Tag Archives: Conflict

Koolaids by Rabih Alameddine

Koolaids by Rabih Alameddine Title: Koolaids
Author: Rabih Alameddine
Publisher: Grove Press
ISBN: 978-0802124142
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Personal
Rating: 5/5

When you write a book about AIDS and what it brings in its wake, is not an easy task for sure. Rabih Alameddine jumped to the scene and was well-known right after “An Unnecessary Woman”. The book just jumped at readers and they I think too notice of him then. Of course before that, there was “Koolaids” and some more books that he had written but this discussion is about “Koolaids”.

I wonder if being sane means disregarding the chaos that is life, pretending only an infinitesimal segment of it is reality.

To me reading “Koolaids” was a harrowing experience. Why? Because I am gay and I didn’t know how to react to a book on AIDS, and what it takes in its wake. I cannot for the life of me imagine something like this happening to me or my loved ones, so whenever I read something like this, I am completely overwhelmed by it.

Death comes in many shapes and sizes, but it always comes. No one escapes the little tag on the big toe. The four horsemen approach. The rider on the red horse says, “This good and faithful servant is ready. He knoweth war.” The rider on the black horse says, “This good and faithful servant is ready. He knoweth plague.” The rider on the pale horse says, “This good and faithful servant is ready. He knoweth death.” The rider on the white horse says, “Fuck this good and faithful servant. He is a non-Christian homosexual, for God’s sake. You brought me all the way out here for a fucking fag, a heathen. I didn’t die for this dingbat’s sins.” The irascible rider on the white horse leads the other three lemmings away. The hospital bed hurts my back.

“Koolaids” is about men who love men, men who suffer by loving men and men who cope as their worlds fall apart and changes around them. It is a fresh new voice (then when the book released) and is very different from his other books. It details the AIDS epidemic through the 80s and the 90s and with that the angle of the Lebanese Civil War that accounts for the book.

The characters are plenty – they love and dream in fragments. As a reader, I just gave in to the book without trying to make much of it in the first fifty pages and when I started, I was too entranced by the language and over all plot to care about the writing.

“Koolaids” is what it is – a gritty and real book on what it takes to go on living in the face of death and how to sometimes just give in, knowing that nothing can be done now. It is stories such as these that deeply affect us and our lives.

Hang Woman by K.R. Meera & Translated by J. Devika

Hang Woman by K.R. Meera Title: Hang Woman
Author: K.R. Meera
Translator: J. Devika
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton, Penguin
ISBN: 9780670086542
Genre: Literary Fiction, Indian Writing, Translation
Pages: 448
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Some books are just not an easy read. No matter how hard you try, you cannot skim through them. Neither can you dismiss them. They demand complete and total attention. They will not rest till you give it to them and neither will you. “Hang Woman” by K.R. Meera is one such book. It is no doubt a complex read, given the subject and yet I did not feel like letting go of it, at any point. A book can be gripping in many ways, sometimes the traditional route of suspense and sometimes in the not-so-traditional sense of strong writing and ideas presented in a manner unlike any other.

“Hang Woman” is a translation from Malayalam to English. On this note, I hope there are more such translations. We as a country have a lot of offer in terms of literature and most of it goes unnoticed or hidden. Perhaps that will change. And it is essentially up to publishers to change that and I know for a fact that Penguin and others are trying hard to bring about that change. Many say that translated books do not or may not have the same impact as reading the book in the original; however, the translator for this book, J. Devika has done a spectacular translation.

“Hang Woman” is a book of executioners or rather a family of executioners. The Grddha Mullick family has witnessed almost every single important event that has shaped the history of the subcontinent. It is a lineage of executioners, dating back to before Christ and there is immense pride in that they take. Cut to present day, where twenty-two year old, Chetna is the first lady executioner of India and with a family tradition to take over. Of course, that is where the title comes from, but there is more to it than the obvious.

The layers and stories come out gradually in the book. K.R. Meera does a splendid job of mixing the past and the present and weaving it to create a story of love, loss and violence. There is a lot of juxtaposition of beliefs and also confusion to a large extent in the book that lends it its unique voice. What I liked personally in the book is the subtlety – of Chetna’s feelings, her life and her choices. Like I mentioned earlier, the translation is easy to read and lends imagination to the reader at almost every page. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and for someone who is searching for that book that he or she can mull over and be entertained at the same time, then I would say, read, “Hang Woman”.

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