23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Benyamin
© Vijesh Vallikunnu


Benyamin was born as Benny Daniel in 1971 in Kulanada in the southern Indian state of Kerala. He lived in the Kingdom of Bahrain from 1992 to 2013 and eventually returned to Kerala.
Benyamin is the author of circa twenty books in various genres, from short stories to novels to memoirs. His novel »Aadujeevitham« (2008; Eng. »Goat Days«, 2012), which he wrote in Malayalam, the language of Kerala, earned him the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award and was on the longlist of the Man Asian Literary Prize and the shortlist of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. In this book, Benyamin describes the life of Indian worker Najeeb Muhammad in Saudi Arabia in four parts (prison, desert, escape, and refuge). He wants to earn money in the Gulf States to send home. But Najeeb falls into a trap right at Riyadh airport and is taken to a farm by a rich Arab animal farm supervisor. From then on, he ekes out a slave-like existence as a goat herder in the Saudi desert. Constantly hungry and without knowing the language, people, or places, he has to do grueling work and lives under constant surveillance. During this time, he builds a special relationship with the goats he herds, sharing his dreams, desires and hopes with them. Finally, after three years, he manages to escape with the help of a Somali worker from the neighboring farm and reaches Al-Bathaa, where he is arrested by the police. Najeeb spends several months in prison before being deported to India by the Saudi Arabian authorities. Najeeb’s story is based on real events that inspired Benyamin to give a voice to the many people who share Najeeb’s fate. »Aadujeevitham« is now part of the curriculum of several Indian universities. A film adaptation is in progress. Benyamin’s novels »Mullappoo Niramulla Pakalukal« (2014; Eng. »Jasmine Days«, 2018) and »Al-Arabian Novel Factory« (2014) shed light on the background of Arab Spring. Other topics he addresses are the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites in the Middle East and the »post-truth age«, in which propaganda dominates the media and hatred is spread across social networks. »Mullappoo Niramulla Pakalukal« tells the story of a young Pakistani woman who works as a radio presenter in an unspecified country in the Middle East and is confronted daily with religious violence. Benyamin has also dealt with religious questions in earlier texts: »If I want to speak to god, I don’t want a mediator from religion … Religion is just an institution to rule people. For them it is a weapon to attack others and strengthen their own power.«
»Mullappoo Niramulla Pakalukal« won the prestigious Indian JCB Prize for Literature in 2018. Today, Benyamin lives in Pandalam.



Green Books
Thrissur, 2008
DC Books
Kottayam, 2013
Manja Veyil Maranangal
DC Books
Kottayam, 2011
Al-Arabian Novel Factory
DC Books
Kottayam, 2014
Mullappoo Niramulla Pakalukal
DC Books
Kottayam, 2014