Like many powerful novelists of the day, T V Varkey is under the shadow of Malraux and Absurdity in Sooryante Maranam (The Death of the Sun). All of them are members of a generation much obsessed by death, but responding to this sense of death not turning to art by concentrating on life with alarm, its death. Both Promethean defiance and Sisyphean despair -- the forceful feature of world literature today -- reverberate in this literary creation. The novelist of Sooryante Maranam invites us to enter the minds of his charioteers, to share the stream of consciousness, in order to feel the incessant shower of innumerable atoms.
The novel opens with the supervisor assigning night shift to Samuel, an employee of Latex Company. Samuel has no deep concern for this change but for the fear that he is forbidden from reposing and relaxing. He looks upon the machine of the latex as his “loaf giver” and his world is one where the panting of the machine articulate into a symphony. He is led to a mechanical life, thinking himself to be a butterfly, sleeping at night seeking food during the day and mating with the female. How repetitive and dull this life-cycle is! Here he finds himself strange, and alienated from the rest. To him freedom, which brings anguish, springs from our recognition of nothingness. Here Sartre echoes.
Samuel is listless at the outset of the novel, but later life leads him to a state of lifelessness. His world abounds in harsh and absurd echoes. Muarali, his friend too sentimental to fit in this flippant world, fails to moderate his spiritual agony. Likewise, scarcely can Paul, too idealistic to scale the vale of despondency, make any impact on Samuel. The handsome old man, John Master who has had many trials and tribulations in the course of his life in this world, cast away the veil of his religious faith and blurts out that he does not believe in belief. A woman appears before him in the form of Lisa, an uncouth female monstrous shape, emanating obnoxious odour. But for the tempting creamy breasts she is a witch. He uses her to gratify his carnal passion. At length she also fails to sustain his interest in life.
Sleep once had an embalming effect on Samuel. But now he cannot sleep. The sounds of factory, a sense of repugnance and contempt, a smell of slaughterhouse – all deprive him of the pleasure of slumber. Sleeping pills relieve him of the painful experiences of life temporarily. As time drifts away even these pills prove ineffective. At last Samuel shakes off his shackles of cowardice and objectivity and puts an end to his ‘absurd’ life.
All that is dear to a modernist – alienation, loss of faith, loss of identity, mania for death, failure of idealism, absurdity of sensuality - is epitomised and contained in the novel. The plot is loose and fragile. The inner rhythm and capriciousness of every sentence is what immediately catches the attention of the reader. Throughout the novel he remains in the realm of poetry where imaginative thought is enclosed in precise boundaries of stanza. On the whole Sooryante Maranam is a notable, impressive addition to Malayalam literature.
By Prof. (Dr.) D. Radhakrishnan Nair
(Indian Express, August 12, 1976)
Dr. D. Rdhakrishnan is a former professor of English at M. A. College at Kothamangalam and a writer in English and a regular reviewer for Indian Express.