It has been quite sometime since I wrote anything and the reason for that was obviously my indolence and dearth of topics. I was intending to write about the movies I watched during this period or about India’s tour in South Africa or about the year 2017, but something pulled me back from penning those down. To my relief, one thing caught my attention in the last few days and now I would like to talk about that.
About two weeks back, I came to know that my classmate and friend Devadas is going to release his novel named ‘Echoes’. I was further awed by the fact that Echoes will be his second work, after ‘The Despised Souls’, his first novel which he had published in 2013 while studying in class XI. I have always admired writers and been an occasional bibliophile since the time I started reading. And coming to know the fact that someone so close to me was going to publish his work excited me.
Echoes was released by noted bureaucrat and lyricist Sri K. Jayakumar on 27th January. Renowned writer Prof G.N. Panikkar and Sri K.Kunhikrishnan were also present. I also went for the release with few friends and grabbed one of the first copies of the book. We were really happy for Devadas about whom the dignitaries spoke highly. I was thrilled and was waiting to start the book.
Novel has always been a format that attracted masses. The ability of the writer in conveying his messages to the world through his characters is always catchy and this is the very reason why novel is the most popular form among all literary works. From time immemorial, novelists have taken readers to places where they never have been and have made them the kin of their characters. Their style, characterization, language and imagination have always inspired their readers and have in fact turned many such readers into writers.
Coming to Echoes,this was his second novel as I mentioned earlier. The Despised Souls was published when he was studying in class XI. Loosely inspired from ‘A tale of two cities’ by Charles Dickens, it was a novel set in the backdrop of French revolution. Echoes also follows the same pattern and is set in Nuremberg and Moscow at the time of World War II. Realising the fact that someone from Kerala is saying tales of people living in Germany and Russia at the time of World War II is quite mind blowing. He has never been to those places and the timeline in which the novel is set is something we know only from stories and other historical facts and fiction.
Echoes is a tale of few people mixed with love, friendship,revenge and redemption in the backdrop of WWII. As said in the novel, in the 1940s the world was a place where even the gods wouldn’t dare to visit. Such was the turmoil of the war, which resulted from the quest of one man to relieve his motherland of its past humiliation. The novel starts with the description of Adolf Hitler, then a young man who badly wanted his country Germany to win the World War I. Sadly that didn’t happen and he strongly aspired to relieve his country of that humiliation. He rose through many struggles and was even jailed once for a coup. Through this the writer conveys that Hitler was not a superhuman and was an ordinary man for whom the laws of physics and axioms were not applicable. After many years of hard work, Hitler becomes the Chancellor and Fuhrer of Germany and begins his quest for revenge.
Then we are taken to the city of Nuremberg in Germany in 1944. The characters of the novel are revealed in the most simplest of manners. The main characters are Adam, Adele, Alice, Mr. Martin, Mr. Schulz, Anton, Mr. Stein, Natalya, Nastasya and Alexei. Adam and Adele are children of Mr. Martin. Adam was in love with Alice, a friend of Adele. Their marriage looks set to happen, but a secret past of their father forces Adam to deny the marriage. To avenge this Alice marries Anton in a hurry and moves to Moscow. Sometime later Alice returns to Nuremberg and seeks help from Adele to help her husband who was in some sort of danger. Anton haven’t been too nice with Alice and spent more time with other women. Adele and Adam decides to help Alice and moves to Moscow. The later part of the story is set in Moscow where Natalya, an acquaintance of Alice, helps her. Natalya along with her cousins helps Alice, Adele and Adam to trace Anton. Anton was under the house arrest of Nastasya, a woman who had the habit of punishing men who were not loyal to their wives. In the meanwhile Adele develops an emotional attachment with Alexei, a cousin of Natalya. All of them strive to rescue Anton from Nastasya and in a dramatic turn of events, many secrets are revealed which includes the secret which was used to blackmail Mr. Martin in not allowing Adam to marry Alice and also the relation between Mr. Martin and Nastasya. In the backdrop, the war is shown to end with the suicide of Hitler and his wife and the surrender of Germany to the Allied powers. After a few months, Mr. Martin, Adam, Alice and Nastasya moves back to Nuremberg. And after sometime Natalya and her cousins move to Nuremberg to stay near the others. The novel ends in a happy note with Adele excited to begin a new tale in life with Alexei.
I finished the book in about seven hours and that tells volumes about the craft of the writer, being the awfully slow reader that I am. The presentation of the whole plot has a unique charm and that reflects in the characterization,language and setting of the novel. The way in which the emotional attachment between the characters are portrayed is one thing that gathered my attention. Whatever are those emotions, be it love, friendship or revenge, it is presented in a unique manner that the reader is forced to feel through the characters. The blossoming love between Adele and Alexei is shown not through words, but through the small actions in between the scenes, which tells us that one day, Adele and Alexei will fall for each other. Also the unlucky love story of Adam and Alice and the way in which they behave to each other in the second half is said in a convincing manner.
Friendship between the characters is another thing that has too be appreciated. The fact that Alice seeks the help of Adele even after a sad past has to be noted. The bond between Mr.Martin and Mr. Schulz, Alice and Natalya are also praiseworthy. Revenge also has an important role throughout the story. Mr. Stein avenging the death of his sister against Mr. Martin through his son is one thing that can happen in any household. Mr. Martin taking revenge against all men who are not loyal to their wives is also a case of revenge. We can also interpret that as a sign of redemption of Mr. Martin, who was the reason behind the death of Evelyn, though not purposefully. He wants to rectify that mistake he did long back through Natasya and Anton becoming a victim of that is one of the best aspects in the story.
The turmoils of World War II on people and the brief bio of Hitler are described aptly and this tells us about the reading and research the writer has done in setting the narrative. There are some beautiful dialogues that stays within the reader, few being, “I will relieve this country of its humiliation” by Hitler, “Happiness is fake,just a mask so that no one would know the burning soul inside” by Alice to Mr.Schulz and the thoughts of Adam that “Alice seemed to him like an angel who was sent down to Earth for his happiness alone”. The line that “Power makes men do things; it may be good or ghastly”, resonates throughout the novel. The fact that the whole plot is divided into 36 chapters of three to five pages will surely increase the readability of the novel in the future. The title Echoes is symbolic of the results that WW2 had on the world as well as the characters. At first, the amplitude of echoes is high and later it subsides to beautiful silence as the ending of the novel implies.
It is really a laudable effort from Devadas in presenting Echoes in a very interesting and convincing manner. To write two complete novels at 20 years of age is no mean achievement. It really needs a huge amount of hard work to present a story that is set in the 20th century and in a place too far away. K. Jayakumar Sir while releasing the book, said in a light way that, what is the reason for setting the novel in Europe that too in the 20th century, when you have lots of tales in Kerala to be written about. But as always, it is the writer who has to decide what he wants to write and fittingly, Devadas has presented his unconventional story in the best possible manner.
Here is an interview of Devadas talking about Echoes and his inspirations and dreams.
So folks, here is a writer who deserves to be read. I am concluding by quoting the last line of the novel, “And thus there began a new tale which would be written, read and appreciated by time; which will always have something new and reasonable for all.“. Let these words resonate as Echoes throughout your life buddy.