(From The Hindu by E.V. Ramakrishnan. Link to the complete article given below)
This year marks the eve of the 50th anniversary of the publication of O.V. Vijayan’s novel Khasakkinte Ithihasam (published as The Legends of Khasak in English in 1994).
First serialised in a literary weekly and subsequently published as a book in 1969, it still marks the highest point scaled by any Malayalam novelist in terms of intensity of vision and inventiveness of language. It narrates how Ravi, who lands in Khasak to set up a government school, is gradually sucked into its archaic charm, its tales and vibrant ways of life.
As Kerala reels from the after-effects of an unprecedented deluge, revisiting an iconic text that questioned our notions of modernity may not be inappropriate. Vijayan’s was a dissenting critical voice that reclaimed the fundamental role of the novel as a counter-narrative. Having suffered a loss of faith, he plumbed the depths of his inner resources by exploring the limits of language. Vijayan reinvented the form of the novel for a new generation, investing it with intractable questions of ethics that exceeded the formalist concerns of aesthetics.
Vijayan had serious misgivings about the way modernity produced and legitimated knowledge that met with uncritical acceptance. What happens to forms of knowledge that lie outside its institutional spaces? Khasak was about the imaginative apprehension of an order of reality that lay beyond language. Eduardo Kohn (author of How Forests Think) has argued that we need to go beyond language to see how the environment thinks through us.