Malayalam novel both in its novelty and modernism is comparable with the works in world literature. The Malayalam novel has the capacity to present varied themes with all its boldness and beauty. Many talented persons have created many contributions to this stream of literature. The publishing and the sales of novels are a proof that, the novels have a place in the hearts of the people. Surprisingly the people of Kerala on an average are an avid readers of novels. Critics also evaluate and consider novels the most. No doubt, the coming of novels has raised the reading habits of the masses. And so, novels command wide popularity.
Through novels, social transformation was unleashed in Kerala society. The novelists were the forerunners and flag bearers of reforms and progressive thoughts in Kerala. Novels even questioned the social evils of the time and it changed the conservative rules in society. The novels even paved the way for Keralites to feel proud and to hold their heads upright, fearlessly.
With the arrival of periodicals and prose, during the last part of the 19th century, the novel too has evolved as a distinct branch of literature. During the period 1847-1887, though twelve stories came out in Malayalam, they were not novels in the strict sense of the word. The works were Arch Dicken Koshy’s Paradesi Mokshayatra (1847), Pulleli Kunju (1822); Kaloor Oommen Philipose’s Almarattam (1860), Ms. Collin’s Khathakavadam (1872) and Appu Nedugadi’s Kunthalatha (1887).
The first novel in its true form in Malayalam is O. Chanthumenon’s Indulekha. Following C.V. Raman Pillai’s historical novels like Marthanda Varma, Dharmaraja (1913), Ramaraja Bahadur (1920) several others like Appan Thampuran, K. Narayana Gurukkal, Karattu Achutha Menon, Ambadi Narayana Poduval and Munthiringottu Bhavatrathan Namboothiripad made significant contributions to this field.
The coming of Realism during 1940s marked a turning point in the history of the novel. And, novels began to occupy a place of pride. The Malayalam novel has flourished through the works of P. Kesavadev, Thakazhi Siva Sankara Pillai, Vaikkom Mohammed Basheer, S. K. Pottekkadu, Uroob, Lalithambika Antharjanam and the others. Since the 1960s M. T. Vasudevan Nair brought about great changes in novel writing. His novels received wide acclaim for its unique portrayal of a bygone era of forlorn, despair and introvert nature.
Modern period in novel that started during 1960s gifted Malayalam Literature with many prominent writers including O. V. Vijayan, Kakanadan, Kovilan, V. K. N., T.V. Kochubava, N. P. Mohammed, Malayatoor Ramakrishnan, Vilasini, Madhavikutty, M. Mukundan, Sethu, Punathil Kunjabdulla, Anand etc. The search for human values in a destructive world, identifying crisis and inner conflicts of human beings arising out of existentialism and protest marked the benchmark of novels created in modern period. By the mid-1980s the full fledged modern period gave way to post modernism in novel writing. And the writers have successfully tried to portray in their novels the intense experience of modern society.