Webpages of 20th Century Tamil Authors and Their Works ©K. Kalyanasundaram


Life History
Literary Contributions


Jeyakanthan is a giant amongst the modern writers of short stories and novels. And a short story writer par excellence he is! The only other writers in the same league - quality and quantity-wise, are pudhumaippiththan and thi. jAnakirAman. During 1995-1996, Dr. Swaminathan Sankaran of the Univ. of Regina in Canada posted a series of articles on Jeyakanthan and his literary contributions to the soc.culture.tamil USENET newsgroup.
These articles are reproduced here for the benefit of the internet community.

Life History

jeyakAn^than was born in 1934 in a well-to-do family of agriculturalists, or vELALars, in Cuddalore, in the North Arcot district of thamizh n^Adu. His father mu. dhaNdapANip piLLAi (1908-1954) had no formal education. He was too unrestrained in his habits and was a spendthrift who lost all his wealth early in life. Around 1935 he abandoned his wife and children and went away and joined the Government of Madras Fire(fighting) Department. He married another woman and lived with her and had two other children by her. JK reports that he knew astrology and had an excellent aesthetic sense and sound knowledge of the arts. Thus JK grew up in a one-parent family but as in most Indian/thamizh families had other adult males who filled in; in his case it was his maternal grandfather and two uncles. The garndfather was first a nationalist but later became a su(ya) ma(riyAdhaik) ka(zhakam) and later still d(hirAvidak) k(azhakam) supporter and follower of I. vE. rA.
The two uncles were C(ommunist) P(arty) of I(ndia) members. Their party connections shaped JK to a much larger extent than his grandfather's DK leanings. The example of a third, probably older, uncle (pa. maNGgaLam piLLai) is understated, but might have been a much longer-lasting influence. This uncle was a Gandhian through and through, offered individual satyAgraha and was a bhArathi bhakthA. JK first became familiar with bhArathi's works when, even as a child, he heard this uncle recite and sing bharathi's poems and songs. He married a harijan/dalit woman and went to live with her in her chEri. He might have served as the prototype for the character "Adhi" in the \bt "jaya jaya SaNGkara ..." muzhu nAval. \et JK spent his first 12 years in Cuddalore. His family lived in the aggirahAram. The present day DK leader(!) ki, vIramaNI (whose given name was sAraNGgapANi) also lived in the same town and was JK's classmate in school. Formal schooling does not seem to have agreed well with JK, nor he with it. He quit school after completing Grade 5 education and was considered a "problem" child. Unable to bear the harsh treatment routinely meted out to such children, he ran away from home at 12. But he seems to have played it safe by "running" away by train to vizhuppuram where his maternal uncle purushOththaman happened to be, at that time. This gentleman, once a Gandhian, then a Congress socialist, had become a communist and was in 1946 a full time CPI member and labour organizer at the vizhuppuram railway colony. It is there that JK first imbibed his communist teachings. However, as a child he would start asking for his "home" and crying. Finally he went back to his mother in Cuddalore. But after six months he was again bundled out and sent to Madras with a letter to another uncle rAdhAkrishNan. (purushOththaman was probably in jail by this time as a participant in the Quit India movement.) Previously, in his periodic "running away from home exploits" JK had been to Madras a couple of times. Thus he was familiar with the location of CPI's "janaSakthi" office where this uncle could be found. ( I am mentioning this because it gives us a clue to the importance of the train \bt rayil \et in his writings.) rAdha krishNan was away on some party work. But comrade san^thAnam read JK's mother's message out loud which said " You (meaning rAdhaK) went away to reform and improve the world. Now please take the responsibility to reform and improve this useless son of mine also." The child JK started crying on hearing these words. Immediately the CPI comrades quietened himdown and asked him not to worry. From then on, he stayed in the janaSakthi office building and became part of the commune. He lived there eating and sleeping just like other commune members. He made many lasting friendships and acquaintances during his sojourn there.

Literary Works - a bibliography

    1. Or ilakkiyavAdhiyin arasiyal anubavaNGgaL (428) Oct 1974
    2. Or ilakkiyavAdhiyin kalaiyulaka anubavaNGgaL (316) Sep 1980 L

    3. vAzhvikka van^dha gAn^dhi (198) 1973 L (Translation of Romain Rolland's French biography of Gandhi, with the help of Ms. jeyajjanani)
    4. oru kadhAsiriyarin kadhai (71) May 1989
    ( Life of munshi prEmc(h)an^d(h) )
    5. munnOttam (212) Sep 1972 L
    6. avarkaL uLLE irukkiRArkaL (147) Oct 1972
    7. n^inaiththup pArkkiREn (192) 1973 C
    8. sudhan^thirach chin^thanai (160) Jan 1974 L
    9. bArathi pAdam (100) Nov 1974 L
    10. oru pirajaiyin kural (148) Feb 1975 L
    11. imayaththukku appAl (96) Aug 1979 M
    12. vAkkumUlam (87) Feb 1980 M
    13. yOchikkum vELaiyil.. (127) Nov 1982 M
    14. pOnadhum nan^dhadhum (80) Jan 1983 B

D: NOVELS and NOVELETTES (\bt kuRunAval \et)
    15. vAzhkkai azhaikkiRadhu (200) Aug 1957
    16. kaivilaNGgu (95) Jan 1961
    (Was made into a movie "kAval dheyvam" by S.V. subbaiyA; shivAji gaNesan had a cameo role.)
    17. yArukkAka azhuthAn? (120) Feb 1962
    (Actually two kuRunAvalkaL: "yArukkAka ahuthAn?" and "enakkAka azhu". The first one was made into a movie of the same title by JK himself, starring n^AgEsh in title role.)
    18. birammOpadhEsam (94) May 1963
    (Actually two kuRunAvalkaL: "birammOpadhEsam" and "ilakkaNam mIRiya kavidhai." S.V. subbaiyA "bought" the film rights for the title story, but the film was never completed.)
    19. piraLayam (150) Aug 1965
    (Actually two novels: "piraLayam" and "vizhuthukaL." )
    20. karuNaiyinAl alla (92) Nov 1965
    21. pArIsukkup pO! (352) Dec 1966
    22. kOkilA enna seythu vittAL? (179) Nov 1967
    (Actually two novels: "kOkilA enna seythu vittAL?" and "samUkam n^Alu pEr." )
    23. sila n^EraNGkaLil sila manitharkaL (412) Jun 1970
    (Won the sAhitya aKademi award. Was made into a successful movie by the JK-bImsiNG unit, starring lakshmi in the title role.)
    24. oru nadikai nAdakam pArkkiRAL (307) Jan 1971
    (Was also made into a movie by the JK-bImsiNG unit, starring lakshmi in the title role.)
    25. oru manidhan oru vIdu oru ulakam (375) Apr 1973
    26. jaya jaya saNGkara... (252) Sep 1977 M
    ( Actually this is the single volume edition of the four titles: "jaya jaya saNGkara", "manaveLI manidharkal", "en^dhaiyum thAyum", and "mahA yagNYam." )
    27. gaNGgai eNGgE pOgiRAL (231) Dec 1978
    ( Sequel to 23. "sila nEraNGkaLil...)
    28. oru kudumpaththil n^adakkiRathu... (70) Jan 1979 U
    29. pAvam, ivaL oru pAppAththi! (99) Mar 1979
    30. eNGgeNGgu kANinum... (76) May 1979 K
    (This was JK's contribution to ( v. 1, Issue 1) of the monthly magazine "kalpanA", started by him and aRan^dhai n^ArAyaNan, under the "one good novel for one rupee every month" scheme, to improve the thamizh reading public's literary tastes and appreciation. A truly noble attempt. It folded after about 3 years, but not before beginning the serialisation of JK's other autobiographical work: "Or ilakkiyavAdhiyin paththirikai ulaka anubavaNGgaL," which, to date, remains incomplete and unpublished in book form, as far as I know.)
    31. Urukku nURupEr (100) Jun 1979
    32. karikkOdukaL (51) Jul 1979 N
    "maNiyan" mAdha idhazh - malar 1 idhazh 3)
    33. mUNGgil kAttu n^ilA (68) [v. 1, No. 5] Sep 1979 K
    34. oru manidhanum sila erumaimAdukaLum Dec 1979
    35. ovvoru kUraikkum kIzhE...(70) [v. 1, No.9] Jan 1980 K
    36. pAttimArkaLum pEththimArkaLum (184) Apr 1980
    37. appuvukku appA sonna kadhaikaL (192) Aug 1980
    38. in^dha nEraththil ivaL... (???) ???
    (38,36 and 37 form a trilogy, an important one, in JK's opus. Unfortunately, I have mislaid my copy of 38. They draw extensively from JK's family history and are a delight to read.)
    39. kAththirukka oruththi (66) [v. 2, No. 5] Sep 1980 K
    (Later came out a mInAtchi puththaka nilaiyam novel in November 1981.)
    40. karu (108) Apr 1981
    41. Aydha pUsai (75) Mar 1982
    42. sun^dhara kANdam (360) Sep 1982
    43. Isvara allA thErE nAm (280) Jan 1983
    44. O, amerikkA! (76) Feb 1983
    45. illAdhavarkaL (68) Feb 1983
    46. idhaya rANikaLum ispEdu rAjAkkaLum (126) Jul 1983
    (Actually two \bt kuRunAvalkaL \et: The titled novel and the earlier "oru kudumpaththil nadakkiRathu.")
    46. kARRu veLiyinilE... (455) Apr 1984
    47. kazhuththil vizhun^dha mAlai (146) Sep 1984
    (Actually, two \bt kuRunAvalkaL \et : "kazhuththil vizhun^dha mAlai", and "nambamAttELE." The second kuRunAval is actually the first of a trilogy of which the next two were published together as 48 below.)
    48. an^dha akkAvaiththEdi... (148) Oct 1985
    (Actually, the other two kuRunAvalkal completing the trilogy: "vIttukkuLLE peNNAip pUttivaiththu..." and "an^dha akkAvaiththEdi...")
    49. innum oru peNNin kadhai (220) Jul 1986
    (Actually three kuRunAvalkaL: "pakalil oru vEsham,' "innum oru peNNin kadhai," and "kaiyil oru viLakku.")
    50. rishimUlam (166) Sep 1965
    (Actually TWo kuRunAvalkaL: "rishimUlam," and "Adum n^ARkAlikaL AdukinRana.")
    51. sinimAvukkup pOna siththAL (144) Sep 1972
    (Actually the kuRunAval of the title and a short skit: "balavInaNGgaL.")
    52. unnaippOl oruvan (???) ???
    53. oru pidi sORu (144) Sep 1958
    54. inippum karippum (158) Aug 1960
    55. dhEvan varuvArA (176) 1961
    56. mAlai mayakkam (142) Jan 1962
    57. yugasan^dhi (288) Oct 1963
    58. uNmai sudum (188) Sep 1964
    59. pudhiya vArppukaL (168) Apr 1965
    60. suyadharisanam (152) Apr 1967
    61. iRan^dha kAlaNGgaL (184) Feb 1969
    62. gurupIdam (184) Oct 1971
    63. chakkaram n^iRpathillai (138) Feb 1975
    64. pugai n^aduvinilE... (124) Dec 1990
    65. sumaithANGgi (???) (???)


(1) There is also a slim volume of English translations of jeyakAn^than's short stories. It is titled: GAME OF CARDS and OTHER STORIES: JAYAKANTHAN - ENGLISH RENDERING, by K. DIRAVIAM and it is published by Asian Book Company, 14 Peters Road, Madras 600 014. The translations are not very very dood and don't do any justice at all to JK's genius.

(2) Under ESSAYS, I should have also included a collection of JK's PREFACES titled "jeyakAn^thanin munnuraikaL." I do not have a copy of this book.

(3) I have misplaced my copies of "unnaippOl oruvan", "in^dha n^Eraththil ivaL," and "sumaithANGgi." Some of the readers may recall that "unnaippOl oruvan" was made into a very fine movie. It was the first thamizh movie to win an award ( The third prize or the Bronze) at the all India level (President's awards.) Satyajit Ray's masterpiece ChArulathA made from Tagore's short story "noshta n^Ir" (Broken Home) won the Best film award. The totally undeserving Hum DOnO ( of the Anand Brothers) - a Bollywood Hindi Film extolling national integration and sacrifice ( in the year following the India-China war) won the silver and JK's film won the Bronze (The Best Regional Film award, I believe.)

(4) JK also wrote occaional poetry. Some of it is quite good. One of them particularly, "nI yAr" which appeared in No. 32 of the si. su. chellappA magazine ezhuththu (1960-61?) is excellent. I will include it in my next posting.

There are other earlier short stories which appeared in janasakthi, sakthi etcetera and essays written elsewhere, foe example, in kalpanA which have not appeared in any of the collections and are therefore not included in this BIBLIOGRAPHY. But over 60 major works in a span of 32 years is a great achievement. In addition, when one looks at the quality of these publications and their influence over future generations of thamizh writers and the reading public, there can be no doubt that jeyakAn^than is a major writer of international standards and that he deserves to be more widely known in India and abroad.

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This file was last updated on March 4, 99