Ottupulackal Velukkuty Vijayan
Born(1930-07-02)2 July 1930
Palakkad, Malabar District, Madras Presidency, British India
Died30 March 2005(2005-03-30) (aged 73)
OccupationNovelist, short story writer, cartoonist, journalist
GenreNovel, short story, essays
SubjectSocial aspects
Literary movementModernism, Magical realism
Notable awards
SpouseTeresa Vijayan
ChildrenMadhu Vijayan
RelativesO. V. Usha (sister)

Ottupulackal Velukkuty Vijayan (2 July 1930 – 30 March 2005), commonly known as O. V. Vijayan, was an Indian author and cartoonist, who was an important figure in modern Malayalam language literature. Best known for his first novel Khasakkinte Itihasam (1969), Vijayan was the author of six novels, nine short-story collections, and nine collections of essays, memoirs and reflections.

Born in Palakkad in 1930, Vijayan graduated from Victoria College in Palakkad and obtained a master's degree in English literature from Presidency College, Madras. He wrote his first short story, "Tell Father Gonsalves", in 1953. Khasakkinte Itihasam (The Legends of Khasak), Vijayan's first novel, appeared in 1969.[1] It set off a great literary revolution and cleaved the history of Malayalam fiction into pre-Khasak and post-Khasak. While Khasakkinte Itihasam continues to be his best-known work as an angry young man, his later works, Gurusagaram (The Infinity of Grace), Pravachakante Vazhi (The Path of the Prophet) and Thalamurakal (Generations) bespeak a mature transcendentalist.

Vijayan authored many volumes of short stories, which range from the comic to the philosophical and show a diversity of situations, tones and styles. Vijayan translated most of his own works from Malayalam to English. He was also an editorial cartoonist and political observer and worked for news publications including The Statesman and The Hindu.

Early life

Illustration of O.V. Vijayan

O. V. Vijayan was born on 2 July 1930 at Vilayanchaathanoor village in Palakkad district in Kerala.[2] Born premature in the seventh month, Vijayan was sickly from childhood and spent most of his time confined to his room. His father O. Velukkutty was an officer in Malabar Special Police of the erstwhile Madras Province in British India.[3][4] His youngest sister O. V. Usha is a Malayalam poet.[5] As a child, Vijayan was largely homeschooled. Formal schooling began at the age of twelve, when he joined Raja's High School, Kottakkal in Malabar, directly into sixth grade. The informal education arranged by his father during his absentee years was sufficient to keep him at par with his peers. The following year, Velukkutty was transferred and Vijayan joined the school at Koduvayur in Palakkad. He graduated from Victoria College in Palakkad and obtained a master's degree in English literature from Presidency College.[6] Vijayan taught for some time at Malabar Christian College, Kozhikode, and Victoria College before opting for journalism.[3]

Literary career

Khasakkinte Itihasam

When the bus came to its final halt in Koomankavu, the place did not seem unfamiliar to Ravi. He had never been there before, but he had seen himself coming to this forlorn outpost beneath the immense canopy of trees, with its dozen shops and shacks raised on piles; he had seen it all in recurrent premonitions – the benign age of the trees, the river bark and roots arched above the earth.
(the opening paragraph of Khasakkinte Itihasam)[7]

Khasakkinte Itihasam (The Legends of Khasak), Vijayan's first novel, which took twelve years' writing and rewriting to reach its final form, was published in 1969.[8] A year before, it was serialized in Mathrubhumi weekly for 28 weeks starting from January 28, 1968[9] and set off a great literary revolution and cleaved the history of Malayalam fiction into pre-Khasak and post-Khasak eras.[10] The former era was romantic and formal; the latter is modernist, post-modernist and post-post-modernist, with tremendous experimentation in style and content. The novel, which has drawn comparisons with One Hundred Years of Solitude of Gabriel García Márquez,[11][12] is about Ravi, a teacher in an informal education centre in Khasak, and his existential crises.[13] The central character is shown as a visionary who completed his post graduate programme in Physics from a college at Tambaram. The novel ends when Ravi begins his journey to some other realms of existence.[14] The existential puzzle of man as to why he should exist is explored in this novel. The novel introduced a new poetic style of prose, combining Tamil, the Palakkad dialect and a sanskritized Malayalam.[9] It also introduced a narrative style that moved forth from reality to myths and back.[15] The work was later adapted as a play by Deepan Sivaraman.[16]


Dharmapuranam (The Saga of Dharmapuri, 1985)[17] is outwardly a great political satire where the author knows no restraint in lampooning political establishments.[8] The works attempts to lampoon modes of governance through its characters and the setting. The central character is Sidhartha, modelled after Gautama Buddha, whose personality is shown to lead people to enlightenment. Though satirical in its tone, the novel has a spiritual level, too. Malayalanadu weekly announced that the novel would be serialised from July 1975, but the plan was dropped when the Emergency was proclaimed on June 25, 1975. The novel was finally serialised only in 1977, after the Emergency was lifted and it proved to be prophetic. There were hindrances for its publication as well due to its sexual-scatological language and imagery and as the atrocities perpetrated during Emergency were still haunting the public. Finally, it was published in 1985. Two years later, Penguin Books published the English translation and the book drew critical reviews. ...dangerous stuff and cut close to the bone were the words of David Selbourne, in The Times Literary Supplement and Khushwant Singh rated the novel as not the kind of novel you forget in a hurry. Vijayan himself described it as a cleansing act that he had no desire to repeat.[18]

Later novels

The third novel, Gurusagaram (The Infinity of Grace, 1987) differs in language, vision and characterisation from the earlier works.[8] It is on the immanence of Guru in the life of the seeker. Guru is everywhere and is manifested in everybody. The seeker partakes of the grace of the Guru as he happens for him unawares and unconditional. The central character is a journalist from Kerala, working in Delhi, going on an assignment to report the Indo-Pak war of 1971. He undergoes an excruciating experience both spiritually and physically to learn how to annihilate all forms of ego. Gurusagaram fetched him the Vayalar Award, the central Sahitya Akademi Award and the Kerala Sahithya Academy Award in 1991.

Madhuram Gayathi (1990) has been termed as "a fantastic allegory fusing mythology, spirituality and ecology". It is an allegorical fable of the post-Holocaust world with its lovelessness and disharmony. Pravachakante Vazhi (The Path of the Prophet; 1992) emphasises the vision that intuition is perennial and it is one and the same always. This oneness of the revelation makes the ways of all prophets the same. This great education in spirituality is got in those barbarous days of Delhi when the Sikhs were maniacally hunted after and mercilessly butchered following the murder of Indira Gandhi. Vijayan's last novel Thalamurakal (Generations; 1997) is autobiographical to a great extent. It is historical to a still greater extent. Beyond autobiography and history, the novel is a journey down the collective experiences of a family in search of an awareness about oneself and his clan. This search is of great importance when the collective experiences of the subculture are very bitter and the individual sense of the clan identity is much superior. The novel is a narration of four generations in Ponmudi family in Palakkad, Kerala.[19]

Other literary works

He wrote his first short story, "Tell Father Gonsalves", in 1953. He wrote many volumes of short stories, the first volume of which was published in 1957 – Three Wars. The stories, which range from the comic to the philosophical, show an astonishing diversity of situations, tones and styles. O. V. Vijayan's best known collection in English is After the Hanging and Other Stories which contains several jewel-like masterpieces, in particular the title story about a poor, semi-literate peasant going to the jail to receive the body of his son who has been hanged; The Wart and The Foetus about the trauma of the fascist Emergency; the transcendental The Airport, The Little Ones, and several others. He also wrote many essays, and also published one book of cartoons- Ithiri Neramboke, Ithiri Darshanam (A Little Pastime, A little Vision) – 1990. Itihasathinte Itihasam, a historical treatise written by him is considered by many as masterpiece.[20]

An incisive writer in English as well, Vijayan translated most of his own works from Malayalam to English. Selected works have been published by Penguin India. His own translations of his stories into English – After Hanging and Other Stories and Selected Stories and the novels, The Saga of Dharmapuri, The Legend of Khasak and The Infinity of Grace – have had a pan-Indian appeal, though many have been critical of the freedoms he took with his own works as well as his English style.[21]


Vijayan left his home state in 1958 to pursue his career as a cartoonist in Delhi.[22] Joining the famous Shankar's Weekly, Delhi, as a cartoonist and writer of political satire, he moved to Patriot as a staff cartoonist in 1963.[20] Vijayan was also an editorial cartoonist and political observer in various news publications – The Statesman and The Hindu – and later turned freelancer.[23] His cartoons also appeared in publications such as Far Eastern Economic Review and The New York Times. Philosophy and politics merged in his cartoons, just as revolution and spirituality coalesced in his writings. His searing comment on Indira Gandhi's Emergency rule and about her return to power in 1980 would remain high points in the history of Indian cartooning.

Later life and death

Vijayan was married to Theresa Gabriel, an academic and the couple had a son, Madhu.[3] He was afflicted with Parkinson's disease for 20 years and in March 2005, he was admitted to Care Hospital, Hyderabad where he succumbed to organ failure on 30 March 2005 aged 74,[6] survived by his wife and son.[24][25] His body was taken to Kerala by special flight and was cremated with full state honours at Ivor Madom crematorium in Pambadi, Thrissur near Thiruvilwamala on the banks of the Bharathapuzha where his nephew, Ravi Shankar, a known cartoonist, lit the pyre.[26][27] Teresa Vijayan died a year after his death,[6] and his son lives in the US.[22]

Awards and honours

O.V Vijayan Memorial by Kerala Government at Thasrak, Palaghat, Kerala

Vijayan received the Odakkuzhal Award for Khasakkinte Itihasam in 1970.[28] His third novel, Gurusagaram, brought him three awards, Sahitya Akademi Award[29] and Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for Novel in 1990[30] and Vayalar Award in 1991.[31] When Muttathu Varkey Award was instituted in 1992, he received the inaugural award.[32] The Government of Kerala awarded him the Ezhuthachan Puraskaram, their highest literary honour, in 2001,[33] the same year as he was inducted as an honorary fellow by Kerala Sahitya Akademi.[34] The Government of India awarded him the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian honor, in 2003.[35] Mathrubhumi Literary Award, the last of the awards he received was in 2004, a year before his death.[36][37] A memorial, O. V. Vijayan Memorial has been constructed by the Government of Kerala in Thasrak, the setting of his novel, Khasakkinte Ithihasam.[38][39][40]

O. V. Vijayan Literary Award

Main article: O. V. Vijayan Sahitya Puraskaram

The O. V. Vijayan Sahitya Puraskaram (O. V. Vijayan Literary Award) was instituted by the Naveena Samskarika Kala Kendram, Hyderabad, in 2011, in memory of Vijayan who had spent his last days in Secunderabad.[41] The award consists of a cash component of 50,001, a memento by Kanayi Kunhiraman, and a citation. The award is given to the best book of a writer during the year.[42] Sarah Joseph, Zacharia, Vijayalakshmi, B. Rajeevan and Usha Kumari are some of the recipients of the award.[43]



  • O. V. Vijayan (1969). Khasakkinte Itihasam (The Legends of Khasak). DC Books. ISBN 978-81-7130-126-3.
  • O. V. Vijayan (1985). Dharmapuranam (The Saga of Dharmapuri). DC Books.
  • O. V. Vijayan (1987). Gurusagaram (The Infinity of Grace). DC Books.
  • O. V. Vijayan (1990). Madhuram Gayathi. DC Books. ASIN B007E5FFA4. Archived from the original on 31 January 2019. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  • O. V. Vijayan (1993). Pravachakante Vazhi. DC Books. ISBN 978-81-7130-258-1.
  • O. V. Vijayan (1997). Thalamurakal (Generations). DC Books. ISBN 978-81-7130-742-5.

Short stories

Collection of essays



Translations into English

Translations into French

  • Vijayan, O. V. (2004). Les Légendes de Khasak. Translated by Vitalyos, Dominique. Fayard. ISBN 978-2-213-61994-1.
  • O.V. Vijayan: L'Aéroport, transl. from Malayalam by Dominique Vitalyos, Revue Europe, nov-dec. 2002, pp. 236–241
  • O.V. Vijayan: Les Rochers, translated from English by Valérie Blavignac, Revue Europe avril 2001, pp. 132–138.

Translations into Hindi

Writings on Vijayan

See also


  1. ^ "Njattupura recreates Thasrak magic". 22 March 2015. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  2. ^ "O. V. Vijayan - Indian Cartoonist and Writer". Encyclopædia Britannica. UK: Britannica. 2017. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "Vijayan: The writer, cartoonist". Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  4. ^ "VIJAYAN O V Palakkad". DC Books online. 23 July 2017. Archived from the original on 24 June 2017. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  5. ^ Ajith Kumar, J. (24 November 2002). "A passion for the unknown". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 19 February 2014. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  6. ^ a b c "Vijayan O V - DC Books profile". dcbooks. Archived from the original on 17 May 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  7. ^ Baiju Govind (23 April 2017). "World Book Day: Revisiting Thasrak, where a legend was born". OnManorama. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  8. ^ a b c "Vijayan: Guru of a whole generation". Rediff. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Khasakkinte Ithihasam - 50 Years". Madhyamam. 18 November 2018. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  10. ^ "Kerala's magic-realist and political commentator - Why everyone should read O. V. Vijayan". 12 June 2018. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  11. ^ Gopalakrishnan, K. K. (3 May 2014). "Lost in translation". The Hindu. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  12. ^ "It Takes a Village". The Indian Express. 17 April 2016. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  13. ^ "Khasakkinte Ithihasam". 23 July 2017. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  14. ^ Nalini Natarajan; Emmanuel Sampath Nelson (1996). Handbook of Twentieth-century Literatures of India. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 195–. ISBN 978-0-313-28778-7.
  15. ^ "Remains of the Day". The Indian Express. 13 October 2016. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  16. ^ Ganesh, Deepa (5 May 2016). "The local route". The Hindu. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  17. ^ "Dharmapuranam". 23 July 2017. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  18. ^ K. Satchidanandan. "A sage and an iconoclast". Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  19. ^ The Great Malabar Novel- Review
  20. ^ a b "Key Indian writer OV Vijayan dies". 30 March 2005. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  21. ^ Balakrishnan, Suneetha. "This novel of nested narratives chronicles the battles of two women (or three, including the author)". Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  22. ^ a b "O V Vijayan passes away". Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  23. ^ The lion in winter The Rediff Interview/O V Vijayan
  24. ^ "National : Directive to O.V. Vijayan's son". The Hindu. Retrieved 30 January 2019.[dead link]
  25. ^ "Family fight breaks out over Vijayan's ashes - Times of India". The Times of India. 8 April 2005. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  26. ^ "Can your ashes be a part of your estate?". Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  27. ^ A. Sikri (10 March 2006). "Sh. Madhu Vijayan And Anr. vs Sh. S.G. Ravishankar on 10 March, 2006". Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  28. ^ "Winners of Odakkuzhal Award". Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala. 31 January 2019. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  29. ^ "Kendra Sahitya Academy Awards (Malayalam)". Public Relations Department, Government of Kerala. Archived from the original on 24 May 2007. Retrieved 11 April 2011.
  30. ^ "Kerala Sahitya Akademi Awards for Novel". Kerala Sahitya Akademi. 31 January 2019. Archived from the original on 9 November 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  31. ^ "Award Page (Malayalam)". Kerala Sahitya Academy. 31 January 2019. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  32. ^ "Kerala News : Muttathu Varkey award for Zacharia". The Hindu. 29 April 2005. Retrieved 31 January 2019.[dead link]
  33. ^ "Ezhuthachan Award". Kerala Sahitya Akademi. 31 January 2019. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  34. ^ "Kerala Sahitya Akademi Fellowship". Kerala Sahitya Akademi. 30 January 2019. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  35. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  36. ^ "Mathrubhumi Literary Award". Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  37. ^ "Mathrubhumi Literary Award winners". Kerala Sahitya Akademi. 31 January 2019. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  38. ^ Shaji, K. A (18 March 2016). "Khasakh heroes to welcome visitors to Vijayan memorial". The Hindu. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  39. ^ Multimedia, G. L. O. (31 January 2019). "O. V. Vijayan Memorial". Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  40. ^ Shaji, K. a (23 September 2014). "Work on O.V. Vijayan memorial at Thasrak slack in Kozhikode". The Hindu. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  41. ^ "Award for Sara Joseph". The Hindu. 28 October 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  42. ^ "A thinker who was far ahead of his time". The Hans India. 12 November 2012. Archived from the original on 18 February 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  43. ^ "Malayalam writer bags O V Vijayan literature award". The Economic Times. 20 October 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2019.

Further reading