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It is a book written in an unique format, there is main fictional story of Maya and Karim and then, there is the author's ruminations in the margins, about the book as well things which happen in her life. As a concept this was really clever, which reader wouldn't love to read about the author's thoughts, but reading this was hard. . Maya and Karim live in London. Karim is a filmmaker and Maya works in the arts. Here we get to read the story of their life. I did feel like the blurb gave away almost all of the plot, but this isn't a book you read for the plot, it is a book to fall in love with words 😍😍😍 . What I loved 🍀Meena Kandasamy's prose is so lyrical, sometimes it felt like I was reading poetry. Her words were powerful and beautiful 🍀I preferred the writings in the margin to the actual story . What I didn't like 🍀The format : When I read the first chapter I was totally confused, do I read them together decided on first reading the fictional story in each chapter, then going back to reading her memoir. I didn't like going back and reading, it was kind of annoying. 🍀I wanted to know more Maya & Karim's story, open endings were never my favorites
🌸 Kandasamy’s work is never easy for me to read in one go. Exquisite Cadavers is a piece of experimental fiction which would take more than one reading attempt to fully comprehend and understand everything which she has tried to incorporate within just 100 pages. 🌸 The title of the book has been taken from a famous parlour game also known as Consequences. In this game, players take turns to write or draw on a sheet of paper, then fold the paper to conceal their part of writing before passing it to the next player. Kandasamy has divided her book in a similar pattern. 🌸 Each page is divided into two parts– one part is the story of Maya and Karim, a London couple going with their own life crisis, and in the margin, Kandasamy has written the account of her own life while writing this novel and why she created her characters the way she has created them. 🌸 Through her commentary on the page, she was able to connect to the readers in a better way as her voice was always present there. This way could be irritating and confusing for few but it was something new and interesting to me. Readers can select either way to read this book– both side together or reading another after finishing the first part. 🌸 Between the two parts, I personally liked the part where Kandasamy has written her thought process behind the story. It was more interesting to me. As she mentioned in the preface of the book, she started writing this book as a reaction to her previous book, When I Hit You. She was angry that the reviewers were calling it a memoir rather than an auto-fiction. So she decided to write a fictional story this time with characters as different from her own life. 🌸 The main story follows Maya and Karim, a couple living in London. Maya is a dual heritage British woman while Karim is a Tunisian filmmaker. We follow their angsts as immigrants. We see the struggles that Karim is facing with his tutors. He wants to make films he is genuinely interested in making. But every time, his proposal is rejected because his tutors think that he is ought to make films only related to his identity. We feel the struggles that Kandasamy felt while drawing her protagonists. 🌸 This time, unlike her previous book, she wants to create her characters as distinct as possible. But at the same time, she says that she also wants a little of her own in her protagonist. She ends up making Maya pregnant as she is. She wants to make her relatable enough for the British readers too. 🌸 Kandasamy has shown the various challenges that the immigrants face– the remarks that they get, the prejudiced thinking that they have to answer. 🌸 She says that “The purpose of avant-garde writing for a writer of colour is to prove that you are human”. She commented that the writers of colours are seen not so much as artists, but “as diarists who survived”. 🌸 Apart from this Kandasamy has also made a commentary on the current political context of India, especially in reference to Prime Minister Modi’s India. I may not agree with every view of hers but nonetheless, it was interesting to read her views. 🌸 Within just 100 pages, Kandasamy has packed tons of other issues too like #MeToo, film criticism, police brutality, sexual violence, religion-phobia, family relationships, and the history’s impact on a person’s thinking.
This book may be hit for some while it can be a miss for many because of the experimental writing. But Kandasamy’s writing is too strong to miss. She has shown her journey of being an activist, she has poured her anger. This book will make you think, ponder and question your own identity and which side you belong.
How much of an author is in a book? Does literature and art take shape from and form from the realities around the writer/artiste? How much does an author's real life experiences or belief systems influence her book? Can an author writing literature walk away from it all? Meena Kandasamy's Exquisite Cadavers is a demanding book: it asks you to be attuned to the socio political situation of the country, it asks if you to question literary forms and structure. If you are willing to give in to the demands, this intense rumination over where an artistic creator hovers around his/her work is addressed in two tracks: the story of Karim, an Arab film maker and his wife Maya who is caught in between an unstable job being one track and the author's freewheeling or is it selective thoughts written on the margins of the story telling the reader a bit of her world and why she has structured her characters and settings in the milieu they are set. Are the two tracks parallel or do they meet at some point or wait, are they entirely separate? Are Karim and Maya the way they are because of the author's own life and beliefs? Meena Kandasamy throws these questions as sharp gauntlets to the reader and literary critics starting and in the process weaves a spell. The writing is sharp and cleaves at you with clinical precision and poetic elegance. Read it if you are prepared to be rattled - it's worth it.
The writer discusses her writing-while writing it. It is an ongoing performance and a its reflection in real-time. This is how this book is created. This book is an interesting narration of a writer telling her story and that of their characters on the same physical book-page side by side. You get to see how her life unfolds and how does that of her characters. The violence of unjust world regimes from India to Africa and France to UK experienced and perceived by the author and their significant others mirror upon the personal lives of the characters. Her writing embodies a creative process where the experience of insecurity, belonging, pain and loss tie together the creator and the created. And not as an afterthought, but even as it occurs. The parallel depiction of these two is poignant and hard hitting in its appeal and anguish, its heartbreak and courage, its love and disappointments at the world.