The Bells are Ringing in Haridwar

Shortlisted for the Valley of Words Award 2020 for translation

M. Mukundan has been called the ‘Writer of Mayyazhi’ and some of his best-known works have as their background, Mayyazhi, that small area in Kerala which is still French at heart. And yet he spent a large part of his life in Delhi and a number of his powerful works are set in that place and speak of its people. Haridwaril Manikal Muzhangunnu came out in 1972 to loud acclaim and louder criticism. It spoke to the alienated youth of the late 1960s and early 1970s; and the criticism was because it seemed to glorify the use of drugs and a way of life that was considered immoral then. With Ramesh and Suja, we travel to ancient Haridwar where the Ganga came to earth, where the marks made by Bhageeratha’s chariot wheels can still be seen and Bhima’s sweat can still be tasted in the water of the pond dug by him. Ramesh finds himself unable to resist the call of the bells of Haridwar.

The other two novella take us back to Mayyazhi, the small piece of land where time has stood still for decades. Both the stories speak of the man of rectitude face to face with his baser instincts, his natural instincts. Meetheledath Ravunni is led astray by the sight of the girdle that encircles Savitri’s slim waist and descends to an animal-like existence. As for Kunhikrishnan Thampuran, the honeyed skin of the oil-miller’s wife reduces him finally to an innocence that is child-like, unselfconscious.


Mukundan’s The Bells are Ringing in Haridwar, when it came out in Malayalam, conversed with a generation that was confused by life and its lack of certainties. This was the period of existentialist modernity. The writer’s experiments in that genre of literature impressed the readers by their simplicity and accessibility. Mukundan indeed signalled a new wave in the aesthetics of Malayalam literature. The Mahe stories in this collection are immensely rewarding and bristling with life.
N.E. SUDHEER, Critic

Mukundan’s latest offering in translation is a collection of three novellas—the eponymous long novella and two short ones. But these are not new stories; on the contrary they are pretty old ones written in the late 1960s and early 70s. They have been introduced to the English-reading public some fifty years later in an interesting translation by Prema Jayakumar. [Haridwar] is a tale of harsh reality, of the consequences of drugs, and amplifies the striking contrast between what is considered sacred and what is profane. Mukundan manages to spin a good yarn that has us turning the pages. The author’s overall narrative tapestry is rich with subtlety, a fine sense of humour, and has been wonderfully translated by Prema Jayakumar.
The Book Review

The novel which was way ahead of its time was criticized for its glorification of drug usage and the way of life which was considered immoral . . . Rooted in reality the novel speaks of places and people, and lends a hand to step out of the frame to see the picture better. The translation releases it from the space it has been confined to helping the ideas and language transcends time and place and reaches a wider readership.
DCB News, DC News Portal


M. MUKUNDAN

M. MUKUNDAN is one of the most reputed fiction writers in Kerala today. Author of over forty books comprising novels, collections of short stories, a play and a study of modernity, he made his literary debut in the 1960s publishing stories. His bestselling books include On the Banks of the Mayyazhi, Delhi Gathakal and The Bells are Ringing in Haridwar. Some of his novels are taught in universities in Kerala. He has won many awards and honours including the Sahitya Akademi award; Ezhuthachan Puraskaram, the highest literary award conferred by the Government of Kerala; Chevalier of the Arts and Letters conferred by the Government of France; the First Crossword award for Indian language fiction in English translation. Four of his novels were adapted into feature films, God’s Mischief winning the State award for the best film. He also won the Kerala State award for the best screenplay and Kerala Film Critics’ award for the best feature film story. His novel, Kesavan’s Lamentation, rendered in English by A.J. Thomas, also won the Crossword award. He served as President of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi for three years. His stories and novels have been translated into English and French and published in the USA and France. He lives in Mahe, his hometown in Kerala.

PREMA
JAYAKUMAR

PREMA JAYAKUMAR was born in Kerala and studied in Kochi and Bangalore. She does translations from Malayalam into English and writes for periodicals. Her translated works include God’s Mischief (Daivathinte Vikrithikal) by the same author among many by well-known Malayalam authors. 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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