The Mahasweta Devi Collection #4
Only for readers in India.
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Mahasweta Devi (1926–2016) was one of India’s foremost literary figures from the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries—a writer and social activist in equal right. Author of numerous novels, essays and short stories, she received the Jnanpith Award, India’s highest literary honour, in 1996. She was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1997 for her ‘compassionate crusade through art and activism to claim for tribal peoples a just and honourable place in India's national life’.
This bundle contains four works by Mahasweta Devi:
1. Till Death Do Us Part: Five Stories
Translated by Vikram Iyengar
Five elderly women. And the men in their lives: husbands, lovers, sons, and friends. All living in the margins of society, ageing, enduring, struggling to make ends meet.
These touching tales, with their humour, delicacy and warmth, are each centred on a woman: There is Kuli, in the story ‘Talaq’, who finds herself unexpectedly divorced in the heat of a quarrel, but decides to defy societal taboos. Mohini, in ‘The Saga of Kagaboga’, lonely after her sons leave home, vows that since her husband objects to her verbosity, she will henceforth talk only to the crows and cranes. Kamal, in ‘The Poet's Wife’, discovers how harsh the indifference of today's world can be. Anandi, in ‘He Said, Pani’ mourns the sudden loss of her only friend and the simple pleasures of their companionship, even as insensitive forces question her links with the old man. Finally, there is the ageing actress of ‘Love Story’—Kusum, who, after a lifetime of devotion to her lover, finds herself alone, and questioning what it was all about.
2. In the Name of the Mother
Translated by and Introduced by Radha Chakravarty
The stories in this volume are linked by a common thread: the mother. ‘Ma, from Dusk to Dawn’ is the story of a woman from a nomadic tribe, catapulted by her circumstances into the role of a spiritual mother whose so-called mystical powers depend upon her denial of maternal affection towards her own son during daylight hours. ‘Sindhubala’ describes the anguish of a childless woman forced to play the role of a semi-divine healer called upon to save other people’s offspring. ‘Jamunabati’s Mother’ offers a stringent critique of a consumerist society indifferent to those on the margins and ‘Giribala’ presents the plight of a village woman whose daughters are trafficked by their own father, to pay for the house he dreams of building.
3. Mother of 1084
Translated by Samik Bandyopadhyay
Mother of 1084 is one of Mahasweta Devi’s most widely read works, written during the height of the Naxalite agitation—a militant communist uprising in the 1960s–70s that was brutally repressed by the West Bengal government, leading to the widespread murder of young rebels across the state. The novel focuses on the trauma of a mother who awakens one morning to the shattering news that her son is lying dead in the police morgue, reduced to a mere numeral: Corpse No. 1084. Through her struggle to understand his revolutionary commitment as a Naxalite, she recognizes her own alienation—as a woman and a wife—from the complacent, hypocritical, and corrupt feudal society her son had so fiercely rebelled against.
4. Old Women
Translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Old Women tells the touching, poignant tales of two timeworn women. In ‘Statue’, we meet Dulali, a widow since childhood, who is now an old woman preoccupied only with day-to-day survival. When the government decides to erect in her village a statue of Dindayal—a man who had fought in India’s struggle for independence from British rule and who also was in love with Dulali long ago—a tragic, forbidden love comes back to haunt her. And in ‘The Fairy Tale of Mohanpur’, a combination of poverty, societal indifference, and government apathy leads Andi to lose her eyesight, even as she persists in her faith in a fairy-tale solution.
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