Kamala Das / Kamala Suraiya / Madhavikutty
If there is one autobiography that has withstood the test of time and speaks with so much conviction and honesty regarding a woman’s life, its solitude and her trials and tribulations, it would be this one. There is no other. The sheer poetry and magic of words speaking a language that was alien at the time it was written is proof enough of the latent talent of the writer. The book was controversial and outspoken and had her critics gunning her after it was published in 1973; often shocking her readers with her disregard for conventions and expression of her opinions on subjects in society- more often on the hypocrisy of it. Her tumultous life seeking eternal love and the vagaries of lust drew the ire of the purists and fundamentalists alike. Eventually it became such a cult classic among the literary circles that there are very few who do not recognize her outside Kerala.
Kamala Das was born in 1934 and the author of several novels, poetry and collections of short stories. She wrote in Malayalam under the pen name Madhavikutty. Some of her works in English include the novel Alphabet of Lust, Padmavathi the Harlot and other stories. Her Poetry included Summer in Calcutta, The descendents, The old playhouse and other poems… and has been translated into several languages.
She was nominated for the Noble Prize for Literature in 1984 and received the Ezhutachan award by the Kerala Govt. She is also the winner of the Sahitya Academi award and the PEN Poetry series.
Madness is a country
Just around the corner
Whose shores are never lit
But if you go there
Ferried by despair
The sentries would ask you to strip
At first the clothes, then the flesh
And later of course your bones
Their only rule is freedom
Why, thy even eat bits of your soul
When in hunger,
But when you reach that shore
That unlit shore
Do not return, please do not return …
–Some poems and a conversation between Kamala Das & Suresh Kohli
This book of poetry brings together two disparate voices of friends who met and conversed over many years in different cities both of whom turned to poetry in moments of anxious and happy.
A pleasure to wade through the verses of two strong personalities who had their own striking style of writing regarding all that was emotional or disturbing in the world and the lives around them
The conversation between both is light-hearted and interesting, matching each other’s wit and talent often resorting to ‘walks down memory lanes’.
Suresh Kohli is an author of twenty books , including five volumes of Poetry, a novel and a coffee table book on Indian films. He is also a film maker, editor, poet, translator, literary critic and an acclaimed writer.
Both these books were a treat to read and a wonderful gift from my cousin who is into Malayalam literature and such.