New Login   

Evocative of a Venomous Past

By Ravikumar  and R. Azhagarasan
Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2012, pp. 334, Rs.595.00


Featuring forty-two poems of sixteen poets, ten short stories, excerpts from two novels, two plays, six excerpts from biographies/autobiographies, four archival sources, four public speeches and seven articles this volume spans over almost a whole century. To choose from a vibrant set of writings that have become part of the Tamil literary milieu for the past three decades is no easy task and the editors have done their best to give us a glimpse of various genres and trends in Tamil. The volume is also to be lauded for including the archival sources, speeches and prose writings. The landscape and the everyday living unravelled by these writings are rich in its tapestry. Demanding a different point of view of language that is sympathetic in drawing attention to lives on the banks of the Cooum river, in exposing the inhumanness of caste practices, the perennial patriarchal domination that is rampant within dalit households as well and the assertion of one’s own bodily integrity and self respect the poems reveal a plethora of emotions. The most noticeable aspects of the poems in this collection are the new images that test the capacity of the language to bear the burden of the overall reality of dalit life, the female voice that both complements and contests the see saw experiences of being a dalit and a woman and the invocation of tantric structures and beliefs as prophetic and futuristic. When Ravikumar tells his friend that ‘Our people know/ how to slice and sun dry the fish/ we can’t finish / our people know/ how to make a whole street smell good’, he is simultaneously redefining the nostalgic notion of childhood and creates a vision of the world based on labour and a new aesthetic. The women poets Sugirtharani, Thenmozhi and Umadevi trace their primeval existence to nature, body and work. Uma Devi declares, ‘This cave woman who bathes happily in the waters / knows the tongue of hunting.’ N.D. Rajkumar’s language of prophetic curse in If anyone other than our own people should happen to read this palm leaf manuscript, they will feel giddy, their hearts will pound, and the heat within will dim their sight, addle their brains and enfeeble all their learning—so have I now, in my writings, set evil spirits to cause these afflictions. The short stories in this volume are the most engaging selection. Azhagiya Periyavan’...

Table of Contents >>
Please or to Read Entire Article

Free Access Online 12 Back Issues
with 1 year's subscription
Archive (1976-2011)
under construction.