Meena Kandasamy released her debut novel, The Gypsy Goddess, last month and from the synopsis alone it sounds like it has the potential to be one to add to the must-read list. Centering on the village-based struggle of oppressed peasants as the murmurings of decent starts to spread, it’s wrapped up in themes of power, exploitation, violence, human spirit, the strength of community and communication.
Set in Tamil Nadu, the most southerly state in mainland India, The Gypsy Goddess takes us back to the village life of the people of the Madras State in 1968, but it’s far from the idyl setting of tranquility that you might have first imagined. At this time the village of Kizhavenmani and its surrounding villages were under the control of local feudal overlords that ran the area with an iron fist, and the events that occurred that year were enough to shock the world.
The peasant villagers that worked in the fields for their landlords suffered the indignity and pain of beatings as punishment for any fault, as well as the relentless workload that was forced on them. Inevitably they started to wonder if life could be less oppressive, but when murmurs about Communism start to spread and the Communist Party begins to gain new support from the villagers, the landlords react in the worst possible way to crush the growing tide.
Party members are killed mercilessly as an example to all that the power balance was in the hands of their overlords and violence became the norm in the villages. However, the people’s resolved to stop the brutality as a result and their feudal masters grew more and more desperate until one night it all comes to a grizzly head.
The Gypsy Goddess is the fictional retelling of the truth behind the story of Kizhavenmani and the wider Tamil Nadu region in 1968 that evokes the lives of the people that suffered through the adversity of what was a terrible situation. Released in hardback on the 3rd April 2014, it looks set to be a very interesting debut read from the author as it reiterates why so many people felt the need to turn to Communism.
It’s easy to look back at the Marx and Engels philosophy and pick holes in it for its call to take up arms and fight to instigate revolution and the distribution of wealth. However, it’s when you find out more about the details behind a book like this that you start to understand why so many people flocked to its cause. When faced with a vicious boss tormentor, not everyone is going to march peacefully into the fray.
Meena Kandasamy is a poet, fiction writer, translator and activist who is based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India and the release of The Gypsy Goddess marks her first step as a novelist. She has previously published two collections of poetry, Touch (2006) and Ms. Militancy (2010), so we’re expecting a beautifully written and graphically described body of work from the novel.
You can also read our review of the book at http://tuppencemagazine.co.uk/meena-kandasamy-the-gypsy-goddess-review/
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