Sethu’s novels and short stories have always straddled the worlds of the commonplace and the magical, keeping a fine balance. Long before magical realism became a buzzword, Sethu’s stories took us to the supernatural in the most mundane situations. 

The stories in this collection unfold the worlds that are familiar, yet give us glimpses of strange shadows and lights just beyond our sight. Along with characters who drift between fantasy and the here and now, we have a common man like Munuswami, the protagonist of Jalasamadhi, who realizes that it is a bigger sin to induce someone to commit a crime than to commit a crime oneself. The characters who people Sethu’s world take on layers of myth and legend, imagination and poetry but have one thing in common – they are with us long after we have kept the book aside.

A. Sethumadhavan (Sethu) is easily one of the best contemporary story-tellers in Malayalam. At a time when stories have begun to vanish from narratives growing abstract or turning into superficial experiments with local idiom, Sethu continues to engage the readers with tales that often seem like fables, stories that you can hardly put down once you begin to read them. His style is apparently direct and simple, but the narratives themselves have an element of myth and magic about them.

While the apparent theme could be an old man’s attachment to a clock that seems like a metaphor for time or life itself as in “Time”, a daughter’s search for her father while the mother wants to erase his memory forever as in “The Daughter”, a husband’s dispassionate gift of his wife to her young lover as in “Jagannathan”, a boy’s rebirth in which he can identify things from his past life in a house he has never seen as in “A Companion”, a father’s appearance at home on the eve of his death anniversary as in “Debt”, the stories themselves, with some of the author’s most popular ones like “White Tents”, together examine the nature of relationships, states of solitude and the mysteries of life and death in vastly different ways as only Sethu can.
K. SATCHIDANANDAN, Poet and Writer


A. SETHUMADHAVAN (SETHU), born in a small village in Kerala in the year 1942, has been writing fiction in Malayalam for the past five decades. A banker by profession and a writer by passion, he has 20 titles each of novels and collections of stories to his credit. Widely travelled abroad and having worked in different parts of India, his writings have a global flavour and a pan-Indian canvas. Many of his works have been translated into other languages. His much acclaimed novel Pandavapuram has been translated into 10 languages including English, German, French (being published) and Turkish. Apart from The Cuckoo’s Nest in original, his works translated into English include Pandavapuram, The Saga of Muziris, Aliyah, The Wind from the Hills, Once Upon a Time (novels), Jalasamadhi and other stories, A Guest for Arundhati and During the Journey and other stories (stories). Kadambari: the Flower Girl (novel) is under print. Pandavapuram has been filmed in Malayalam and Bengali, the latter titled Nirakar Chaaya, which won recognition abroad. Four of his works have been filmed, the latest being Jalasamadhi

A winner of all the major awards such as the Sahitya Akademi award and the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award (twice), he was also the Chairman of the National Book Trust, New Delhi, for three years. Joining the State Bank of India as a Probationary Officer, he retired as the Chairman and CEO of the South Indian Bank.


PREMA JAYAKUMAR was born in Kerala and studied in Kochi and Bangalore. She does translations from Malayalam into English and writes for periodicals. She has translated works of well-known Malayalam writers including Malayatoor Ramakrishnan, M. Mukundan, A. Sethumadhavan among others. Her works have been published by Penguin and the Sahitya Akademi. She has retold the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and other stories from the Puranas for Mango Books and Real Reads of the UK. Married, with one son, she stays mostly at Kochi, but loves to travel.

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