Tamil writer and Sahitya Akademi awardee Prapanchan, who was reportedly battling cancer for a long time, passed away on Friday in Puducherry at the age of 73. He is survived by his wife and three sons.
The celebrated writer won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1995 for his novel Vaanam Vasappadum, a sequel to his Maanudam Vellum. He has written over 250 short stories, 300 essays and 10 novels. Many of his works have also been translated into other languages, including Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, German, English and French.
Vaanam Vasappadum is set in the era of the French colonial empire in India with Puducherry as its centre. The novel, narrated through the diary of Anandarangam Pillai who served as the chief interpreter to the French governor, is one of the major contributions to Tamil literature. “Prapanchan’s book embodies the three distinguishing features of Tamil culture – Iyal (poetry), Isai (music) and Natakam (drama),” said Sujatha Vijayaraghavan, who reviewed the book for Tamizh Puthaka Nanbargal.
Maanudam Vellum, his prequel to the award-winning work, spoke in detail about the life and culture of Tamil people under the French rule in Puducherry and South Arcot. The novel is set in a time when the French started imposing direct rule over the people. Describing the French influence in the way Tamils lived their lives, this novel is credited with changing the trend of writing about the ruling class in historical novels and instead focus on the lives of the common man under such rule.
The third book in the series, Kanneeraal Kaappom, narrates the tale of Puducherry’s fight for independence.
Reacting to his death, poet-lyricist Vairamuthu told Sun News that Prapanchan was a Tamil poet who learned Tamil formally. He also praised Prapanchan for the feminist ideas in his books and called him an unparalleled creator.
“For a normal human being, death concerns the body. For a creator (writer), death is beyond the body. His works will live on for ages. Till the end, till the reader keeps reading his works, he will live. I convey my deepest condolences to his friends and family for the irreparable loss,” Vairamuthu said.
Earlier this year, at an event organised by the Hindu, speaking on the hundred years of the Tamil short story, Prapanchan said the story must start from the very first line instead of sticking to borrowing from other literature. “In Russian language, the story will begin only after 20 pages. Though we have borrowed the form from another language, some of the best writers in India are Tamils,” he said.