Legends of Khasak

by OV VIjayan

Read time: about 4 minutes

Reading is personal. Reviewing is for the community. Yes, reviews are our opinions on books, and sometimes this blog acts as a place to share the joy and vent out our frustration, but the reason we publish that is because we want the community to know what we think of the books we read. This idea is incomplete without community participation. Guest posts at Meraki Post is one way of getting the community to participate. Today, we have Navaneeth Jose giving us a review of Legends of Khasak. He likes to get straight to the point, so, here we go!

Cover Page

One may wonder how to interpret the curious illustrations on the cover page. At different junctures of the novel, you may find different meanings in the cover illustration, which you can directly or indirectly relate to the colour patterns, people, their positions, and heir suggested movements. They are symbols of inner conflicts of the novel, the understanding of which may vary according to where you look in relation with your reading.

Characters

Though the book is relatively small in size, the number of characters is quite high. Ravi’s relationships with these characters reveal, on the first layer, the inner conflicts of his mind. On a deeper layer, they reflect how each of these characters is involved in the past, present and in the future of Khasak, and how they are all indispensable components of the soul of Khasak. One of the most important elements of this novel is that the reader comes to find the space as a character rather than just a setting for the plot. It is also probably an element which takes more time to get a comprehensive understanding of.

Content

Discussed, criticized and defined, Legends of Khasak has, over the years, created a space of its own and influenced generations of people. What more can be written about a classic that has travelled through all kinds of people and stayed in the literary circle for this long? OV Vijayan’s philosophy continues to cause waves in the literary world; yet another debate regarding his life emerged only few days ago.

Perhaps one characteristic of a classic is how it deals with time. Whether it is within or outside of the text, its relation with time is indeed a crucial factor to understanding it. The non-linear narration in the novel makes use of clever literary techniques and gives an evolving structure to the plot. From the initial strangeness, and the later amusement, the plot creates a space that revolves around the singularity of karma. Myths, dreams, desires, fate, coincidences, ideologies, sex, architecture, and struggles of everyday life form a core that influences and interconnects the different characters. The various experiences and incidents that take place in the novel spin a web of emotions. It is interesting to realize that the different incidents are perhaps reflections of alter egos of people and their inner struggles. The constant references of Ravi’s self-imposed alienation, his social position and his past, and the way of life in Khasak, give rise to a larger platform of conflict. Such subtle and mysterious conflicts are the ones that make this book a masterpiece.

Language

For me, fiction can only be written in Malayalam, however underexposed the language is.
— OV Vijayan

There are significant differences between the original version in Malayalam and the translated version in English. Although the translation was done by the writer himself, the intensity of the novel is considerably lower in the English version, partly because of the inability of a foreign language to adequately capture localized grammar and slang. The language of Khasak is a mix of Tamil and Malayalam and this sets a peculiar context which is extremely challenging to express in a translation while retaining depth and essence. It is indeed the magic of language that gives a mystic and mysterious element to the novel.

Good Points

It takes more than one reading to really understand the book. The layers of complexity hidden behind the simplest words and events make this book a classic. Vijayan is a master storyteller, with an exceptional skill of connecting readers and characters.

Bad Points

Legends of Khasak has been severely criticized for the content, which is ultimately the existential crisis and self exploration of a privileged human being.

Who would you recommend this to?

To people who love literature in its most intense ways.

Go ahead, grab yourself a copy of Legends of Khasak and tell us what you think about the book! If you are a Kindle person, ensure to select the Kindle edition of the book.

Legends of Khasak

Looking to buy a Kindle?

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Navaneeth J Jose

MA (English), passionate reader, writer and movie enthusiast, who has worked for International Film Festival of Kerala, International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala; a translator for the UN Food Programme