Monthly Archives: March 2012

Of a certain Kuzhali Manickavel and other insectoid thoughts


So, I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but somewhere online I stumbled across the gold nugget that is Kuzhali Manickavel’s blog. I suspect it is through the Café Irreal website where she is published, or perhaps through the network of hyperlinked blogrolls that exists across WordPress and Blogspot, but it no longer matters, because I suspect there has been an inner Kuzhali in me all along, just waiting to be discovered.

Kuzhali is what is known as an emerging writer; she hasn’t written a full-length novel or book yet. But she has flash fiction and short fiction published across the Internet and the wonderful Blaft Publications found her and published most of those stories as a collection, Insects are Just Like You and Me Except Some of Them Have Wings. Blaft also tweeted twice about my Charu Nivedita review, so I am gratefully (and shamelessly) plugging another worthy book of theirs.

I have long maintained that writing humour is one of the hardest genres to write, satire even more so. I have also secretly harboured a dream of writing the modern Indian version of A Modest Proposal. Well, I was SO wrong; clearly, Kuzhali should be the one to write it. Not only has she got the incision skills of a surgeon with her words, she has that sense of tragicomedy, a certain je ne sais quoi that makes satire tick. Read the rest of this entry

Roland Barthes: ‘The Metaphor of the Eye’


Note: Since my review of Charu Nivedita’s Zero Degree, much vitriol is being generated in my comments section against the ‘sick’, ‘perverted’, ‘disgusting’ writing in the novel. Several theorists in the past have made numerous arguments for the use of pornographic imagery in literary writing, debating if pornography is literary at all. One of the essays highly relevant during its time was Roland Barthes’ essay on Georges Bataille’s The Story of the Eye

 In India, the pornography-literature discourse is a debate well ahead of its time. I am reproducing Barthes’ essay in its entirety here (it isn’t available in full form anywhere online – and it is long, be warned) to shed some light on the differences between writing porn and writing pornographically. 

The Metaphor of the Eye

Although Story of the Eye features a number of named characters with an account of their sex play, Bataille was by no means writing the story of Simone, Marcelle, or the narrator (as Sade, for example, wrote the stories of Justine and Juliette)[1]. Story of the Eye really is the story of an object. How can an object have a story? Well, it can pass from hand to hand, giving rise to the sort of tame fancy authors call The History of my Pipe or Memoirs of an Armchair, or alternatively it can pass from image to image, in which case its story is that of a migration, the cycle of the avatars it passes through, far removed from its original being, down the path of a particular imagination that distorts but never drops it. This is the case with Bataille’s book. Read the rest of this entry

‘Bartleby, the Scrivener’ — Herman Melville


This is not a review, so much as some delayed contemplation.

I took a course in my Masters called “The Literature of Sadness: The Mind-Body Crisis”. Of course, it wound up being my favourite subject. One of the elective readings was Herman Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener. Having come across Moby Dick, and not been too blown away by it (as an angsty, fantasy-obsessed teen, mind you) I was skeptical about how good this book would be. But as the only other option was to write a paper on Freud and melancholia, I opted for what I assumed was the shorter, simpler Bartleby. Needless to say, it is probably one of the most disturbing tales I have ever read and that came out in the 19th century, no less. Read the rest of this entry

J.G. Ballard’s (1995) introduction to ‘Crash’


I’ve been thinking of novels that have been deemed pornographic, thanks to ‘Zero Degree’, and I think J.G.Ballard’s introduction to his novel ‘Crash’ makes a great case for sexual literature, particularly, where Ballard says, “In a sense, pornography is the most political form of fiction, dealing with how we use and exploit each other, in the most urgent and ruthless way.” Ballard’s main interest was with the fetishisation of technology, but his intuition is tremendous. 

Credits: I’d taken this text from the Ballardian website ( a while back, but for some reason it is now no longer available there. I highly recommend the site for anyone who may be interested in other writings by/on Ballard. 


The marriage of reason and nightmare that has dominated the 20th century has given birth to an ever more ambiguous world. Across the communications landscape move the spectres of sinister technologies and the dreams that money can buy. Thermo-nuclear weapons systems and soft-drink commercials coexist in an overlit realm ruled by advertising and pseudo-events, science and pornography. Over our lives preside the great twin leitmotifs of the 20th century – sex and paranoia… Read the rest of this entry

On Charu Nivedita’s ‘Zero Degree’ (Trans. by Pritham K. Chakravarthy & Rakesh Khanna)


NOTE: This review quotes some adult content and contains text that may be offensive to you. Please do not read further if you’re easily offended by dirty language, bodily functions or graphic  descriptions of sex. Also, this is a LONG review, so you may want to make some time for it.

If you are now compelled to read on even more, I like you already. 🙂

This novel gave me nightmares, literally. And I’m not entirely sure that’s a bad thing.

First, remember everything you are told and have believed a novel is, particularly the Indian novel. Some things on the lines of:

  • A novel is a work of fiction.
  • It contains several common elements such as character, plot, narrative.
  • It explores what is loosely called the human condition.
  • It  may sometimes be an instrument for social change.
  • It is a socio-political reflection of its times.
  • It entertains, informs, educates, etc. Read the rest of this entry