Gleanings from the Prose World of Ayyappa Paniker

Abstract: K. Ayyappa Paniker has created a niche for himself in the academic world as a poet, professor and critic. He heralded the dawn of modernism in Malayalam poetry and created a new perspective in the area of literary criticism. He has left behind a repertoire of prose writings, which has established his status as a true scholar in all branches of literature in the regional, national as well as international literary tradition. A genre-wise analysis of his major prose writings is attempted here.

Keywords: Malayalam poem, modernism, Paniker’s literary criticism, revolutionary concepts, Malayalam poetry evolution, theory and use of narratology, comparative literature, English literature, human consciousness, Indian poetics, literature movement, cultural integration

On Poetry

Ayyappa Paniker has written extensively on traditional and contemporary poetry in English as well as Malayalam. The major essays in Malayalam related to English poetry include those on T. S. Eliot, Shelley, Jean Toomer and Stephen Spender. Paniker acknowledges the unique status these poets enjoy in English poetry. ‘T. S. Eliot’ (1950) reflects on the status T. S. Eliot enjoys as the harbinger of Modernism in English literature, together with James Joyce. The dawn of twentieth century was marked by the degeneration of spiritual as well as worldly life in England. But the subject of regression failed to find acceptance among the English poets of the period until used by Joyce and Eliot. Their greatest contribution to English literature are the new styles they adopted to express the diversity and contradictions of the contemporary society.

`Kaviyum Kaamukanum Viplavakaariyumaaya Shelley: Shelleyude Vyakthithvam’ (`Shelley the Poet, Lover and Revolutionary: Shelley’s Personality’, 1951) discusses the unique place Shelley occupies among the Romantic poets in English literature. His poetry, Paniker states, conveys multiple, modes for the transformation of human society which could not be perceived even during the heyday of the French revolution. Through his revolutionary ideas, Shelley could reflect his own identity through the poems. The essay cites various poems by Shelley to show how effectively the poet combines the most sensitive ideas of romanticism and the utmost revolutionary concepts essential for the progress of mankind. Shelley is assessed as the foremost among the most sincere poets in English poetry.

In `Karimbum Kavithayum’ (`Sugarcane and Poetry’, 1978), Paniker analyses the importance Jean Toomer deserves in the literary tradition of Black writers. Toomer has been a great source of inspiration for Black writers. His most prominent work, which translates as `Karimbu’ (`Sugarcane’), is a successful blending of Black poetry, Black fiction and Black drama and it is this aspect that is examined in the essay. ‘Urn Kaalakhattathinte Saakshi: Manasaakshiyum’ (-The Witness of an Age: Its Conscience as well’), written in the context of the death of Stephen Spender (1909-1995) is a brief sketch of the literary career of the poet.

In the field of Malayalam literature, one of Paniker’s earliest essays is `Kochuthommaneppatti ‘ (`On ‘Kochuthomma’’, 1951) which is an analysis of N. V. Krishna Warrier’s poem `Kochuthomman’. The essay highlights the necessity for Malayalam poetry to move away from the clutches of romanticism and be more realistic. In this context, `Kochuthomman’ demands attention as the poem illustrates how a novel subject could be represented in a realistic manner. Paniker appreciates N. V. Krishna Warrier’s use of realism in characterisation, background and plot of the story.

Paniker has gone deep into the multiple aspects of the latest trends in Malayalam poetry. From his essays we get a clear idea about the gradual evolution of Malayalam poetry from its traditional patterns to the contemporary forms. `Naveenakavitha Malayalathil’ (Modern Poetry in Malayalam’, 1964) is an attempt towards a discussion of some of the latest trends which have not yet gained wide popularity in Malayalam poetry. Through a study of some of the major works of poets like Akkitham, Kakkad, Vishnunarayanan Namboothiri, Cheriyan K. Cheriyan, R. Ramachandran, Madhavan Ayyappathu and M. N. Paaloor, the essay explores the changing currents in Malayalam poetry.

`Samakaalika Malayalakavithayile Chila Prasnangal’ (`Some Issues in Contemporary Malayalam Poetry’, 1965) investigates the varying trends in Malayalam poetry that emerged during the twentieth century. In the first section, it traces the gradual development of romanticism in the poems of A. R. Rajarajavarma and V. C. Balakrishna Paniker, its consolidation in the works of Asan, Vallathol, Naalappattu, Chengampuzha, G Sanakara. Kurup and Balamani Amma and finally its decline in the contemporary period. In the next section, the essay moves on to the emergence of Modernism in Malayalam poetry which occurred around 1955. ‘Chandomukha Kaavyaroopasilpam’ (‘Metrical Forms of Poetry’, 1980) traces the evolution of Malayalam poetry from a form rigidly adhering to the metrical patterns (as in ‘Mahakavyas’) to the latest works, – which are devoid of a fixed form and metre (`Naveena Kaavyam’).

The poet trio – Asan, Ulloor, Vallathol — have enjoyed due recognition in the prose works of Paniker. There is always the possibility of prominent writers being misunderstood and misinterpreted. This mistake can be avoided to a great extent by focusing on the ideology of poetry of the particular poet. The essay `Kumaranasante Kaavayadarshanam’ (`The Poetic Vision of Kumaran Asan’, 1964) attempts such an analysis of the poems of Kumaran Asan. The characteristics of his poems and their values are discussed from this point of view. Asan is analysed from a wider perspective, avoiding the narrow labelling of him as one who had been actively involved in getting rid of the social inequalities. `Kumaranasante Kaavyabhasha’ (‘The Poetic Language of Kumaran Asan’, 1965) written in the context of the birth centenary of Kumaran Asan explores the poetic language used by him. In `Asan Kavitha Aadhunikaveekshanam’ (`Asan’s Poetry — A Modern Perspective’, 1980) the focus is on the innovative ways in which Asan used language, overcoming its limitations to emphasise his ideologies.

`Ente Dinaraathrangale Pidichulacha Aswasthathakale, Ennekkandaal Ningal Thirichariyumo?’ CO Troubles that rocked my Days and Nights, will you recognise me when you see me?) raises some relevant questions about the ‘criteria which attribute the status of Mahakavya to a poem and examines this in the light of the poems of Kumaran Asan. Neenapoovinte Noottandu’ (`The Centenary of `Veena Poovu”) analyses the possibility for multiple interpretations Kumaran Asan’s ‘Veena Poovu’ . `Duravasthayude duravastha’ (‘The Ill-fate of Duravastha”) is a reading of Asan’s `Duravastha’ from a twentieth century perspective. `Classical-Romantic Khadagangal Ulloor Kavithayil’

(`The Classical and antic Features in the Poetry of Ulloor’, 1978) examines the multiple strains in the poetry of Ulloor. Paniker argues that Ulloor’s earlier works exhibit a strong influence of the classical works of Sanskrit literature. This tendency existed till the 1920s when his poetry began to show features of romanticism, finally leading to realism towards the end of his career.

`Vallatholinte Kaavayapaarambaryam’ (‘The Poetic Tradition of Vallathol’, 1964), rather than aiming at a detailed study of all the works of Vallathol, only examines the place that the poet occupies in Malayalam literature. The major influences on Vallathol and the poetic tradition he has created for the future generations are analysed from the perspective of a contemporary writer. Turaanavum Naveenavum Vallathol Krithikalil’ inVallathol’s Writings. The `Ancient’ and the ‘Modern’ takes us into the poetic world of Vallathol and examines the efficiency with which he has re-told and re-interpreted the Puranas. `Vallatholkavitha: Sathabdidarsanam’ (`Vallathol’s Poetry: A Centenary Perspective’) is a re-evaluation of the poems of Vallathol in the context of his birth centenary. Paniker regards him as the greatest Malayalam writer of the first half of the twentieth century.

Individual poets in Malayalam literature who have acquired immortality among the connoisseurs of literature have also received due attention in the writings of Paniker. ‘Chirarnjeevikar (`The Immortals’, 1969) deviates from the usual practices, in analysing the works of women poets. While the general trend is to search for feminine aspects in their poetry, here the attempt is to identify the poet in Balamani Amma through some of her works. `Aadrathayude Gaayathri’ (`The Poet of Compassion’, 1984) emphasises the distinct position Sugathakumari enjoys in Malayalam poetry. A strain of sorrow pervades all her poems. Her anxieties about the continuity of human life are evident in all poems beginning from `Muthuchippi’. Vedaviharathinte Maulikathvam’ (1984) sheds light on the efficiency with which K. V. Salmon has retold the story of the genesis in the Bible. Thengampuzha: Kavivyakthithvavum Vaideshika Swadheenathayum’ (`Chengampuzha: Poetic Personality and Foreign Influences’) looks at Chengampuzha’s expertise in adopting the features of the literatures in other languages and presenting it with a personal touch. `Chengampuzhayude Chandassastram’ (`The Metrical Style of Chengampuzha’, 1988) examines the distinguishing features of Chengampuzha’s use of metre.

‘Vailoppillikavithayile Keraleeyatha’ (‘Kerala Elements in the Poems of Vailoppilli’, 1985) focuses on the essence of Malayali tradition and culture in the poems of Vailoppilli. Paniker states that rather than the description of the geographical elements, it is the depiction of human nature that attributes a Malayali essence to the poems of Vailoppilli. A study of his three famous poems, “Mambazham’, `Oonjalir and `Sahyante Makan’ has also been included. `Kaavya Naadakangal’ (Toetic Plays’, 1986) is a reading of the three poetic dramas of Vailoppilli – `Rishyashrinkan’, ‘Alexander Indiayil’ and `Mrithasanjeevani’. `VailopPillikkavithayude Anthardhaarakal’ (‘The Undercurrents of Vailoppilli’s Poetry’) is a detailed discussion of the poems of Vailoppilli which establishes his poetic identity among the Romantic poets in Malayalam. The essay analyses the external form and the inner world of his poems which exist in contradiction.

‘Pakaleriyunna Suryante Dukham’ (`The Sorrow of the Setting Sun’) is an analysis of the basic note of sadness that pervades almost all poems in romanticism. The status that O. N. V. Kurup enjoys among such poets is assessed here. `Swathithirunaal Kavi Enna Nilayil’ (‘Swati Thirunaal as a Poet’, 1990) situates Swathi Thirunaal in the history of the Bhakti movement in poetry which had Sankarachaarya and Kulashekhara Alwar as its earlier practitioners. The essay goes deep into Swathi Thirunaal’s most important work, ‘Bhaktimanjari’ to analyse the religious fervour in his poetry.

‘Veedennal Enthu? Veedevide’ (‘What is Home? Where is it?’) is a brief analysis of the poems of Kamala Das and concentrates on the intense poetic experience that she imparts to the reader. The poet’s confused notion about her true home, since she has lived in Calcutta, Bombay, Colombo and different parts of Kerala, is best reflected in the collection The Best of Kamala Das.

`Kadammanittakkavithayile Haasyarasam’ (`Sense of Humour in the Poetry of Kadammanitta’) directs our attention to the lack of any humorous poems in the heyday of romanticism in Malayalam literature. The poems of Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan are important in this context as he can be seen as a pioneering force in the introduction of humour into Malayalam poetry. The essay cites lines from his numerous poems to illustrate this aspect.

`Aravindante Savitri: Adhinivesathinte Porulchollu’ Au robindo’ s Savitri: Tell the Meaning of Colonialism’) is an exploration of the major features which give Sri Aurobindo a unique place among the great poets of the twentieth century. This study is based on his work Savitri which is considered to be an expression of the views of Aurobindo about life as well as poetry.

‘Naavorupattinte Katha’ (`The Tale of Naavorupattu”) is Paniker’s recollection of some of the major aspects that has gone into the process of his composition of ‘Gothrayanam’ in 1989. This is a very brief account in which he remembers how the concept of `naavorupattu’ influenced the form of the poem.

`Thunchathezhuthachante Raashtreeya Douthyam’ (`The Political Mission of Thunchath Ezhuthachan’) looks into Ezhuthachan’s introduction and amalgamation of the national and regional aesthetic experiences into the minds of his readers. Through the use of national epics like Ramayanam and Bhagavatham, Ezhuthachan establishes a cultural identity for the Malayalis. ‘Paschatyethihaasapaarambaryavum Ezhuthachante Ithihasakrithikalum’ (`The Western Epic Tradition and Ezhuthachan’s Epics’) is a comparative study of the major common features of the epics in the West like Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid etc. and the two epic poems of Ezhuthachan, Adhyatma Ramayanam Kilippattu and Mahabharatham Kilippattu.

Form is an important element in the study of poetry. In his writings, Paniker has turned his attention towards the use of various metres in Malayalam poetry. ‘Vaythaari Vrithangarl’ ( ‘Oral Metres’, 1977) tries to compensate for the lack of a proper study of the use of Dravidian metres in Malayalam. A. R. Rajarajavarma in his Vrithamanjari gives a perfect beginning to the study of Sanskrit metres in Malayalam but his work lacks a proper analysis of the Dravidian metres. This essay is an attempt to move forward from the work of A. R. Rajarajavarma. ‘Vrithasaastravum Vargavyavasthayum’ (` Metrical Patterns and the Caste System’, 1987) analyses the relationship between caste and the use of metrical patterns. For instance, Aksharasloka which is a means of entertainment for the upper-class may also reflect an elite culture. To study human society, sociologists make use of their analysis of the customs, habits and practices of the people. In this essay, Dr. Paniker highlights how the metres used in poetry could also be used for sociological study.

`Kavitha Kavithayude Kazchappadil’ (Poetry from its own Perspective’) is an attempt to identify the common features of poetry as a genre, in spite of the multiple varieties of poets and poems. `Kavithayum Kaavyaroopangalum’ (Poetry and Poetic Forms’) cites the major poetic forms in the Sanskrit literary tradition (vedam, puranam, itihasam, mahakavyam etc.) and those in the west (elegy, ode, sonnet, epic,lyric, dramatic monologue etc.).

The major trends in Malayalam poetry have also been examined by Paniker. `Aadhunikothara Malayala Kavitha: Prarambha Khattam’ (Postmodern Malayalam Poetry: The Initial Phase’) examines the origin of various movements in Malayalam literature. Romanticism gave way to Modernism in the 1950s and the latter established itself in the 1960s and ‘70s. The most significant feature of Malayalam literature towards the end of the twentieth century is postmodernism. `Kavithayude Vikaasavum Aswadanathinte Sankochavum’ (`The Growth of Poetry and the Decline of Appreciation’, 1984) highlights the major features seen in Malayalam literature of the past eight centuries. Paniker delineates four major characteristics: Dravidian Aesthetics, Influence of Sanskrit, Western Influence and the multiple varieties in Malayalam poetry.

Kavidarshanam (Poetic Vision’, 2002) is an attempt to re-read the works of the major poets of Malayalam literature from a different perspective. It deviates from the conventional views about these poets popularised by critics. The poets under discussion include Poonthanam, Kunj an Nambiar, Kumaran Asan, Edasseri, G. Sankara Kurup, Vailoppilli and Balamani Amma.

On Drama

Drama as an art form has received due recognition in Malayalam literature beginning from times immemorial. We have ancient dramatic forms like Koothu, Koodiyattom, Thullal etc. Paniker has studied in detail the major characteristics of the theatrical art forms in Malayalam and the works of individual dramatists who have proved their mettle in the field. ‘Abhinayakala’ (`The Performing Arts’, 1984) mentions the indispensable qualities that a performing artiste should have. This study is based on the `Aattaprakaram’ written by Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair for Nalacharitham. Lines from his work have been quoted to elucidate the concepts of acting maintained by the great artiste who had reached the pinnacle of artistic perfection during his time.

‘Anushtaanakalakalum Malayaladrishyavediyum’ (`Ritual Art Forms and the Malayalam Theatre’, 1978-79) focuses on the rituals and ritual art forms of Kerala highlighting their sociological relevance and the influence they have on the theatrical art forms in Kerala. The essay aims only in giving clues about their topics since the repertoire of traditional rituals and the ritual art forms of any country is always limitless. `Thurassaya Naadakavedi’ (‘The Open Theatre’, 1980) differentiates the open theatre from the usual form of stage which has three closed sides with the audience forming the fourth wall.

`Kathakaliyile Naadakeeyatha’ (`The Dramatic Element in Kathakali’, 1976) identifies the dramatic elements in Kathakali, especially the vigorous actions and the tense situations depicted. The attempt to consider Kathakali and drama as two independent art forms adds to the importance of this essay. ‘Bakavadham Maargi Avatharippichappol’ (‘When Maargi presented ‘Bakavadham”, 1986) says that all live art forms have the inherent ability to develop and grow out of their conventional forms. Citing the latest performance of Kottayam Thampuran’s ‘Bakavadham’ enacted in Maargi as an example, this essay refers particularly to the ability of Kathakali to grow from within.

`Kottayamkathakalile Prachannarashtreeyam’ (`The Hidden Politics in Kottayam Kathakal’,) contests the view held by some critics that Kathakali is only a visual art form and that ‘attakathas’ need not be considered as literary works. Paniker opines that ‘attakathas’ should be studied giving equal importance to literature, music and dance patterns. All kathas would include a core theme, which helps one to have in-depth knowledge of the work. These qualities of `attakathas’ have been analysed with reference to the works of Kottayam Thampuran. ‘Keralathile Vaachikaakhyana Paarambaryam’ (‘The Tradition of Oral Narratives in Kerala’, 1985) looks into the oral narrativity in the various performing arts of Kerala like Koodiyaattam, Koothu, Villuppattu and Padayani and concludes with the latest `kadhaprasangam’. `Tholkkappiyavum Dravidanaatyasangalpavum’ (`Tholkkappiyam and the Dravidian Concept of Drama’) examines the most ancient concepts about Dravidian drama present in the third section, ‘Porulathikaram’ of Tholkkkappiyam. ‘Prekshakan’ (`The Spectator’) is a study on the various roles of the spectator in the visual art forms. Beginning with a general description, the essay moves on to particular branches of theatre – Sanskrit, Greek, Elizabethan, North Asian (Japan, China, Thailand), Folk theatre and various forms of theatre in the modern period in the west. `Naadankalakalile Ayavum Murukkavum’ (‘The Exposition and Climax in Folk Arts’,) examines the various characteristics of folk art forms in Kerala. `Kalyinasaugandhikangal Keraleeyanatyavediyil’ (“Kalyanasaugandikam’ in theatre in Kerala’.) analyses the enactment of the story of `Kalyanasaugandikam’ in Mahabharata in various performing arts of Kerala.

C. J. Thomas deserves due recognition in Malayalam drama. `C. J. Thomasinte Naadakangal’ (`The Plays of C. J. Thomas’, 1961) identifies the prominent place that C. J. Thomas occupies in the history of Malayalam drama. It was after the golden era of ‘Attakkathas’ that works bearing true features of the drama evolved in Kerala. C. J. Thomas played a leading role in this development. ‘C. J. Thomasinte Naadakasangalpam’ (`C. J. Thomas’s Concept of Drama’, 1961) is a study of the three major plays, ‘Avan Veendum Varunnu’ (1949), ‘1128-il Crime 27’ (1954) and `Aa Manushyan Nee Thanne’ (1955) and it analyses some of the common features of the dramas of C. J. Thomas.

`Sreekantannairude Ramayana Darshanam’ (`C. N. Sreekantan Nair’s Version of the Ramayana’, 1977) examines the multiple perspectives on Ramayana adopted by Sreekantan Nair in his three dramas, Kanchana Sita (1958), Saaketham (1965) and Lankalakshmi (1974). The essay provides a sweeping glance into the intellectual domain presented by the dramatist through these dramas. `Naadakathinte Rashtreeyam: C. N. Sreekantannaiyarude Rashtreeyadarshanam’ ( ‘The Politics of the Play: C. N. Sreekantan Nair’s Political Vision’) identifies the presence of a political ideology lying embedded in the plays of Sreekantan Nair. ‘N. Krishna Pillai’ (1988) is a reminiscence of Paniker’s last meeting with N. Krishna Pillai, the latter’s hospitalisation and eventual death after struggling for 54 days in hospital. Here is an analysis of N. Krishna Pillai as a teacher, dramatist, critic and literary historian. ‘Vimarashakante Douthyam’ (‘The Mission of a Critic’) is an analysis of the academic pursuits of N. Krishna Pillai in the field of drama as well as criticism.

Drama originated in the West in Greece in very ancient period. Greek dramatists and their theories on the performance of drama enjoy an important status in the field of world drama. Paniker’s `Shokanaadakam’ (`Tragedy’, 1962) explores the distinguishing features of a tragedy as referred to by Aristotle in his Poetics and laments over the lack of tragedies in all its perfections in Malayalam. `Catharsis’ (1963) explains the term and its relevance as suggested by Aristotle in his Poetics. The works of some of the major dramatists like Sophocles and Shakespeare are discussed and it is found that Aristotle’s explanation of tragedy, especially the term ‘catharsis’, does not suit all tragedies as it does in the case of Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. `Yavananaadakathinte Roopasilpam’ (`The Structure of Greek Drama’, 1967) traces the history of Greek drama which existed for around 400 years from its origin in 534 BC. ‘Sophocles’ (1983) identifies the prominence enjoyed by Sophocles among the trio of Greek tragedy – Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripedes – in 500 BC. The essay is a comprehensive study of the seven existing plays of Sophocles. ‘Trojanstreekal’ (‘Trojan Women’, ) is an analysis of the chief features of the plays of the Greek dramatist, Euripedes, especially Trojan Women. Through the translations of this single work into various languages including Malayalam (by Kaavalam Narayana Panicker), the history of the theatre is outlined, beginning from 500 BC Greece and concluding with 21 century Kerala.

`Japanile Naadakavedi’ (‘Theatre in Japan’, 1965) elaborates the evolution of Japanese theatre and its different forms. Japan might be the only country where we can view dramas written before five hundred years in its original setting and style of acting. ‘Abhimukham: Robert Brustein’ (1983, Trans. M. A. Dileep) is an interview between Paniker and Prof. Robert Brustein when he met the latter in the Lobe School of Drama soon after the production of Ibsen’s Ghosts.

On Fiction

Towards the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, the fictional forms — novel and short story – began to gain prominence in Malayalam literature. Many of the Malayalam novelists and short story writers deserve and have duly achieved international recognition. The critical insight of Paniker has gone into an in-depth study of the major writers of fiction and their works. `Karoorinte Kala: Sookshmamaaya Sammohikabodham’ (`The Art of Karoor: A Keen Social Sense’, 1977) is an effort to highlight the strain of social awareness in the works of Karoor Neelakanta Pillai, which are rated to be far superior to those of Thakazhi, Kesavadev and Varkey. Social awareness in its most conspicuous form can be identified best in the works of Karoor and Basheer. The essay discusses the reasons for the lack of such an evaluation of the works of Karoor.

`C. V. Ramanpillayum Rashtreeyanovelum’ (`C. V. Raman Pillai and the Political Novel’, 1980) paves the way for further extensive research on this topic. The question to which an answer is sought is to which category the novels of C. V. Raman Pillai belong. Usually his novels are classified as historical. The essay cites the features of a political novel and evaluates its applicability to the works of C. V. Raman Pillai. ‘C. V. Raman Pillai’ (1993) is a comprehensive study of the life and works of the novelist. His major works —Marthandavarma, Dharmaraja and Ramaraja Bahadoor — are discussed in detail. The book also contains a bibliography of works by him and studies on him.

`Chandumenonum C. V. Ramanpillayum’ (`Chandu Menon and C. V. Raman Pillai ‘ , 1990) is a study of the impact of colonial culture on the works of these two writers. While Chandu Menon’s Indulekha contains a social critique of the period, the works of C. V. Raman Pillai portray an in-depth knowledge of our history and culture in the context of increasing colonial intervention. ‘N. Krishnapillayude Bhashadarshanam’ ( ‘N. Krishna Pillai’ s Views on Language’ , 1986) is a critique of the work Prathipaathram Bhashanabhedam by N. Krishna Pillai and provides new insights into the artistic talent of C. V. Raman Pillai. `Marthandavarmayum Durgeshanandiniyum’ is a comparative reading of C. V. Raman Pillai’s Marthandavarma and Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s Durgeshanandini as two instances of historical narratives. ‘C. V. Ramanpillayude Vyakhyayikal ‘ (`C. V. Raman Pillai’s Commentaries’,) is an analysis of the narrative strategies used in the works of C. V. Raman Pillai. `Marthandavarmayude nooru varsham’ is an appreciation of the novel Marthandavarma written in the context of its hundredth year of publication. `Rasavichaaratheppatti Oru Vichaaram’ ( Some Thoughts on Rasa’ ,) is the use of the concept of rasa in Indian aesthetics to read the works of C. V. Raman Pill ai from a different perspective. The essay provides a new revelation about the works of C. V.

`Bhoomiyum Bhooprakritiyum Thakazhiyude Kayaril’ (‘The Earth and its Physical Features in Thakazhi’s Kayar’, 1984) identifies and elaborates on the most conspicuous characteristic feature of Thakazhi’s Kayar – the relationship between man and earth. In the novel, Thakazhi has attempted to trace the transformations that occur in this relationship over the years. `Thakazhiyum Malayala Saahithyavum’ ( `Thakazhi and Malayalam Literature’, 1985) examines the status that Thakazhi enjoys in Malayalam literature. Paniker says that only two novels of legendary qualities exist in Malayalam – the novel trilogy of C. V. and Thakazhi’s Kayar. The rest of the essay traces the evolution of Thakazhi as a prominent writer.

`Katha Paranju Sankaranaayi’ (1985) is written in the context of Thakazhi’s reception of the Jnanapith award. The prominent place that Kayar deserves in national and international literature has been commented upon. `Kayarum Kaalavum’ (‘Kayar and Time’, 1987) is a detailed discussion of the concept of time which produces multiple and contradictory levels of meaning present in Kayar. Thakazhi Sivasankarapillai (1989) is the first major critical work in English on any Malayalam writer. The work provides information about the life of Thakazhi and his major works. It also includes a bibliography of works by Thakazhi and studies on him in English.

`Basheer Krithikalile Adisthanarasam’ (‘The Basic Rasa in Basheer’s Writings’, 1986) identifies karuna rasa as the dominant one applicable to all the works of Basheer. This aspect is analysed through some of the major works of Basheer like `Baalyakala Sakhi’, ‘Anarkhanimisham’ and `Sabdangal’. Menon Marathum Angalabharatheeya novelum’ ( `Menon Marath and the Indo-English Novel’, focuses on the works of Menon Marath and identifies his place Indian English writing. Paniker considers Menon’s novels as those written English while holding on to the essence of Malayalam literature and Kerala culture, as his novels deal with the disintegration of nair tarawads. `Seershasana Basheer’ (1979) describes the time spent by the author along with K. S. Narayanapillai, Ponjikkara Rafi and Basheer in a house at Nagampadam. Paniker is able to meet Basheer only after 26 years. The life in Nagampadam ferred to as Nagampadathe Kudumbajeevitham.

`Maanasikaapagradhanavum Novelum’ (Psychoanalysis and the Novel’, 2) calls our attention to the use of studies on psychology by Bergson, Freud, Jung and Adler in novels. The novel as the most suitable genre for the use of psychology is studied through the works of Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust, James Joyce and Franz Kafka. ‘William Goldinginte Vishadayogam’ (‘The Sorrows of William Golding’, 1983) is a detailed analysis of the most famous novel of William Golding, Lord of the Flies (1954), which received the Nobel prize. Paniker discusses the narrative strategies of Golding and the deeper meanings of the work. Golding’s other works are also discussed in brief.

On Criticism

Criticism has acquired great momentum in Malayalam literature in the last few decades. Critics have paid due attention to all the genres in Malayalam, probing into their qualities and drawbacks. Detailed discussion on the trends in criticism and the works of individual critics can be seen in the works of Paniker. `Saahityaniruupanam Malayalathil’ (`Literary Criticism in Malayalam’, 1960) delineates the history of criticism in Malayalam which emerged only around the last decades of nineteenth century or early twentieth century. The essay includes a study of the major critics of Malayalam literature — A. R. Rajarajavarma, P. K. Narayana Pillai, Kuttikrishna Maraar and Joseph Mundasseri — and those who came later, like Balakrishna Pillai and M. P. Paul. ‘Socialist Realism’ (1965) is a debate on the importance of social realism in Malayalam literature. ‘Bhashashaastravum Sahityavimarshanavum’ (`Linguistics and Literary Criticism’, 1972) discusses the role Linguistics plays in enabling the readers to attain aesthetic pleasure through literature. Proper use of language is essential to ensure that a work does not contain any element which at least a single reader cannot appreciate.

`Sadaacharavum Saundaryabodhavum’ (`Morality and Aesthetic Sense’, 1989) discusses the influence of the moral values of a period on the popularity that a literary work enjoys. Works of writers like Thomas Hardy, James Joyce, etc. are cited to show how their works had to face criticisms for being ‘immoral’ when viewed from the norms and values of their period. The greatness of a writer lies in his/her effective blending of moral values and aesthetics.

Indian Sahityasidhantam: Prasakthiyum Saadhyathayum (`Contemporary Relevance of Ancient Indian Poetics’ 1999) delves deep into the Indian theory of poetics. The major concepts like rasa, dhwani, anumana, vakrokti, guna, dosha, riti, alamkara and aucitya and anaucitya have been discussed in independent chapters. The second section of the book includes the theory and use of narratology, science of narratology and study of the works of Thakazhi and Krishna Rayan. Anthassannivesam (‘Interiorisation’, 2000) explains the theory of interiorisation and its application. The first chapter examines this theory in literature and art forms. The next few chapters analyse the works of Karoor, Basheer, Varkey, Unnayi Warrier, Balamani Amma, C. J. Thomas, C. N. Sreekantan Nair etc. based on this theory. In one of the chapters, interiorisation is read along with Bharatamuni’s rasa theory, Anandavardhanan’s theory of dhwani, Kuntaka’s vakrokti and the theory of ullurai vamai in Tholkappiyam.

`Kalayum Shaileevalkaranavum’ (`Art and Stylisation’) discusses the relationship between art and life. All works of art remain one step away from life. It is through stylisation that the relationship between art and life can be established. `Praacheena Bhaarateeya Kaavyameemamsa: Samakaalikaprasakthi’ (`Ancient Indian Poetics: Its Contemporary Relevance’) refers to the Sanskrit aesthetics of poetry described in Naatyasastra to Kuvalayanda and the Dravidian aesthetics in works like Tholkkappiyam. The essay is an analysis of the contemporary relevance of the concepts about literature reflected through these Sanskrit and Dravidian works. How far these concepts help us in the analysis of the literary works written during this period has been looked into. `Apodgradhanam’ gives a clear idea about the theory of Deconstruction proposed by Jacques Derrida. The essay mentions almost all major terms and concepts in the deconstruction theory. `Utharaadhunika Prasthanam’ (`The Postmodern Movement’) gives a detailed description of the postmodernist movement beginning with its origin in the west and concluding with its establishment in Indian literary scene. `Srishtavile Vimarsakanum Vimarsakanile Srishtavum’ (`The Critic in the Creator and the Creator in the Critic’) examines the process of creation and the application of criticism as two interrelated practices. ‘Akapporulum Purapporulum: Praacheena Dravida Kaavyasidhanthathinte Naveekaranathinulla Nirdessangal’ (`Akapporul and Purapporul: Suggestions for the Modernisation of Ancient Dravidian Poetic Theory’) is a study of Dravidian theoretical works focusing on porulathikaram which is the third section in Tholkkappiyam. ‘Bhavishyadvaadavum Moonnaam Sahasraabdavum’ (`Futurism and the Third Millennium’) looks into the possibilities of the emergence of a new movement after the exhaustion of postmodernism. Paniker puts forth a concept called bhavishyadvaadam anticipating the dawn of a future movement following postmodernism.

`Asante Kaavyaniroopanam’ (`Asan’s Criticism of Poetry’, 1973) amines the role played by Kumaran Asan as a critic. The poetic life of Asan which spans from 1907 to 1923 was also the period of his critical works. The critical works include analyses of his own poems and his opinions about contemporary poetry. ‘Mundasseriyum Maraarum’ is a comparative study of the contributions of Joseph Mudassseri and Kuttikrishna Maraar in criticism. Both these writers belonged to the same period but shared divergent perspectives. They developed independent concepts about literature and analysed ancient and contemporary literary works. ‘Swatantrachinthayude Sooryathejassu’ (` The Radiance of Independent Thought’, 1988) is an analysis of the contributions of M. Govindan based on the work M. Govindante Upanyaasangal published by the Saahitya Pravarthaka Sahakarana Sangham.

`M. Govindan: Manorajyam Vaana Ponnanikkaran’ (`M. Govindan: The Man from Ponnani who ruled the Dreamworld’, 1989) is a brief note on the important status that M. Govindan enjoys in Malayalam literature. The essay comments on the rustic imagery that he successfully maintains in his works in spite of having travelled extensively and absorbed ideas from different parts of the world. ‘P. K. Parameswaran Nayarum Jeevacharithrasaahithyavum’ (`P. K. Parameswaran Nair and Biographical Literature’) identifies the role P. K. Parameswaran Nair has played in the establishment of Biographical Literature as an independent discipline in Malayalam literature. His priceless contribution to this field has been illustrated through an analysis of his famous work Saahithya Panchanan. ‘P. K. Balakrishnan: Thanikku Thaan Maatrika’ (`P. K. Balakrishnan: One’s Own Model’) is an evaluation of R K. Balakrishnan as an individual and as a critic and the essay goes through some of his chief intellectual preoccupations. `Sanchaya Uvaacha’ (`Sanchaya Said’) is a critical evaluation of the works of M. R. Nair, who writes using the pseudonym `Sanchayan’.

Comparative Literature is now evolving into a major discipline in India. Paniker has written extensively on multiple aspects of Comparative Literature focusing on its scope, methodology and the fields that come under this broad subject. `Tharathamya Saahityam: Bharateeya Sameepanam’ (`Comparative Literature: The Indian Approach’, 1989) is a detailed discussion on the scope of Comparative Literature in India. The necessity for an Indian approach and the main topics to be looked into for this discipline have been analysed. Paniker considers this as a cultural need of contemporary India. `Padinjarism’ (`Occidentalism’, 1987) is a critique of the practice of evaluating a Malayalam work by comparing it with an English work. While Paniker accepts the importance of comparative style in evaluating a work, he also focuses on the necessity of choosing appropriate authors for comparison as well as the need to consider the similarities as well as the differences between them.

‘Roopapadanam’ (The study of Form) (1989) is a comparative study of the various genres in literature. Genre study constitutes an important component of Comparative Literature. ‘Vivarthanathinte Manasaastram’ (‘The Psychology of Translation’, 1989) is an attempt to create an awareness among readers about the creativity involved in translation. The importance of a translator is exemplified through N. K. Damodaran’s translations of the work of Dosteovsky. The notion of translation as a mere imitation is negated in this essay. `Vi shwasaahithyakrithikal Malayalathil’ (‘Global Literary Works in Malayalam’, 1980) traces the history of the translations of works of international fame into Malayalam. Beginning from Kerala Varma Valiyakoyil Thampuran, the essay focuses on the great impetus received for translations during the twentieth century. The major translations include the works of Victor Hugo, Homer, Cervantes, Gogol, Goethe and Maupassant. The role played by Kerala Varma, Nalappatt and A. Balakrishna Pillai has been analysed. The necessity for serious research on the style of translations into Malayalam has also been mentioned.

Film Studies is an important topic in the artistic field. `Malayala Cinemayile Moonnu Aadyaksharikal’ (‘The Three Trendsetters in Malayalam Cinema’, 1984) identifies Adoor Gopalakrishnan, G. Aravindan and John Abraham as the three dominant figures (trio) of modern Malayala Cinema. In the context of the excess production of commercial films, these three directors have produced films of real artistic quality. Each maintains an independent identity in theme and style in their art films. Indiayude Makal’ (1985) is a review of the film Indiayude Makal’ which Paniker happened to see when he was in Havanna. He appreciates the power of the film in disseminating political views. The film powerfully portrays the land and people of Native Americans by the European powers. `Viswanathasirassilninnoru Ganga’ (1988) is a review of the film `Vellam-Ganga’ directed by Viswanathan and photographed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan. Paniker opines that its truthfulness cannot be surpassed even by a documentary. The film, he argues, can be seen as a biography of the river which in turn reflects the history of mankind. ‘Piraviyude Kaavyasaastram’ (`The ‘Poetics of Piravi”, 1989) is an analysis of the film `Piravi’ by Shaji. The film’s artistic quality has the ability to raise its director’s status to the level of the great trio of modern Malayalam films — Adoor, Aravindan and John Abraham. The film, which deals with contemporary politics, is considered as a reinterpretation of history. `Aasayaparamaaya Prasakthi, Bhaavadeepthi’ (`Thematic Relevance and Imaginative Brilliance’) is a review of the film ‘Athyunnathangalil Koodaram Paniyunnavar’ by Assiss which portrays the migration of a family into forest, when they are no longer able to bear the harsh realities of life.

Spotlight on Comparative Literature (1992) is one of Paniker’s major contributions to the field of comparative literature. The essays included in this work could be generally classified under different heads. For instance, there are essays which deal with the theoretical framework of Comparative Literature in India: ‘Comparative Indian Literature as a Discipline’, `Indian Poetics and Western Literary Criticism: A Comparative Study’, `Comparative Studies in Russian and Malayalam’, Comparison of writers within the Indian context forms another category: `Kalidasa and Malayalam Critics’, ‘Modern Indian Drama in English Translation with Special Reference to Malayalam Drama’, ‘Impact of Tagore and his Works in Kerala Life and Literature: Rabindranath in Perspective.’ The last major category of essays provide a comparative analysis of Indian and Western literature: ‘Sisyphus, Camus and the Mad Man of Naranath’, `Traditional Indian Theatre and Experimental Western Theatre’, ‘Traffic of Ideas Between America and India in Literature’, ‘Ancient and Modern Poetry in India and Greece’, ‘On Translating T. S. Eliot’s Poetry into Malayalam’, ‘Colonialism, Post-Colonialism and De-Colonisation: An Approach to the Comparative Study of Canadian and Indian English Fiction’ and ‘Cultural Encounter Between India and the West.’

Narratology has now emerged into an important area in Literary Theory and Criticism. In his works Paniker has dealt with the multiple aspects of narratology in Malayalam as well as Indian Literature. Akhyanakala: Siddhantavum Prayogavidhikalum (`Art of Narration: Theory and Modes of Practice’, 1993) looks into the modes of narration used in Malayalam literature. This work explores the theoretical base of narratology and its use in various literary works. In the first section, which analyses the theory of narratology, the emphasis is on the differentiation between a story and a narrative, the principles of narration, the major methods of narration, the involvement of the reader in the successful completion of a narration, the influence of novel and the study of the narrative technique in Koodiyattom. The second section elaborates on the usage of naratology, beginning from the Tamil-Sanskrit works, folk songs, attakathas, the novel and concluding with the writings of the marginalised sections like women and Dalits.

Indian Narratology (2003) discusses the history of narrativity as a theory and practice in India. Each of the chapters goes in detail into the different narrative strategies in Indian Literature: – The Vedic / Encrypted Narrative (Rig Veda Model), the Purana / Saga Narrative (Bhagavata Model), The Itihasa / Epic Narrative (Ramayana / Mahabharata Model), The Srnkhala / Chain Narrative (Kathasaritsagara Model), the Anyapadesa / Allegorical Narrative (Pancatantra Model), The Mahakavya / Grand Narrative (Raghuvamsa Model), The Buddhist / Jainb Narrative (The Jataka Model), The Dravidian Narrative (Cilappatikaram Model), The Folk / Tribal Narrative and The Misra / Miscellaneous Narratives. The last chapter analyses the lack of proper study of the narrative in India.

`Praavukal Parakkumbol’ (‘When the Doves Fly’ , 1990) is a very short article on the life of Nelson Mandela and the imprisonment he had to undergo for the emancipation of the Blacks in Africa. ‘Evideyennu Kamsanmar Therenjeduathatte’ (1986) is a brief article announcing that postmodernism has already dawned in Malayalam literature. `E. V.yude Nithya Saanidhyam’ (‘The Eternal Presence of E. V.’, ) comments briefly upon status E. V. Krishna Pillai has acquired as a writer for all ages and for all people.

On Miscellaneous Subjects

`Symphony’ is a study of one of the most prominent forms of music in the west. `Satrinte Saundarya Darshanam’ (`The Aesthetic Vision of Sartre’, 1980) is a study of Sartre’s concept of beauty. ‘Samanvaya Sapthakam: Vivekanandante Samakaalika Prasakthi’ looks into the contemporary relevance of the philosophy of Vivekananda. `Guruvinte Guruthvam’ mentions some Important aspects of the philosophical outlook of Sree Narayana Guru which sets him apart from the other sages. `Sardar K.M.Panikkar: Maulikathayulla Charithradarshanam’ ( `Sardar K. M. Panikkar: Radical Historical Concept’) studies the perspective on History held by K. M. Panikkar. ‘K. M. Georgeinte Saahityacharithravabodham’ (`K. M. George’s Insightful Literary History’) is a study of the contributions of K. M. Geroge to the study of the history of Malayalam literature. ‘Octaviopazum Indiayum’ (`Octavio Paz and India’) identifies the presence of Indian religious views and philosophies in the works of Octavio Paz who was the Mexican ambassador of India from 1962-1968.

`Mrithyudarsanam’ (`Views on Death’, 1977) gives the author’s views about death which always accompanies us right from the time of birth. The essay also mentions about the deaths of some people familiar to the author. ‘University collegile pathinaaru varshangal’ (`Sixteen Years in the University College’) is a brief sketch of Paniker’s life as a student and a teacher in University College, Thiruvananthapuram. ‘Indiyan Deshiyatha Neeridunna Velluvilikal’ (`The Challenges confronting Indian Nationalism’) focuses on the international and national threats to India.

‘Bhaaratheeya Samoohaparinamam Saahithyathil’ (Indian Social Evolution in Literature’, 1979) discusses the representation of social transformations in literature beginning from the Vedic period. The genres analysed include folklores, drama and `Aadhyakathasanketham’. `Saahithyavum Akramasaakthiyum’ (`Literature and Violent Tendencies’) analyses the reasons for generally considering tragedies as great literary works. Beginning with a quotation from Will Durant on the philosophy of Nietzsche, the essay identifies violence as a basic essence in human character. `Nammude Saamskarika Rangam: Swatantryathinu Sesham’, (`Our Cultural Scene: After Independence’) as indicated by the title, analyses the cultural transformations in India after Independence, focusing on the literary field, politics, science and media (films). ‘Indian Raashtreeyam: Swathathralabdhikku Munpum Pinmpum’ (Indian Politics: Before and After Independence’) is a study of the political scene in India before and after independence.

‘Parayunnathu, Parayendathu: Idakalaraatha Rekthamillennalle?’ (`What is and should be said: There is no unmixed blood’) highlights the nuances in the study of human civilisation. The necessity for an inclusive study of human civilisation, incorporating its multiple facets, has been emphasised in this essay. ‘Parambaryavum Sangharshavum’ (`Tradition and Conflict’) is an exploration into the notion of ‘tradition’. The essay looks at this concept from two different angles: tradition as something we have inherited from our ancestors and tradition as something constantly in the process of evolution in which we also have an active role to play.

`Aryan Mythukalude Dakshinathya Parinamam’ (`The Evolution of Aryan Myths in the South’, 1985) identifies the Aryan and Dravidian traits in Indian culture with special reference to some of the major works in Malayalam. For instance, works like Ramacharitham, Kannnassa Ramayanam, Adhyatma Ramayanam of Ezhuthachan etc. are examples of the adoption of Aryan literary works into the literary tradition of Kerala. ‘Prasadhanam: Saastravum Kalayum’ (`Publication: Science and Art’) discusses the process of publication and the role of the publisher.

The prose works of Paniker provide us a deep insight into his scholarship in the literary as well as critical fields. He had indepth knowledge about national and world literature as well as about the various art forms. From his prose writings, we get an idea about the extensive range of topics he has dealt with. Along with the range, these works also provide us all the necessary details about the topics and can be considered as a successful blending of range with depth.


LAKSHMI SUKUMAR. Research scholar at the Institute English, University of Kerala. First rank holder for her M.A. degree in English from the  University of Kerala. 

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Research scholar at the Institute English, University of Kerala. First rank holder for her M.A. degree in English from the University of Kerala.

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