K. Satchidanandan
(India, 1946)   
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K. Satchidanandan

K. Satchidanandan (1946) is a leading Indian poet writing in Malayalam, his mother tongue. He was born in Pullut, a village in the Thrissur region of Kerala, and has been living in Delhi since 1992, visiting Kerala often. He completed a Masters in English at the University of Kerala and his doctorate in post-structuralist literary theory at the University of Calicut. He then worked as a university teacher until he joined Sahitya Akademi (The National Academy of Letters, India) as the editor of the literary journal Indian Literature. From 1996 until 2006, he was Secretary of the Akademi. He then returned to teaching, retiring as Director and Professor of the School of Translation Studies and Training at the Indira Gandhi National Open University in New Delhi in 2011.

Beginning in the late 1960s, Satchidanandan’s poetic career has crossed half a century. One of the founders of Malayalam ‘after-modernist’ poetry, as it is termed locally, he is noted for his universal outlook and appreciation of poetry from all over the globe, constantly opening doors for himself and others. “In Satchidanandan, one notices a great modernity, a chosen but simple terminology of immediate understanding, something like a non-rhetorical dialogue with himself and with the reader, a wealth of symbology, a fascinating smoothness of the verses, a subtle irony,” wrote critic Carlo Savini in an introduction to the Italian translation of Satchidanandan’s poetry. Satchidanandan’s work has also been translated into Arabic, Assamese, Bengali, English, French, German, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Latvian, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. In turn, through translation, he has broadened the readership of many world poets and enriched the resources of Malayalam poetry.
 
A torch-bearer of the socio-cultural revolution that redefined Malayalam literature in the 1970s and ’80s, Satchidanandan has always advocated the rights of the oppressed, minorities, marginalised castes and classes and women. He is a pioneer in women’s studies in Malayalam and is famous for his coinage of the term ‘pennezhuthu’ in reference to women’s writing. “Poetry as I conceive it,” he has said, “is no mere combinatorial game; it rises up from the ocean of the unsayable, tries to say what it cannot stay, to name the nameless and to give a voice to the voiceless.” Even when working within the establishment, he has always been a strong ‘critical insider’. He continues his activism for a just and egalitarian society.
 
Satchidanandan has 60 books in Malayalam, including 21 poetry collections and an equal number of translations of poetry, as well as plays, essays and travelogues and four critical works in English. He is the winner of 35 awards, prizes and honours, which include four Kerala Sahitya Akademi awards (for poetry, drama, travel writing and criticism), three National Awards, the Friendship Medal from the government of Poland, a Knighthood of the Order of Merit from the government of Italy, and a Dante Medal from Italy.
 
In his review of a German translation of Satchidanandan’s work, Ich Glaube Nicht an Grenzen, Wolfgang Kubin has best summed up Satchidanandan as a poet: “K. Satchidanandan is definitely not a poet who keeps aloof from the world. He is a poet on a journey. Poetry for him is a cry against all walls [ . . . ] It is his cosmopolitanism that makes Satchidanandan interesting beyond India.” 

© A. J. Thomas

Also on this site

Modernism and Beyond: An interview with K. Satchidanandan by Makarand Paranjape

Imagined Communities: Collective Aspirations in Contemporary Indian Poetry: Essay by K. Satchidanandan.


Bibliography

In Malayalam

Anchu Sooryan (Five Suns) 1971
Atmagita (The Song of the Self) 1974
Kavita (Poetry) 1977, 1982, 1984
Indian Sketchukal (Indian Sketches) 1978
Ezhuthachan Ezhutumbol (When the Poet Writes) 1979, 1985, 1987, 1989
Peedana Kalam (Times of Torment) 1981, 1989
Venal Mazha (The Summer Rain) 1982
Randu Deergha Kavyangal (Two Long Poems) 1983
Satchidandandante Kavithakal 1962-82 (Poems) 1962-82, 1983, 1987
Socrateesum Kozhiyum (Socrates and the Cock) 1984
Ivanekkoodi (Him, too) 1987, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1997
Veedumattam (Changing House) 1988
Kayattam (The Ascent) 1990
Kavibuddhan (The Poet as Buddha) 1992
Ente Satchidanandan Kavitakal (Selected Poems; ed. Balachandran Chullikad), 1993
Desatanam (Going Places) 1994, 1995
Malayalam 1996, 1998, 2003
Apoornam (Imperfect) 1998
Theranjedutha Kavithakal (Selected Poems) 1999
Sambhashanathinu Oru Sramam (An Attempt to Converse) 2000
Vikku (Stammer) 2002
Sakshyangal (Witness) 2004

In English

Summer Rain: Three Decades of Poetry, ed. RD Yuyutsu. Nirala Publishers, New Delhi, 1995
How to go to the Tao Temple. Har-Anand Publications, 1998
Imperfect and Other New Poems. Olive Publications, Calicut, Kerala, 2000
So Many Births: Three Decades of Poetry. Konarak Publishers Pvt Ltd, Delhi, 2001

Links

The Little Magazine
Essay entitled ‘Between Saints and Secularists’ by K. Satchidanandan in ‘The Little Magazine’; Vol II, Issue 3 – ‘Belonging’

The South Asian Literary Recordings Project
K. Satchidanandan, Malayalam Writer: The South Asian Literary Recordings Project (Library of Congress) (Bio-note and readings)

RAHA: World Independent Writers Home
‘Poetry is a dream for emancipation’: An Interview with K. Satchidanandan by Sunil K. Poolani

The Week
“Controversy: The BJP tries to tame a stubborn Sahitya Akademi”; Article by Nistula Hebbar on Satchidanandan’s poetry on Gujarat having irked the BJP in The Week (February 16, 2003)

STANDARDS – ‘How Spring Arrived This Year’
K. Satchidanandan’s ‘How Spring Arrived This Year’ (Poem) in STANDARDS (non-profit cyber-journal of the University of Boulder, Colorado)

STANDARDS – ‘My Body, My City’
K. Satchidanandan’s ‘My Body, My City’ (Poem) in STANDARDS (non-profit cyber-journal of the University of Boulder, Colorado)

 



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