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A perception of life

R. MADHAVAN NAIR

K.P. Ramanunni on his new book `Jeevithathinte Pusthakam.'


There were moments when I thought I just did not have the skills to write a good novel

PHOTO: S. Ramesh Kurup

HIS STORY: K.P. Ramanunni's new book is a celebration of an alternative lifestyle.

When K.P. Ramanunni, published his first novel, `Sufi Paranja Katha' (What the Sufi Said), everyone thought the author would churn out novel after novel in the years to come. After all he had resigned his job to become a full-time writer. But it took nearly four years for Ramanunni to produce his next novel, `Charamavarshikam' (Death Anniversary). And five years more to write his latest novel `Jeevithathinte Pusthakam' (The Book of Life).

The author was busy the last five years doing homework for his latest novel. He was talking to experts to glean information about amnesia, to Marxists to understand how their party machinery functioned and living with a group of fishermen in Kanhagad in Kasaragod to learn about their life, before he felt confident enough to sit down and write the novel.

Writing the novel was a difficult process, says Ramanunni. "I got distracted on quite a few occasions. I found myself writing essays and short stories though what I really wanted to write was this novel.

After the novel was serialised in a weekly, the book was finally released at a function in Kozhikode recently.

Award

Critics have hailed `Jeevithathinte Pusthakam' as a significant contribution to Malayalam literature though many expect it to trigger heated debates on a number of issues it has dealt with.

Ramanunni's novel `Sufi Paranja Katha' (What the Sufi Said) has already been translated into English, Tamil and Hindi and won the award of Kerala Sahithya Akademi.

Says the author about `Jeevithathinte Pusthakam,' "It is a celebration of an alternative lifestyle. What is striking about modern life is that it is devoid of celebration. It is mechanical and monotonous."

He agrees that the novel has an autobiographical flavour. The hero of `Jeevithathinte Pusthakam,' Govinda Varma Raja, is a bank employee who is fed up with his job. "I too was fed up of working at the bank,"recalls Ramanunni.

Writing the novel was such an intense personal experience that he had named one of the characters Madhvanunni. He later changed the name to Madhavankutty when M.T. Vasudevan Nair, his mentor, pointed out the striking similarity of the name of the character to that of the author and the possibilities of it triggering unintended gossip.

While the critics find `Jeevithathinte Pusthakam' to be one of the few Malayalam novels in recent times to have the breadth and reach that are characteristic of the genre, (it runs into 500 pages) its author emphasises that as in his other books, his mission was to put across his perception of life and how it should be lived.

Strong convictions

"The strength of a book should arise from the conviction of its main characters," believes Ramanunni.

In his novel, the protagonist Govinda Varma Raja is afflicted with amnesia after a train mishap and lives with a fishermen community near the place where he found himself after the accident.

Even after regaining his memory he chooses to return to that life among fishermen, refusing to return to the mechanical life that he had lived as a bank employee and as husband of a gynaecologist.

Said Ramanunni: "I finished writing `Jeevithathinte Pusthakam' almost year ago. It is time to start planning for the next one."

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