Reviewed by Neera Kashyap



Title: The Angel’s Beauty Spots

Author: K.R. Meera

Translator: J. Devika

Publisher: Aleph Book Company, 2019

Starting her career as a journalist with Malayala Manorma, K.R.Meera went onto become a prolific and acclaimed Malayalam writer of short story collections, novellas, novels and children’s books. Her very first collection of short stories, Ormayude Njarampu (2002) won several regional awards. Her magnum opus and most famous novel, Aarachaar (Hangwoman) was translated into English by J. Devika in 2014. It won the prestigious Odakkuzhal Prize in 2013, the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 2014, the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2015 and was shortlisted for the DSC prize for South Asian literature in 2016. J. Devika once again is Meera’s translator of The Angel’s Beauty Spots. A writer, translator and feminist, she is a teacher and researcher at the Centre of Development Studies in Kerala.

The book comprises three novellas through which the book’s jacket says, “K.R. Meera explores the tragedy, betrayal and violence that arise out of the dark heart of love.” The first novella, The Angel’s Beauty Spots begins with Angela’s murder at the hands of her estranged ex-husband in full gaze of her two young daughters, the older one from him and the younger from a married ex-lover. Driven by a blind love, she had married this man only to discover the evil in him — when he pimps her to his friend in their own house. That their older daughter is privy to this, makes Angela feel that something has died within her.

K R Meera (Translated by J Devika)
2014, pp 438
Rs. 699

Translated from Malayalam, ‘Hangwoman’ is a  gripping narrative about a young woman with the distinction of being India’s first woman executioner. Monideepa Sahu reviews the novel.

This striking novel includes within its majestic sweep the enigmas of the human condition. Life and death; crime and justice; the continued influence of the past in present-day events; of fate and heritage, and the individual’s capability to rise above circumstances and make one’s unique impact; the conflicting facets of man-woman relationships; the author examines all this and more in the course of a fascinating narrative.

Twenty-two-year-old Chetna Grddha Mullick is the youngest member of India’s first family of hangmen, who proudly trace their lineage from several centuries before Christ. We share Chetna’s journey from being the hangman’s daughter to becoming the first hangwoman and a role-model representing the pride and dignity of all women.

Chetna grows up in Kolkata in a poverty-stricken family. Living next to one of Kolkata’s most prominent cremation ghats, Chetna is surrounded by the continuous parade of life and death. Tea shops, barbers, mourners, pushcarts, horsecarts, beggars and sacrificial animals bleating before the slaughter create a din louder than the circular trains. “The mingled scents of sweetmeats cooking in ghee and sunflower oil, and corpses burning on pyres enveloped us.” The author deftly brings to life the chaos and sheer vitality of Kolkata.