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On the Far Side of Memory: Short Stories of Lalithambika Antharjanam
Published by OUP India
A collection of twenty-two short stories by the well-known Malayali author Lalithambika Antharjanam that trace the span of her writing career establishing her as an important feminist public intellectual of her times who undertook the challenge of revising ideas of gender away from mainstream social reform.
Lalithambika Antharjanam (1909-1989) was one of the earliest women to gain recognition in modern Malayalam literature as one of the first voices raised on behalf of women. Her works deal with the struggles of the women in her community, their assertion of independence from the men in their lives, and their unease with modern domesticity and community reformism. She has, however, always been straitjacketed as a 'romantic author', as a 'voice of social reform among the Malayali Brahmins', due to a selective readings of her writings, which projected some of her writing as more valuable than others. This collection of her twenty-two short stories covers almost the entire span of her writing, from the 1930s to the 1980s. The volume seeks to place her as a feminist public intellectual intervening in the literary and sociopolitical debates of her times, which, of course, change dramatically across the course of the century. Antharjanam emerges as an important voice that responded critically to imaginations of gender that were dominant in the mainstream of social reform discourse in the 1930s and after, and indeed sought to rewrite the terms of that discourse in ways that could potentially be more favourable to women. It also reveals the limits of her attempts at reinscription, due to the limitations of her times and social location.
Lalithambika Antharjanam (1909-1989) is widely recognized as one of the first women to win acclaim in the early twentieth century as a writer in modern Malayalam literature. Born in a progressive Brahmin family in south Kerala, she was one of the few Brahmin women who were exposed to modern learning and ways of life, at a time when traditional seclusion of women was the rule in her community. She was initially renowned as a powerful voice which questioned the place of women in the traditional Malayali Brahmin way of life in Kerala, but her critique of modern gender as it was advanced by modernizing social reformism is also a significant part of her work. She published nine volumes of short stories, the short story being the genre which brought her most fame. She won several prestigious awards, and her only novel, Agnisakshi (1976) won the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award and the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award. J. Devika is associate professor at the Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum, Kerala, and has a doctoral degree in history. She has published several translations--a volume of short stories by Sarah Joseph, The Masculine of Virgin (2012), a novel and a novella by K.R. Meera, Hangwoman (2014) and And Slowly Forgetting that Tree... (2015). She has also written introductions for many translations, including the memoirs of Devaki Nilayangode, Antharjanam: Memoirs of a Namboodiri Woman (2011), Lalithambika Antharjanam's novel Agnisakhi (2015), and Johny Miranda's novella, Requiem for the Living (2013).
Reviewer: Paul Doolan
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