Lakshmi Kannan’s Nandanvan & Other Stories is a collection of 17 of her own stories originally written in Tamil. As vivid in imagination as they are realistic, the stories in this collection are reflections on gender, sexuality, filial piety, construction of identity, cultural institutions and the individual existing ‘within’ and ‘outside’.
The stories, situated in various locales—the home, a hospital, a government office, the university, the London Tube, parks and gardens, temples and restaurants—introduce us to several memorable characters. Sensitive women who negotiate their space through an essentially patriarchal culture, with confidence in the strength of their womanhood. An elderly man who understands the language of the birds so completely that the birds take over as the chief protagonists of the story and later evolve as the most concerned mourners at his funeral. A narrator who sees in a total stranger an uncanny resemblance to his dead father with whom he had a difficult relationship. An art historian trapped in a bleak and cheerless life, languishing in a bureaucratic system of the government department in which he works. The thoughts and feelings of a man in a coma, who wanders through the corridors of a subterranean region of the dead. The coming back of a woman from the clutches of death as an answer to fervent prayers.
Kannan’s characters reflect their strength of spirit as they struggle with the inevitable pain of existence, everyday grievances and prejudices, the indomitable will to survive loneliness and sorrow, and the confidence to resolve inner and external conflict. Her protagonists reveal themselves through soliloquies, dialogue, and evocative silences.
Kannan is her own translator. Perhaps, that is why, the rhythms and idioms of the Tamil world is translated into such fluid prose in English, where she masterfully retains the intensity and ethos of the original. The spectrum of experiences and sensibilities depicted in these lucid, probing and absorbing narratives is a must read!
Lakshmi Kannan is a poet, novelist and short story writer. She is also her own translator. She is bilingual and writes in English and in Tamil.
She has published twenty books till date that include four collections of poems in English, a novel and several collections of short fiction in Tamil and in English translation.
Phenomenological Explorations: Introducing Lakshmi Kannan’s Short Fiction
C. T. Indra
Lakshmi Kannan’s Fictional Weltanschauung: An Interview
A Conversation with Lakshmi Kannan