T Padmanabhan. Illustration by Akila Weerasinghe.
T Padmanabhan. Illustration by Akila Weerasinghe.

The craft of writing

T Padmanabhan’s art in Malayalam literature.

Thinakkal Padmanabhan, or TP, as he is fondly known to many, is a doyen of the short story in Malayalam. As he turned 90 last year, Samyukta India Press brought out a collection of his short stories, translated into English by Sreedevi K Nair and Laila Alex. The edition with its deceptively simple title, Stories, sits as a fitting capstone to what has been one of the most distinguished literary careers in Indian literatures. And for those unfamiliar with TP's oeuvre, the collection is an excellent starting point.

TP is an acclaimed writer in Malayalam, having been a two-time Sahitya Akademi awardee, and having received all the major literary awards in Kerala including the Ezhuthachan Puraskaram, the highest literary award of the Government of Kerala, in 2003, the Vallathol and Vayalar Awards in the same year (2001), and the Basheer Award most recently (2019), among many others. In the words of the translators Nair and Alex, "T. Padmanabhan's place in Malayalam literature is comparable to that of Edgar Allan Poe in American Literature." He writes within an august literary tradition that has seen many greats, and a long career spanning many decades since the 20th century has meant that TP has seen many literary movements and fashions come and go. Born in 1931, TP began writing at the age of 19 and has penned nearly 200 short stories of which Prakasham Parathunna Oru Penkutty (The Girl Who Spreads Radiance, 1955), Oru Kathakrithu Kurishil (A Writer Being Crucified, 1956), Makhan Singhinte Maranam (The Death of Makhan Singh, 1958), Kala BhairavanGouri (1993) and Maraya (2017) have become canonical.

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