In Conversation Lit for Life

K.R. Meera has broken away from the traditional Malayalam literary canon

Her stories and novellas in Malayalam carry the marks of the struggle to break free from literary tradition and patriarchy. At the same time, the voice is fresh, perceptive and sensitive, with a touch of vulnerability. K.R. Meera has broken away from the traditional Malayalam literary canon to find an original voice. For the Sahitya Akademi winner, who rose to fame with her work, Hangwoman, writing is the ultimate act of rebellion. The author reflects on her personal journey and craft in an email interview.

Hangwoman wasn’t an easy book to write ; you have said that you had to rediscover yourself emotionally to get on with other works. What did the novel do to you, at a personal level?

For one, it was the first time I was writing a novel without knowing how many chapters it would take. It was the kind of novel which was like a dragon’s egg, the one you hatched thinking that a small, pretty bird would emerge. It started growing up, amusing you and then worrying you and then challenging you. The moment I realised that the chick which has come out is not the kind of bird which my tiny nest could accommodate, I was terrified. I was not happy with myself in those days.

I was writing in a trance, sometimes like a maniac. I discovered that writing is my only relief and nothing else matters any more. I felt so exhausted and shattered. Sometimes I think that the old I who wrote it died in the process. Maybe this is another me. Or a zombie, for I feel empty and peaceful. I think I became a better human being after I went through that experience.


How challenging is to write in a patriarchal literary environment, with few women writers to look up to?

The patriarchal environment is true not only for Malayalam or the South Indian languages, but for all Indian languages. However, it is a bit more psychologically aggressive in Malayalam because in Kerala, most of us women are like birds in a cage, who realise that there is a sky outside. We, the Malayali women, are more empowered than men of respective age groups in terms of information and intuitive knowledge. There are only two ways to take them on — be completely obedient or completely disobedient.

You were a journalist with the Malayala Manorama. Has journalism honed your skills as a fiction writer?

Journalism offered me an opportunity to see the larger world outside. I was liberated from the constraints most women writers of the earlier generation were subjected to.


As a journalist I was amused by the incredibility and unpredictability of real life. A story will stand the test of time only when it is credible.

And for a a story to be credible, you have to create a credible environment. Factual correctness or even the impression of probability is the easy way to build the foundation of credibility on which you can raise any number of fictional stories.


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Printable version | Apr 29, 2021 10:40:44 PM |

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