'The novel is still young': CV Balakrishnan on the English version of 'Ayussinte Pusthakam'

C V Balakrishnan
Kolkata had tremendous influence in the novel’s birth, says Balakrishnan.

When it was released in 1984, C V Balakrishnan’s Malayalam novel ‘Ayussinte Pusthakam’ was considered as an experimental work for its exploration of sin and cinematic narration.

In the course of time, the novel has emerged as one of the best-sellers in Malayalam with 22 reprints. More than 50,000 copies have been sold so far.

Thirty seven years after its release, New Delhi-based Niyogi Books is all set to publish the English translation of the novel.

The English version is titled 'The Book of Passing Shadows'.

The book is translated by T M Yesudasan, a retired English teacher from CMS College in Kottayam. It will hit online and offline spaces soon.


Many may wonder about the relevance of the English version many years after the epic Malayalam novel’s publication.

But Balakrishan believes his novel is still young. "It is not a period novel. It narrates the lives of a group of people who are controlled by an institutionalised Church. That is why I beleive that the theme is still relevant," Balakrishnan tells Onmanorama in a candid chat.

"We have seen many instances of laity questioning the wrong deeds of the Church in Kerala and elsewhere in the recent past. Readers would have experienced glimpses of such protests in my novel 37 years ago when they read Yakobe’s fierce questioning of the priest," he says.

Places associated with the novel

The novel has close connection with three different regions in Kerala, says Balakrishnan.

It is set in a fictitious village on the eastern hilly regions of north Malabar. “The village has no name. It can be identified with any settler village in north Malabar,” he says.

Balakrishnan says Kolkata had tremendous influence in the novel’s birth.

The theme struck him when he was sitting inside the St Paul's Cathedral in Kolkata way back in 1979. He started writing the novel while travelling by the tram and sitting outside the Victoria Memorial. It took two years for him to complete the work. He submitted the novel to the editor of Mathrubumi Weekly in the end of 1982. The first episode of the serialised novel was published in the weekly in April 1982.

Balakrishnan could not have realised his dream of publishing the work into the book format without the support of late D C Kizhakemuri.

Balakrishnan had approached a few publishers before visiting Kizhakemuri. “None of them evinced interest in my novel. I was crestfallen,” he recounts.

So he did not harbour any hopes while visiting the DC Books’ office at Good Shepherd Road in Kottayam. “But I was in for a surprise when DC Kizhakkemuri promised me to publish the novel. And the book came out in 1984."

The novel is being taught in undergraduate and postgraduate courses in many Kerala universities and in the Malayalam departments in colleges outside Kerala.

Balakrishnan hopes the English version will transcend the language barrier and reach more readers across the globe. “I am so happy about it,”he says.

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