Author: K.R. Meera
Translated from the Malayalam by Nisha Susan
Publisher: Eka Books, Westland
Genre: Novella, Literary Fiction, Translated Fiction
Reading K.R. Meera’s writing is to let go of the thin line between reality and the imaginary, and to submit oneself to the power of her words. K.R. Meera’s writing isn’t easy. There are layers and multi-folds of emotions attached to it, each tying it all together, each capable of destroying the very tapestry she creates for the reader.
There were times while reading Qabar I was terrified, I was immersed in what she wanted me to see, and often found myself taking the place of the protagonist, Bhavana. I do not know how to talk about the plot of this book, but I shall try. Qabar is about a disputed piece of land, and in this dispute Bhavana, the judge of the case gets caught unknowingly. It is about her ancestor as well, who in some way or the other is related to the events that unfold. Qabar is about Bhavana’s child Advaith, who has ADHD and is trying to cope, after his father deserted them. Qabar is about Bhavana’s buried emotions, till she meets a petitioner and her life takes an unexpected turn – for the better or worse she doesn’t know yet. It is also about religion and the fences we create in its name.
K.R. Meera’s writing is nothing like I have read before. She surprises me by the power of her craft through every new book published. Her writing is bold, nonchalant, full of desire, and undertones of race, class, and provides no solutions. Her writing is empathetic and yet extremely visceral in nature. It is all over the place, and yet seems so grounded – it has the power to make you imagine – transport yourself to the world she creates and makes you stay there till you are done with it. Nisha Susan’s translation does more than enough justice to the plot – it did not read like a translation to begin with and when it did, I didn’t feel anything was missed out.
Qabar is a short novel, almost a novella, and yet says so much. The layers are umpteen and complex. From love to envy, to insecurities of a single mother, to understanding the nature of magic, it is a topsy-turvy ride of a read. A read I so wish just didn’t stop. Qabar’s magic realism – its tone of all things that lay in suspension of belief is not only charming but fearsome and thrilling. K.R. Meera explores desire and the pangs of longing like no other contemporary Indian writer I can think of. Qabar is a read that will have you gripped till you are done with it.