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Ottupulackal Velukkuty Vijayan
|Born||2 July 1930|
Palakkad, Malabar District, Madras Presidency, British India
|Died||30 March 2005(aged 74)|
|Occupation||Novelist, short story writer, cartoonist, journalist|
|Genre||Novel, short story, essays|
|Literary movement||Modernism, Magical realism|
|Notable awards||Padma Bhushan|
Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award
Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award
Muttathu Varkey Award
|Relatives||O. V. Usha (sister)|
Ottupulackal Velukkuty Vijayan (2 July 1930 – 30 March 2005), commonly known as O. V. Vijayan, was an Indian author and cartoonist, who was an important figure in modern Malayalam language literature. Best known for his first novel Khasakkinte Itihasam (1969), Vijayan was the author of six novels, nine short-story collections, and nine collections of essays, memoirs and reflections.
Born in Palakkad in 1930, Vijayan graduated from Victoria College in Palakkad and obtained a master's degree in English literature from Presidency College, Madras. He wrote his first short story, "Tell Father Gonsalves", in 1953. Khasakkinte Itihasam (The Legends of Khasak), Vijayan's first novel, appeared in 1969. It set off a great literary revolution and cleaved the history of Malayalam fiction into pre-Khasak and post-Khasak. While Khasakkinte Itihasam continues to be his best-known work as an angry young man, his later works, Gurusagaram (The Infinity of Grace), Pravachakante Vazhi (The Path of the Prophet) and Thalamurakal (Generations) bespeak a mature transcendentalist.
Vijayan authored many volumes of short stories, which range from the comic to the philosophical and show a diversity of situations, tones and styles. Vijayan translated most of his own works from Malayalam to English. He was also an editorial cartoonist and political observer and worked for news publications including The Statesman and The Hindu.
O. V. Vijayan was born on 2 July 1930 at Vilayanchaathanoor village in Palakkad district in Kerala. Born premature in the seventh month, Vijayan was sickly from childhood and spent most of his time confined to his room. His father O. Velukkutty was an officer in Malabar Special Police of the erstwhile Madras Province in British India. His youngest sister O. V. Usha is a Malayalam poet. As a child, Vijayan was largely homeschooled. Formal schooling began at the age of twelve, when he joined Raja's High School, Kottakkal in Malabar, directly into sixth grade. The informal education arranged by his father during his absentee years was sufficient to keep him at par with his peers. The following year, Velukkutty was transferred and Vijayan joined the school at Koduvayur in Palakkad. He graduated from Victoria College in Palakkad and obtained a master's degree in English literature from Presidency College. Vijayan taught for some time at Malabar Christian College, Kozhikode, and Victoria College before opting for journalism.
Khasakkinte Itihasam (The Legends of Khasak), Vijayan's first novel, appeared in 1969 and took twelve years' writing and rewriting to reach its final form. It set off a great literary revolution and cleaved the history of Malayalam fiction into pre-Khasak and post-Khasak eras. The former era was romantic and formal; the latter is modernist, post-modernist and post-post-modernist, with tremendous experimentation in style and content. It was serialised first and appeared in book form later. The novel is about Ravi, a teacher in an informal education centre in Khasak, and his existential crises. The central character is a great visionary in astrophysics who completed his post graduate programme in Physics from a famous college at Tambaram. The novel ends when Ravi begins his journey to some other realms of existence. The existential puzzle of man as to why he should exist is thoroughly explored in this novel. It was a kind of stepping stone for the writer himself to that world and marked the arrival of a truly visionary writer.
Dharmapuranam (The Saga of Dharmapuri, 1985) is outwardly a great political satire where the author knows no restraint in lampooning political establishments. The language, the setting, and the characters are intended to create as great as possible abhorrence towards the tools and means of governance. The central character is Sidhartha, modelled after the illustrious predecessor of the same name, who lends a supernatural enlightenment to those who are attracted by his enchanting personality. Beyond the apparent level of political meaning the novel keeps in store spiritual and environmental levels of meaning also. The novel was to be serialised in Malayalanadu from July 1975; it was advertised too but the Emergency declared on 25 June that year intervened. Neither the writer nor the editor was eager to be a martyr. The novel appeared only in 1977, after the lifting of the Emergency. What was originally a dark prophecy now appeared to be a report of what had happened. This novel also met with disapprobation from the allies of the state in different garbs; no publisher would dare touch it as the memories of the dark days of the Emergency were still fresh and they were afraid too of the possible public disapproval of its sexual-scatological language and imagery. It found a publisher only in 1985 when the tempers and fears had cooled a little. Its English translation, done by Vijayan himself and published by Penguin Books in 1987, created a storm anew on a national scale. David Selbourne, writing in The Times Literary Supplement, referred to it as "...dangerous stuff and cut close to the bone", while Khushwant Singh remarked: "Not the kind of novel you forget in a hurry." Vijayan himself described it as a cleansing act that he had no desire to repeat.
The third novel, Gurusagaram (The Infinity of Grace, 1987) differs in language, vision and characterisation from the earlier works. It is on the immanence of Guru in the life of the seeker. Guru is everywhere and is manifested in everybody. The seeker partakes of the grace of the Guru as he happens for him unawares and unconditional. The central character is a journalist from Kerala, working in Delhi, going on an assignment to report the Indo-Pak war of 1971. He undergoes an excruciating experience both spiritually and physically to learn how to annihilate all forms of ego. Gurusagaram fetched him the Vayalar Award, the central Sahitya Akademi Award and the Kerala Sahithya Academy Award in 1991.
Madhuram Gayathi (1990) has been termed as "a fantastic allegory fusing mythology, spirituality and ecology". It is an allegorical fable of the post-Holocaust world with its lovelessness and disharmony. Pravachakante Vazhi (The Path of the Prophet; 1992) emphasises the vision that intuition is perennial and it is one and the same always. This oneness of the revelation makes the ways of all prophets the same. This great education in spirituality is got in those barbarous days of Delhi when the Sikhs were maniacally hunted after and mercilessly butchered following the murder of Indira Gandhi. Vijayan's last novel Thalamurakal (Generations; 1997) is autobiographical to a great extent. It is historical to a still greater extent. Beyond autobiography and history, the novel is a journey down the collective experiences of a family in search of an awareness about oneself and his clan. This search is of great importance when the collective experiences of the subculture are very bitter and the individual sense of the clan identity is much superior. The novel is a narration of four generations in Ponmudi family in Palakkad, Kerala.
He wrote his first short story, "Tell Father Gonsalves", in 1953. He wrote many volumes of short stories, the first volume of which was published in 1957 – Three Wars. The stories, which range from the comic to the philosophical, show an astonishing diversity of situations, tones and styles. O. V. Vijayan's best known collection in English is After the Hanging and Other Stories which contains several jewel-like masterpieces, in particular the title story about a poor, semi-literate peasant going to the jail to receive the body of his son who has been hanged; The Wart and The Foetus about the trauma of the fascist Emergency; the transcendental The Airport, The Little Ones, and several others. He also wrote many essays, and also published one book of cartoons- Ithiri Neramboke, Ithiri Darshanam (A Little Pastime, A little Vision) – 1990.
An incisive writer in English as well, Vijayan translated most of his own works from Malayalam to English. Selected works have been published by Penguin India. His own translations of his stories into English – After Hanging and Other Stories and Selected Stories and the novels, The Saga of Dharmapuri, The Legend of Khasak and The Infinity of Grace – have had a pan-Indian appeal, though fellow-writers like N. S. Madhavan have been openly critical of the freedoms he took with his own works as well as his English style and would have them translated again.
Vijayan left his home state in 1958 to pursue his career as a cartoonist in Delhi. Joining the famous Shankar's Weekly, Delhi, as a cartoonist and writer of political satire, he moved to Patriot as a staff cartoonist in 1963. Vijayan was also an editorial cartoonist and political observer in various news publications – The Statesman and The Hindu – and later turned freelancer. His cartoons also appeared in publications such as Far Eastern Economic Review and The New York Times. Philosophy and politics merged in his cartoons, just as revolution and spirituality coalesced in his writings. His searing comment on Indira Gandhi's Emergency rule and about her return to power in 1980 would remain high points in the history of Indian cartooning.
Vijayan struggled with Parkinson's Disease for 20 years and finally succumbed to organ failure in a Hyderabad hospital on 30 March 2005 at age of 75. His dead body was taken to Kerala by special flight and was cremated with full state honours at Ivor Madom crematorium in Pambadi, Thrissur near Thiruvilwamala on the banks of the Bharathapuzha. His wife Dr. Teresa Vijayan, died a year after his death. Vijayan is survived by his only child Madhu, who lives in Los Angeles, CA.
The O. V. Vijayan Sahitya Puraskaram (O. V. Vijayan Literary Award) was instituted by the Naveena Samskarika Kala Kendram, Hyderabad, in 2011, in memory of Vijayan who had spent his last days in Secunderabad. The award consists of a cash component of ₹50,001, a memento by Kanayi Kunhiraman, and a citation. The award is given to the best book of a writer during the year. Sarah Joseph, Zacharia, Vijayalakshmi, B Rajeevan and Ushakumari PA are the winners of 2011, 2012, 2013,2014 and 2015 respectively.
Collection of essays
Translations into English
Translations into French
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