The Malayalam literary public is one of the most vibrant in India and thrives on the long history of widespread literacy in the state of Kerala. It is well described as the ‘beating heart’ of Kerala’s public life. Historically, it has been the space in which entrenched power structures encountered their earliest challenges. Not surprisingly, then critiques of patriarchy in twentieth-century Kerala were first heard and continued to be raised there, even when they had become muffled in wider public discussion.
Womanwriting = Manreading? is a provocative take on some of the raging debates in Malayalam literature, which surely resonate elsewhere. But it also raises the important question: Can we tell the story of women’s anti-patriarchal writing in Malayalam in a way that highlights the force and drama of their confrontations with the male-dominated literary establishment?
J. Devika has written on the intertwined histories of gender, culture, politics and development in her home state, Kerala. She is bilingual and translates both fiction and non-fiction between Malayalam and English and also writes on contemporary Kerala on www.kafila.org. She currently teaches and researches in the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram.