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Eminent Tamil writer Ashokamitran dies at 86

LiveMint logoLiveMint 24-03-2017 Dharani Thangavelu

Chennai: Ashokamitran, one of the most prolific writers who played a key role in contemporary Tamil literature, died on Thursday at the age of 86 in Chennai.

Born as J. Tyagarajan in 1931 in Secundarabad, he began his career as an assistant at the Gemini Studios' public relations department in Chennai and took to full-time writing in the 1960s under the pseudonym Ashokamitran. He recorded his experiences at the Gemini studio later in a book, My Years with Boss.

With proficiency in both Tamil and English, the writer has written over 200 short stories, eight novels, over 10 novellas, scores of other essays and commentaries. And, most of his works in Tamil have been translated into English and other Indian languages.

His novel Thanneer (Water), which elaborates about the acute water crisis that loomed in Madras (now Chennai) in the late 1960s, is a critically acclaimed classic and is known for its powerful yet subtle narrative.

Ashokamitran was a master craftsman, who added visual drama to his narrative by adding intricate details.

“Ashokamitran was known for his short stories that were filled with his simple and artistic style of writing,” said writer S. Ramakrishnan, in an obituary post on his website.

“Ashokamitran had a remarkable sense of humour. He was a creator who had the ability to convert his suffering and anguish into wonderful art,” Ramakrishnan added.

In 1996, he was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award for his collection of short stories, Appavin Snegidhar. Some of his other outstanding works include Pathinettavathu Atchakkodu (The Eighteenth Parallel, English translation), Manasarovar and Otran.

Malayalam writer N. S. Madhavan said on Twitter that Ashokamitran was a “colossus among writers. Enjoyed reading him in Malayalam and English. Adieu”.

N. Kalyan Raman, who translated some of the writer’s Tamil works into English said on Twitter: “I have such happy memories of his warmth & friendship. Go well, sir. Goodbye.”

The writer who was the editor of Tamil literary magazine Kanaiyazhi for over two decades, has received the ”Ilakkiya Chinthanai” award and also the Government of Tamil Nadu award.

In one of his recent interviews to Tamil magazine Vikatan Thadam, the writer said: “I haven't done anything big. There is nothing much to be proud of. I have thoroughly spent whiling away my time writing (laughs). And, some have read my works.”

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