Contemporary Shades of Kerala
Purnachandra Naik
FEELING KERALA: AN ANTHOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY MALAYALAM STORIES by Translated from the original Malayalam by J. Devika Penguin Books, Gurugram, 2023, 304 pp., INR 599.00
June 2024, volume 48, No 6

Stories defamiliarize and invite us to read the world differently. But more importantly, they nudge us to feel it sensuously absorbing its many shades. This is the guiding light that sets off J Devika’s translation of thirteen Malayalam short stories which illuminate contemporary Kerala beyond the archaic juxtaposition of the region with higher literacy rate and hyped model of development. Lifeless data and statistics—the fuel for social sciences scholarship—with the predilection to quantify social reality run the risk of reducing it to misleading tropes. J Devika insists that ‘literature alone may capture social processes in all their complexities [and] the Malayali society is best documented, in my view, in the works of Kerala’s literary writers’ (p. x). As such, this compilation aims to cast a spotlight on contemporary Kerala. Drawing on her unique positionality as a feminist, social scientist, and literary translator, she frames each story with a brief introduction, laying out the contexts and background which are strung with real-life events and anecdotes as she dispenses with the distracting footnotes. Although this method works to initiate and guide the reader smoothly through the stories, the overt thematic exposition seems unnecessary and risks limiting the scope of reading—and indeed feeling—Kerala.

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