22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

K. Satchidanandan

Portrait K. Satchidanandan
© Photo Courtesy: K. Jayachandran

K. Satchidanandan was born in 1946 in Pulloot, a village in Kerala, a state in Southern India. He began writing poetry at the age of eleven. He graduated in Zoology and then took up English Studies at the Maharaja’s College under the University of Kerala. He took his doctorate in post-structuralism from the University of Calicut and taught for 25 years at Christ College, under the same university.  He edited several avant-garde literary magazines until 1992, when he became the editor of »Indian Literature«, the literary newspaper of the Indian Academy of the Arts, Sahitya Academi, in New Delhi.  Since 1996 he has been its director.

Satchidanandan is deemed to be an eminent writer and language specialist of the regional language of Kerala, Malayalam, of whose »New Poetry« he is an important representative. Additionally, he is an influential essayist, literary theoretician, and translator. At the beginning of his work he contributed in overcoming the orhodox norms, to which traditional Malayalam literature was confined.  In 1971 he made his debut with the lyric volume »Anchu Sooryan« (Engl: Five Suns).  In the following decade he turned to leftist ideologies, especially Marxism.  Appearing during this period, along with his well-known poetry volume »Ezhuthachan Ezhutumbol« (1979; Engl: When the Poet Writes), were his translations of Nazrul Islam, Pablo Neruda, Ho Chi Minh, Bertolt Brecht, and Mao Tse-tung.  Since the Mid-Eighties, Satchidanandan increasingly began turning to issues of secular spiritualism and regional cultural identity.  His extensive and diverse works mirror the post-colonial development of Malayalam literature.  Central throughout all of his work is a deep concern for ethical and political questions. With simple, soft-spoken language, characteristic irony, powerful imagery – predominantly stemming out of nature – and references to complex theoretical backgrounds, his poetry unifies the greatest of opposites, such as politics and spirituality, pluralism and equality, globalism and regionalism. In this way, Satchidanandan’s poetry moves between affirmation and resistance, which never remains in the same pose.

Satchidanandan has held numerous lectures and readings domestically and abroad, and has taken part in several international literature festivals.  As an editor of text books, cultural politician, author of theoretical articles, as organizer of literary and cultural seminars, and above all as translator of African, Latin American, Asian, and European authors, Satchidanandan occupies a unique role in India as a promoter of intercultural understanding. He received, amongst others, the Prize of Kerala Sahitya Academi in the category of essay, lyric, drama, and reportage. Collections of his poetry have appeared in translation in 14 languages including English, French and Italian. Satchidanandan lives in New Delhi.

Translator: Annakutty V. K. Findeis

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