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He was born in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala on 3 March 1923. His father was V.K. Madhavan Pillai and mother, L. Sarada Amma. He had his school education at Travancore and his college education at University College, Thiruvananthapuram. After completing his Post Graduate Degree in Malayalam Literature, he served a lecturer of Malayalam Literature at various colleges in Kerala, before retiring as the Head of Malayalam Department, Maharaja's College, Ernakulam
His works include 'Adhunika Malayala Kavitha,' 'M. Krishna Nairude Prabhandangal,' 'Prathibhayude Jwalagni' and compilation of 'Sahithya Varaphalam.'
Nair's weekly Malayalam column 'Sahithya Varaphalam', which is carried by leading weeklies, has been the most widely read column in the language for the last 35 years. Nair earned friends and foes and often created storm in literary circles with his pungent comments, brief but incisive analysis and sharp observations in his column. He Was a voracious reader. Krishnan Nair's pen was for more than three decades the Malayali readers' preferred pointer to quality literature published the world over.
He retired as a teacher in 1978. He was the recipient of the first Goenka award for Excellence in Literary Journalism. Krishnan Nair would perhaps be best remembered as the critic who — after Kesari Balakrishna Pillai — opened up the vistas of Western and Latin American literature to the ordinary Malayali reader through his weekly 'Sahithyavaaraphalam
He was famous for the weekly column "Sahithya Vara Phalam" which he penned for more than 36 years, uninterrupted. Though his column was criticised for its alleged superficiality, it was through this column that M. Krishnan Nair introduced a very large section of readers of Kerala to the world of literature from Latin America and Europe. He was merciless in his critique of works by Malayalam authors, novice or established, if he found them as, to use one of his favourite phrases, trash. He also used his column to comment upon the contemporary Kerala society.
'Sahithya Varaphalam' first appeared in the now-defunct 'Malayala Nadu' weekly, later in 'Kalakaumudi' and then in 'Samakalika Malayalam', a weekly published by The New Indian Express group. An authority on world literature, he introduced to the common reader masterpieces in English, European languages and also Latin American and Japanese literature. As a reviewer judging literary works, he never went by the reputation of the writer but by the true value of the piece under judgment.
Nair's column was taken seriously by writers even when many of them smarted under his merciless attack. He was the recipient of the prestigious B.D. Goenka award and many other literary honours. He had for long taught Malayalam literature in different colleges