Throughout the novel there is a conflict between traditionalism and modernism. Although, the In Chemmeen, the protagonist Karuthamma’s mother Chakki, a fisherwoman brought up in the tradition of .. Making of Modern English. Uploaded. Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai’s (Malayalam) novel Chemmeen, accepted as part of It was the first significant Malayalam novel to be translated into English after. Trove: Find and get Australian resources. Books, images, historic newspapers, maps, archives and more.

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Indian literature has always fascinated me.

However, due to my lack of chememen in reading and writing any language fluently apart from English, I am losing out on large chunks of great Indian literary works.

So all this while, I had to be content with reading Indian novels written in English. And it was really worth it.

Chemmeen: The novel and the film

Still, I got the beauty and essence of the story, so surely translator Anita Nlvel has done a great job. She also tosses in a few Malayalam words at various junctures, which works really well for the story.

It is primarily the tale of a young woman — Karuthamma — the daughter of a Hindu fisherman Chembankunju, who falls in love with Pareekutty — the son of a Muslim fish trader. Bovel to their religious and social differences, and the rules of the sea, their love is nipped in the bud and Karuthamma marries Palani, an orphan fisherman. What happens to the forbidden lovers, and whether the unsuspecting Palani will get caught in the waves of englisy all-consuming love — is what this novel is all about.


Not just Karuthamma and Pareekutty, every character who defies tradition ends up paying a huge price. However, finally he ends up alone and ruined. His wife Chakku, who supports him begrudgingly, ends up dead too. While we are on the subject of Chakki, I have to mention the strong women in the novel.

Then there is Nallapennu, their sharp-tongued but loving neighbor. There is little Panchami, ennglish is actually the one that sets the entire chain of events in the novel into motion. And finally, Karuthamma herself. A young woman who bravely battles every adversity thrown at her, despite suffering in the pain of separation from her beloved.

The men are also well-written. Chembankunju is the most interesting one of all.

Book Review – Chemmeen (English Translation) – Tales’n’Tunes

Through his we see how money can slowly corrupt an individual. Initially all he wanted was to own a boat and nets. He slowly becomes more and more greedy, stops caring about tradition and customs and becomes a bad husband, bad friend and a bad father, blinded by greed. He is the character who Xhemmeen sympathized with the most, a man who suffers engilsh no fault of his.

And of course, Pareekutty, who sings every night yearning for his beloved. His love for Karuthamma turns him into a pauper. The sea is a major character, and it has been described beautifully.

The different moods of the sea, boats going into the sea and returning with fishes…. Nair wonderfully captures these descriptions and details in her translation. The story is centered around a myth by which novle fishing folk of that area live. If his wife is infidel, the Mother Sea Kadalamma will take his life.


The ending of the novel makes you wonder if there is any truth to all the myths we have been fed all our lives. The final scene of the book, which has a young girl crying with grief on the sea-side, with a baby in her arms, leaves a haunting image for the readers. This book has been adapted into a film of the same name. The film has received a lot of engilsh too. Maybe I will watch it someday, to re-visit the story in Malayalam.

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Book Review – Chemmeen (English Translation)

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