For P. Kunjiraman Nair (1906 -1978) poetry itself was life. The main themes of his poems are nature, love and devotion to God. His poems brim with the nostalgia of the expatriate that is at once delicious, and melancholy. He was perhaps the first poet in Malayalam to make use of abstract imagery. He attributes human character to natural phenomena and brings them to vibrant life. Right through his poetry one comes across a tinge of regret about wrongs done to persons known and unknown. Even while regretting, the poet in him displays a strong inclination to persist in the wrong path and an urge to make a sacrifice of himself. He was able to maintain a lofty spirituality in his poems even while he immersed himself in sensual pleasures.
Kaliyachchan, Thamarathoni, Pookalam, Udayaragam, Prathibhankuram, Vicharaviharam (essays) Kaviyude Kalpadukal, Ennethirayunna Njan, and Nithyakanyakayethedi are his major works.
P.M. Narayanan born in Moothoor, Malappuram district of Kerala, is a famous writer and an accomplished translator. Why ?, Football, Thadakam (poems) Swathathtyam Enna Sapam, Who am I?, Manushya Bandham Enna Prasnam and Sri Radha (both translations) are his major works.
N. Gopalakrishnan (1934 -) is a well known writer in Malayalam and translator as well. Vazhvu Enna Peruvazhi, Nammal Vazhum Kalam, Peruvazhiyile Nadakangal DC Enna Dominic Chako Insider What the Sufi Said and Sri Radha are his major works. Sri Radha, originally in Oriya by Ramakant Rath is translated by Sri P.M. Narayanan and Sri N. Gopalakrishnan, in collaboration, into Malayalam received the Sahitya Akademi Award for translation for 2006.
The twentieth century was an era of social and cultural renaissance in Kerala. Till the very end of the nineteenth century the rural farm-based culture rooted in the feudal order and the caste system was altogether stagnant. It was only early in the twentieth century that ideas like freedom, equality and upliftment of the oppressed classes that had gained universal popularity in the West after the French Revolution and the rise of Marxism percolated into the thoughts and actions of the people of Kerala. A number of struggles for political social and economic freedom took place in Kerala in the twentieth century. Many were successful. Some failed. Nevertheless society came to acquire an element of dynamism and a great deal of change did take place.
At the political level as a sequel to India's independence, one might say, the united Kerala state came into being in 1956. Thus people whose mother tongue is Malayalam got a state of their own. At the social level organizations and movements that strove to bring about changes in keeping with the times sprang up among all castes. These movements and organizations which were forward looking to start with and which fought against archaic and outdated customs and practices soon got caught in the political swirl and in a process of reverse evolution became mere pressure groups and vote banks. However, by the time the century reached its last decade, the farmer, the labourer and the oppressed classes had realized their relevance to society and learned to stand up for their rights. The feudal system with its petty-minded landlordism became a thing of the past. The tiller became the owner of the land on which he laboured. The worker assumed a respectable role in the productive process. Education became universal. The citizens' entitlement to healthcare gained acceptance. Things are again changing pretty fast with the onslaught of globalization. But here we won't go into that.
The twentieth century, except perhaps for the last two or three decades was a period of hope and activities that centered on human well being under the leadership of the progressive forces. Malayalam literature that reflects the society of Kerala too made substantial progress. The literature consisted mainly of poetry till O. Chandu Menon wrote his novel Indulekha (1889). Today prose writing has a place in Malayalam that is as important as if not more important than that of poetry. The vast scope and high quality that prose writing in Malayalam attained in the span of just one century places it at par with the literatures of world languages. So, for Malayalam the twentieth century is the century of prose.
For Malayalam poetry too, the twentieth century was a period of progress by leaps and bounds. The way followed by most of the neoclassical poets of the nineteenth century was that of dusting and polishing well - known epics and presenting them in stanzas or couplets with symbols and literary embellishments of widely accepted categories. Those who were able to impart a little uniqueness and originality to their style of expression came to be known as great poets. For poets in those days, the creation of poetry was little more than a part of having a good time spent in pleasant chatting with friends after a good meal followed by pan. After the days of the handful of great poets of exceptional merit like Ezhuthachchan, Poonthanam, Ramapurath Warner and Unnai Warner it was only in Kumaran Asan (1873-1924) that Malayalam poetry attained its true dignity and loftiness. For Asan poetry had nothing to do with after dinner gossip and chit chatting. It was the unveiling of his soul that was riddled with problems. The heroines of his famous works like Nalini, Leela and Karuna were themselves representative of the dualities of the poet's inner self. Asan's ideal was asceticism. Yet he had an abiding love of life. Though he says that true love is beyond flesh, the lure of the flesh is clearly visible between the lines of not only his poetry but also of his life. Love and asceticism, sex and asexuality, the body and the soul enact a drama of constant conflict on the stage that is Asan's life and poetry. Asan solves this problem in his poetry by sublimating the love between man and woman into universal love. However, in his life the problem remained unsolved.
Vallathol (1878-1958) was a great poet who reveled in the beauty of nature and took pride in India's heritage. It was through Vallathol's poems that the Malayali learned to savour Kerala's natural environment that underwent kaleidoscopic transformations not only with the change of seasons but also with the passage of the hours of the day and the night. Vallathol was proud of the ancient national culture. This made him all the more unhappy about the domination of the country by foreigners. He dreamt of an India that was firmly rooted in wisdom and moral strength free from the conflicts of religion and caste. This was the inspiration behind his poems that brim with patriotism. The dominant moods of his poetry are of sensuality, ecstasy and self-respect. Beauty is his deity and straight forwardness and transparency his hallmark.
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