of caste, sexuality and ideology, while also navigating the struggles of a man coming to terms with himself as a writer and as an individual.

Award-winning author Thachom Poyil Rajeevan weaves a magical almost-biography of a fictional writer, one inhabited by goddesses and ghosts, a fortune-telling parrot, dead humans in the avatar of crows, and a blind woman who hears – and sees – better than anyone else.

Price: Rs. 289 || Pages: 336

Title: Chemmeen: The Enduring Classic
Author: T.S. Pillai
Translator: Anita Nair
Publisher: Penguin India

Blurb: First published in 1956, Chemmeen tells the story of the relationship between Karutthamma, a Hindu woman from the fisherfolk community, and Pareekkutty, the son of a Muslim fish wholesaler. Unable to live with the man she loves, Karutthamma marries Palani, who, despite the scandal about his wife’s past, never stops trusting her, a trust that is reaffirmed each time he goes to sea and comes back safe since the ‘sea-mother’ myth among the fishermen community goes that the safe return of a fisherman depends on the fidelity of his wife. Then, one night, Karutthamma and Pareekkutty meet and their love is rekindled while Palani is at sea, baiting a shark…

The hugely successful novel was adapted into a film of the same name and won critical acclaim and commercial success. Anita Nair‘s evocative translation brings this classic of Indian literature to a new generation that hasn’t had the opportunity to savour this tale of love and longing.

Price: Rs. 278 || Pages: 276

Title: The Legends of Khasak
Author: O.V. Vijayan
Publisher: Penguin India

Blurb: A restlessness born of guilt and despair leads Ravi to embark on a journey that ends in the remote village of Khasak in the picturesque Palghat countryside in Kerala. A land from the past, potent with dreams and legends, enfolds the traveller in a powerful and unsettling embrace. Ravi is bewitched and entranced as everything around him—the villagers; their children whom he teaches in a makeshift school; the elders who see him as a threat; the toddy-tappers; the shamans—takes on the quality of myth. And then reality, painful and threatening, begins to intrude on the sojourner’s resting place and Ravi begins to understand that there is no escape from the relentless dictates of karma. Often poetic and dark, always complex and rich, The Legends of Khasak, O.V. Vijayan’s much-acclaimed first novel, translated into English by the author, is an extraordinary achievement.

Price: Rs. 214 || Pages: 208

Title: Agnisakshi
Author: Lalithambika Antharjanam
Publisher: Oxford University Press

Blurb: Agnisakshi (meaning, Fire, My Witness) is a Malayalam novel written by Lalithambika Antharjanam. Originally serialised in Mathrubhumi Illustrated Weekly, it was published as a book by Current Books in 1976. It tells the story of a Nambudiri woman, who is drawn into the struggle for social and political emancipation but cannot easily shake off the chains of tradition that bind her. The novel was concerned with implied criticism of aspects of social structure and behaviour. Agnisakshi was Lalithambika Antarjanam’s only novel. She was famous for her short stories and poems. She wrote this novel in her old age. It has become something of a classic in Malayalam fiction.

Price: Rs. 695 || Pages: 208

Title: Othappu: The Scent of the Other Side
Author: Sarah Joseph
Translator: Valson Thampu
Publisher: Oxford University Press

Blurb: Othappu is about a woman’s yearning for a true understanding of spirituality and her own sexuality. The novel is a powerful indictment of the hypocrisy that plagues Christianity in many parts of the Subcontinent. Othappu unfolds at many levels to critique notions of class, caste, antiquity, and prestige that have, over time, eroded the power of the first church. The detailed Introduction by Jancy James provides rare insights into the work and skilfully sketches the social history of Kerala, the location of the novel. Two special inclusions—Paul Zacharia on the different meanings of ‘othappu’ and a dialogue between the author and Githa Hiranyan–lend fresh perspectives to the work.

Price: Rs. 545 || Pages: 320

This list of books is curated by Amritesh Mukherjee for Purple Pencil Project’s Instagram.

Anshika's existence revolves around books, caffeine, and Hindi songs (Bollywood and indie). When not reading, she'll be trying to persuade other people to either read A Suitable Boy or watch "tick, tick... BOOM!"


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