Tharakan’s Grandhavari by Benyamin

An avant-garde experiment in creative narration and publishing

Tharakan's Grandhavari deck
Tharakan's Grandhavari by Benyamin is to be released in a collectors' edition as a deck of 120 cards in a book-shaped box by DC Books Photo DC Books

DC Books is creating yet another international first in publishing. The well-known publisher continues to mine the rich and adventurous seams of Indian writing, particularly in Malayalam, and is known for encouraging radical creativity in content and contexts. Moreover, it embodies a legacy of literary experimentation and willingness to take on new forms of design and production.

DC Books’ most recent experiment is a disruptive reworking and designing of creative fiction called  ‘narratology’ – a novel that has no beginning or end – and yet while read in any order or chronology comes together as a whole story or novel. The idea of associative memory and cognition, the capacity of the human mind to make a whole out of only incidents or ideas that seem to be revealed in discontinuous bits was conceived and commissioned by DC Books many years ago. It paved the way for a creative and collaborative project with the publisher’s best-selling author Benyamin, a winner of several awards including the JCB Prize for Literature.

Tharakan's Grandhavari box
Tharakan’s Grandhavari is being first published in a Collectors Edition of 2000 book shaped boxes contain the 120 chapters as separate cards
Photo DC Books

The first edition published in limited numbers as a Collector’s Edition is printed on cards and placed in a book-shaped box curated by the renowned designer Zainul Abid of Dzain. Subsequent editions of the book are set to have hundreds of beginnings and conclusions with all 120 chapters, arranged in a variety of permutations and combinations.

The protagonist of the unusually formatted and presented novel is Mathu Tharakan, an influential 19th-century minister in the court of Dharma Raja of Travancore. Holding a monopoly in the kingdom’s spice trade and being the sole timber exporter of South India at the time, made Tharakan the richest man of Travancore. His wealth allowed him to lend to the government and fund Father Thomas Paramakkal’s travel across the globe resulting in Varthamanapusthakam, the first travelog in an Indian language. The life of Mathu Tharakan is an interesting and often overlooked chapter of Travancore’s history.

Tharakan’s Grandhavari is a historical thriller, skillfully woven as a 120-page chronicle, each page on a card in the collectors’ edition depicting a celebration of history, myth, and imagination. And these can be shuffled and read in any order – an evocation of selective and random bits of memory that trigger other parts of the whole narrative.DC Books’ legacy of experimentation in publishing dates back to 1996 when Thalamurakal by OV Vijayan was produced with 2,000 different hand-painted covers by B Bhaskaran in its first run of 2,000 copies. It was a unique form of personalized publishing and variable printing unique to the world of Indian Publishing, long before this became possible with digitally variable printing techniques. Tharakan’s Grandhavari is another bold and experimental step by the Kerala-based publisher and its adventurous authors. To be released on 23 May 2022 it is likely to be acknowledged as an international first in the history of experimental and creative narration.


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