The Man Who Learnt To Fly But Could Not Land
Longlisted | Book Awards 2021 | Translated into English
The Man Who Learnt To Fly But Could Not Land (K.T.N. Kottoor: Ezhuthum Jeevithavum)
K.T.N. Kottoor was activist, lover, communist, friend, saint, sinner - but, above all, he was a writer...
Born into a family of rural wealth and near-feudal influence in a village nestled in British Malabar, Koyiloth Thazhe Narayanan Kottoor knows little of want. But as a patriotic fervour grips the country in the last decades of the Raj, a veritable avalanche of new ideas and ideals shapes the young KTN.
As he grows from a boy who takes to writing not only as art but also as a tool of social change, to an activist enamoured of varying philosophies and enmeshed in India's freedom struggle, he grapples with hardship, love, lust and a search for meaning in a reality that forever disappoints. His is a tale both deeply personal and political - tracing a web of caste, sexuality and ideology, while also navigating the struggles of a man coming to terms with himself as a writer and as an individual.
Award-winning author Thachom Poyil Rajeevan weaves a magical almost-biography of a fictional writer, one inhabited by goddesses and ghosts, a fortune-telling parrot, dead humans in the avatar of crows, and a blind woman who hears - and sees - better than anyone else. Masterfully translated from the original Malayalam, The Man Who Learnt to Fly but Could Not Land is a poignant exploration of the power of writing, the chaos of a country's rebirth and the life of an idealist caught up in the maelstrom.
Thachom Poyil Rajeevan writes in English and Malayalam. He has published three poetry collections, He Who Was Gone Thus, A Yaksha in America and Kannaki, and a novel, Undying Echoes of Silence, in English, and six poetry collections, three novels, a travelogue and a collection of essays in Malayalam. He has also edited an anthology of poems, Third Word: Post Socialist Poetry, with the Croatian poet Lana Derkac. His novel K.T.N. Kottoor: Ezhuthum Jeevithavum won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award, and two of his novels were made into motion pictures in Malayalam.
Rajeevan's poems have been translated into more than 14 languages, including French, Italian, Polish, Macedonian, Uzbek, Croatian, Hebrew and Chinese. An alumnus of Iowa University's International Writing Program, he has been a resident writer at Ledig House, Hudson, in New York, the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center in Italy and the Shanghai Writers' Association in Shanghai.
P.J. Mathew is a senior bilingual journalist with three decades of experience in Malayalam journalism in Kerala and two decades in English in New Delhi. His translations into English include V. Muzafer Ahamed's Camels in the Sky.