Melding political convulsions in Kerala with the evolution of the Syrian Church, The Vanishing Generations narrates the engaging tale of a family negotiating change through several generations, with all its traumas and joys, and successes and failures. Srikumar's translation retains Varkey's singularly authentic voice in all its richness of meaning and depth of substance, giving us a thoroughly captivating read.
The Paalat family was cursed. Or so the people of Kudamon believed. For seven generations, every young man who married into the Paalat family sired a daughter and died soon after.
When Isthaak's son Kunjilona married a Paalat girl, the village only expected the inevitable. Kunjilona however survived and set the family on the road to prosperity and a leading role in public affairs. The Paalats were soon the pre-eminent family of Kudamon.
The Vanishing Generations is the sprawling saga of one family; an entire community; the syncretic culture of Kerala and, indeed, religion, caste, social inequity and change. Even as Kunjilona, Kunchacko, Abraham, John Paul, Francis, Mathew and their clan live and love and strive against the forces of history; the novel unravels the tangled story of the Syrian Catholic Church and the many other significant events that resulted in definitive changes to Kerala society in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
A much-loved epic of Malayalam literature, TV Varkey's magnum opus probes how historical events shape individuals and how people shape history. It is a saga at once uplifting and also reflective of the tragedy of modern times.
Born in Kottayam district, Varkey has authored a dozen novels and two volumes of short stories in Malayalam. His novel, Vazhiyum Nizhalum (The Road and the Shadow), explores the love story of a widow; which is considered to be a landmark of the stream-of-consciousness narrative. His major other novels are: Sooryante Maranam (The Death of the Sun), Mulmaram (The Thorny Tree), Nam Chithalukal (We are Termites), Chhaya (The Shadow) and Thrikalam (The Three Seasons). His short stories, Njan Verum Njan (I'm Merely Me), The Vice-Chancellor, Veendum Kozhi Koovunnu (Again the Cock Crows), Aviswasi (The Unbeliever) and Gandhi Sishyan (Gandhi's Disciple) etc. are widely acclaimed.
The much-lauded Manjupokunna Thalamurakal (The Vanishing Generations) is regarded as his magnum opus. It is a sweeping family saga set against the modern history of the unique Syrian Catholic Church, and the evolving various other communities of Kerala.
The Vanishing Generations, T. V. Varkey's epic work of historical fiction, takes a sweeping look at the social, cultural and historical transformations of Kerala from the 1840s to the 1960s. Using the peg of a Syrian Christian clan and their sprawling homestead, Paalat House, the author positions a klieg light on events in Kerala. The transition from slavery to emancipation, from feudalism to a land-owning community, from being a submissive lot to breaking out in political protest, from waking up to the iniquities of the local monarch to wanting the British overlords to quit India, the reader goes through it all with the various generations of the Paalat clan.
The novel's strength lies in the strongly fleshed-out characters, seven generations of the clan, all of them distinct and interesting personalities with opinions of their own; all of them, in ways big and small, contributing to happenings within their home, in their hamlet of Kudamon, as well as in various parts of the state.
There is the inadvertent founding father Kunjilona who sets Paalat House on the road to prosperity and his successors onto the path of involvement in public affairs; there is his priest son Kunchacko, who takes on the might of the Church with both intelligence and ingenuity; there is Francis who takes to politics in a meaningful way; then there is John Paul, who stands for all that is good in men, and Mathew who fights the good fight on behalf of the leftists. The women are not behindhand, either; they play crucial roles of support, of encouragement, of religious vision, of bucking age-old traditions.
Successive generations of the Paalat clan fight against sometimes insurmountable odds, at much cost to themselves but leave a significant footprint in the sands of time. All this unspools in the foreground of the little village Kudamon which soon transforms into a bustling town, even as the state itself is witness to an uneasy transition of power from monarchy to British rule to elected representatives of the people. On the religious front, British Protestant Missionaries arrive in Kudamon to help the poor and the wretched serfs, even as the broader canvas shows the local Christians attempt to free themselves from the yoke of the western Church's supremacy.
The cornerstone of the story rests on the essential tenets of the Christian faith: love, compassion and logical thinking. Then again, the author shows a deft syncretism in the most fluid manner ever, with Christian households calling the local astrologer to cast horoscopes for their scions; Monsignor Kunchacko and his descendants readily taking to typical Kerala rituals like Ayurvedic massages and the art of kalari fighting; even as they can and do quote from the Hindu scriptures and the Vedanta.
The story touches on several pertinent socio-historical points. It depicts the struggle of different communities in the state for their rights and privileges, the work of social reformers and revolutionaries, and the larger picture of the struggle for a country's freedom. It describes great campaigns like the Memorial Movement, the Vaikom Satyagraha, the exile of revolutionary journalist Ramakrishna Pillai, the agitations at Thalasseri and Punnapra-Vayalar. It delineates the impact of Mahatma Gandhi on the state and the nation.
The quests are multi-directional: the personal, the economic, the political, and the religious. The author harnesses all these strands together with great felicity to make a cohesive and riveting whole, concluding the saga in a most poignant and unforgettable manner.
Professor Varkey took eight years to write this book. In Kerala, he says, the struggles were mainly against social injustice because the community was suffocating under the tyrannies of caste and feudal systems. Hence, the protestors, the fighters, concentrated their attention mainly on provincial politics and to good effect, too. Talking about the relevance the book holds for today’s readers, he contentedly says it reflects Kafkaesque absurdity, the ultimate futility of all struggle.
Your email address will not be published *
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend