Penguin to Publish Three Novels by Award-Winning Malayalam Author V. J. James

New Delhi, 2021: Penguin Random House India is proud to announce the acquisition of three new titles by critically acclaimed Malayalam writer V. J. James. These new novels will be translated from Malayalam to English by Ministhy S. and published under the Vintage imprint, with the first of the novels coming out in February. More recently, the richest and one of the most distinguished awards for literary fiction, the JCB Prize for Literature, longlisted V.J. James’ novel Anti-Clock, translated by Ministhy S. and published by Penguin.

Nireeswaran is the most celebrated of James’ works, for which he received the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award, Vayalar Award, Kerala Bhasha Institute Award and the Basheer Puruskaram. Originally published in 2014, the novel questions blind faith and ritualistic religion and gives an insight into what true spirituality is. Three rationalists, and pranksters, establish the idol of what they call an anti-god (Nireeswaran) to show people how hollow their religion is. When miracles start being attributed to Nireeswaran, and hordes turn up to worship the fake god, the trio is put in a quandary. Will they fight their own creation? Using incisive humour and satire, the novel showcases how love and spirituality are deeply interconnected.

The Book of Exodus is James’ impressive first novel, which won the DC Silver Jubilee Award. Kunjootty is hospitalized the same day that Susanna goes missing. There is a mystery surrounding this that will unravel during the course of the novel. Filled with folklores and myths, set amidst the waterways and reeds of Kerala’s isles, and peopled with locals and outsiders with mysterious pasts, the novel has an ethereal quality to it.

The third book is a powerhouse of a novel. Mahesh and his four friends – each named after a Pandava brother – and Panchali, or Meera, decide to look for their friend, guide, leader Freddie Robert, whom they had named Yudhisthira. Freddie had disappeared into the forest several months ago, in search of a rare new bird. Thus begins Dattapaharam, a rumination on solitude, man’s connection with nature, and the strings that attach us to this world.

Talking about his three novels, V. J. James says, ‘It is my pleasure to publish three more novels after Anti-Clock through Penguin Random House India, brilliantly translated by Ministhy S. There is a saying that each book will find its true reader. I hope that these books, too, will find their readers.’

The translator of these books, Ministhy S., says, ‘I consider it a  true privilege to work  with  the brilliant, visionary author V.J. James and Penguin Random House India’s incredibly talented team. Translating the fantastic, multiple-award winning books of James has been a wonderful experience. Each has a totally different theme and is striking in its ambition and style. Indeed, I am confident that the incisive humour, deep spirituality, iconoclastic perspectives and the all-pervasive humanity in the books will find fans across the world.’

Elizabeth Kuruvilla, Executive Editor, Penguin Random House India, who acquired the books, says, ‘The imagination soars in each of V.J. James’ novels. There are no two books that are comparable to the other, so different are the themes and his approach towards them. Reading each is such a thrilling and transformative experience that one is left with the sense of it being his best work—till you get to his next book. It’s not surprising that his novels have received multiple awards, and thanks to Ministhy’s exemplary translation, is now being recognised in the English literary world.’

Milee Ashwarya, Publisher, Ebury Publishing and Vintage, Penguin Random House India commented saying, ‘V.J. James’ stories are captivating, haunting, and leave you asking for more. I am delighted and proud that these three books have found a home in Penguin Random House India, and will now be available to a wider audience. I would like to congratulate the author V. J. James as well as the translator Ministhy S. who has brought the stories alive through her careful and brilliant translation.’

About the Author

V.J. James writes in Malayalam. Born and brought up in Changanacherry, Kerala, he currently resides in Thiruvananthapuram. An engineer by profession, he worked at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre. His debut novel Purappadinte Pusthakam (The Book of Exodus) was awarded the DC Silver Jubilee Award, Malayattoor Prize and Rotary Literary Award. Other awards include the O.V Vijayan Award and Thikkurissi Award for Anti-Clock, and the Thoppil Ravi Award, Kerala Bhasha Institute Award, Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award, Basheer Puraskaram and Vayalar Award for Nireeswaran. The English translation of Chorashasthram was shortlisted for the Atta Galatta Bangalore Literature Festival Book Prize. clrireviews@gmail.com

The Malayalam film Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol starring Mohanlal and Meena is an adaptation of his short story ‘Pranayopanishath’. Along with six short story collections, his major works include Purappadinte Pusthakam (1999), Chorashasthram (2002), Dathapaharam (2005), Leyka (2006), Ottakkaalan Kakka (2013), Nireeswaran (2014) and Anti-Clock (2018). The English translation of Anti-Clock, published by Penguin Random House India, has been longlisted for the JCB Prize for Literature 2021.

About the translator

Ministhy S. is an IAS officer working in the Uttar Pradesh cadre. She translates between three languages: English, Malayalam and Hindi. Her translation of The Poison of Love by Malayalam novelist K.R. Meera was longlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2017 and The Unseeing Idol of Light by the same author shortlisted for the Crossword Book Jury Awards in 2018. Her translation of Anti-Clock is on the longlist of the JCB Prize for Literature 2021. She has further translated Sundar Kanda and Kishkindha Kanda from Awadhi to English, and the poetry collections My Home, After Me by Agneya from the Hindi and The Heaviness of the Rain by Veerankutty from the Malayalam.