Feral fancies: Review of Malayalam author Gracy’s ‘Baby Doll’

Gracy’s gloriously defiant women bring home the toxic taste of misogyny

July 25, 2021 12:00 am | Updated 10:25 am IST

Every story Gracy’s Baby Doll gravitates towards places where one confronts a piece of her long-suppressed self. You are taken to a vivid and nuanced world populated by men, women, even ghosts, who are jealous and rebellious, frustrated and depressed, vulnerable and queer in their own triumphant ways. Her protagonists — mostly women — are gloriously flawed.

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Halfway into the book, the author intervenes in her own voice to say that her “stories never traverse the luminous paths” and she is not “a storyteller who spreads light.” Gracy is irreverent with aplomb.

Women are not victims in Baby Doll : some watch the world with brazen insolence, some boldly tread the borderline between normalcy and lunacy. They burn with feral energy, breaking open a realm of memory and mortality, adultery and defiance, menace and paranoia. You see a daughter opting for a burning-crimson sari to attend her mother’s funeral; a young wife trapped in her dreams; and a grumpy mama returning from the netherworld to quibble and curse. While Krishna, refusing to be a sex slave, finds the perfect antidote to her husband’s perverse fantasies, Parvathi is remorseless about the vagaries of desire.

The nameless husband in ‘Cat’ is terrified of the feline traits of his wife and believes that a tomcat visits her every night. The she-lizard in ‘A Lizard Birth’ says she is least interested in the breeding-child bearing cycle. But it’s the children in Baby Doll who sear your soul — their tragedies lend coherence to the all-pervading air of melancholy.

While some stories are drawn-out chronicles of solitude, some are miniatures strewn with dark humour and sarcasm. Gracy revels in playful blasphemy, stiletto-sharp humour and clever imagery, which bring home the toxic taste of misogyny. E.V.Fathima’s translation deftly handles the intimidating simplicity of Gracy’s syntax, making Baby Doll an immersive collection.

Baby Doll: Stories; Gracy, trs Fathima E.V.; Harper Perennial India; ₹399.


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