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‘It took my mother, Khonuo, exactly forty-five years before she could bring herself to talk about the war.’
These powerful words introduce the reader to Easterine Kire’s stunning new novel, A Respectable Woman. In Nagaland, the decisive Battle of Kohima has been fought and won by the Allies, and people in and around Kohima are trying hard to come to terms with the devastation, the loss of home and property, and the deaths of their loved ones. Forty years after the event, Khonuo recreates this moment, stitching together her memories, bit by painful bit, for her young daughter.
As memory passes from mother to daughter, the narrative glides seamlessly into the present, a moment in which Nagaland, much transformed, confronts different realities and challenges. Using storytelling traditions so typical of her region, Kire leads the reader gently into a world where history and memory meld — where, through this blurring, a young woman comes to understand the legacy of her parents and her land.
“Kire delicately mixes live traditions with new standards.”
— Luis A. Gomez, National Herald
“Hauntingly beautiful and lyrical, Easterine Kire's prose is... [an] example of her effortless hold over words and stories.”
— Swati Daftuar, The Hindu
“… one of the most prominent literary voices of the Northeast.”
— Maitreyee Boruah, The Telegraph
EASTERINE KIRE is a writer, poet and translator. She is Nagaland’s first novelist in the English language. Her book, When the River Sleeps (Zubaan, 2014), won the 2015 Hindu Prize for Fiction. She is also the author of A Naga Village Remembered (2003), A Terrible Matriarchy (Zubaan, 2007), Mari (2010), Life on Hold (2011), Bitter Wormwood (Zubaan, 2011), the Sahitya Akademi-honoured Son of the Thundercloud (2016), Don’t Run, My Love (2017), and The Rain-Maiden and the Bear-Man (forthcoming 2019). She lives in Norway.
Winner of the Hindu Prize for Fiction, 2015.
A lone hunter, Vilie, sets out to find the river of his dreams: to wrest from its sleeping waters a stone that will give him untold power. It is a dangerous quest, for not only must he overcome unquiet spirits, vengeful sorceresses and daemons of the forest, there are men – armed with guns – on his trail. Easterine Kire’s novel transports the reader to the remote mountains of Nagaland, a place alive with natural wonder and supernatural enchantment. As Vilie treks through the forest on the trail of his dream, we are also swept along in this powerful narrative and walk alongside him in a world where the spirits are every bit as real as men and women, and where danger – or salvation – lies at every turn. Kire’s powerful narrative invites us into the lives and hearts of the people of Nagaland: the rituals and beliefs, their reverence for the land, their close-knit communities – the rhythms of a life lived in harmony with their natural surroundings. It is against this spellbinding backdrop that Kire tells the story of a solitary man driven by the mysterious pull of a dream, who must overcome weretigers and malignant widow-spirits in the search for his heart’s desire.
“...reminiscent of Marquez’s magic realism and Leslie Silko’s Native-American story-telling. At the end, though, this is a Naga story, unmistakably so, in its sense of place, time, and oral traditions.”
Paulus Pimomo, Central Washington University, USA
Kohima, 2007. A young man has been gunned down in cold blood - the latest casualty in the conflict that has scarred the landscape and brutalised the people of Nagaland. Easterine Kire's new novel traces the story of one man's life, from 1937 to the present day. The small incidents of Mose's childhood, his family, the routines and rituals of traditional village life paint an evocative picture of a peaceful way of life, now long-vanished. The coming of a radio into Mose's family?s house marks the beginning of the changes that would connect them to the wider world. They learn of partition, independence, a land called America. Growing up, Mose and his friends become involved in the Naga struggle for Independence, and they are caught in a maelstrom of violence - protest and repression, attacks and reprisals- that ends up ripping communities apart. The herb, bitter wormwood, was traditionally believed to keep bad spirits away. For the Nagas, facing violent struggle all around, it becomes a powerful talisman: "We sure could do with some of that old magic now." Bitter Wormwood gives a poignant insight into the human cost behind the political headlines from one of India's most beautiful and misunderstood regions.
"Easterine Kire is the keeper of her people's memory, their griot. She is a master of the unadorned language that moves because of the power of its evocative simplicity." -- Paul Pimomo
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