Novellas Books

Her love burns bright at both ends: Review of K.R. Meera’s ‘The Angel’s Beauty Spots’


K.R. Meera’s gritty and unapologetic women are not for the faint-hearted

The narrator-protagonist of ‘The Deepest Blue’, the last novella in this collection, warns the readers before she sets out to narrate her story — “Only the firm-hearted are advised to proceed.”

This statutory warning could serve almost the entire repertoire of K.R. Meera, who in her stories dives unflinchingly into the darkest depths of the human mind. These are depths where all the binaries of the surface — be it love and violence, life and death — fuse inextricably. At their best her stories are darkly lyrical and metaphorically rich; occasionally, though, the unmitigated horror and angst can prove exhausting.

The titular story in The Angel’s Beauty Spots centres on Angela, a single mother with grit and gumption, living unapologetically outside conventional morality. The story is interesting for the play of extreme vulnerability and strength of Angela’s character. She says, “This body is a huge liability. Very hard to lug without a job! And hard to find a job with it! So, wherever I go, I look for the top man there...”

Radhika in the second novella, ‘And Forgetting the Tree, I...’, has settled into the staid rhythm of middle-aged life after a traumatic childhood and youth. But storm strikes again as her lover from the past re-enters her life. This story effectively uses the metaphor of a tree to speak of various nuances of life and love. “Whenever he could, he swung the axe hard at the base of the tree, believing that the tree was truly realised in the axe...”

The “good wife” of the last novella longs for what her husband and family cannot offer — an all-consuming love that transcends the moral code of the time, and indeed, the notion of time itself.

Love is central to the stories of all the three women protagonists, but it is the sort of love that burns bright and briefly at both ends and sears all things around it.

“This love is not only strange, but also painful. Anyway, what is love without pain? It must ache as if your bosom has been cleaved apart... I will tear out my wings and fly to him... I will defeat him with blood and pain,” says the wife of the third novella. This is certainly not “strange” in the world of Meera’s atypical characters, so many of whom have been excellently translocated from Malayalam into English by J. Devika.

The Angel’s Beauty Spots; K.R. Meera, trs J. Devika, Aleph, ₹399

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 10:13:18 PM |

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