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On the Far Side of Memory: Short Stories of Lalithambika Antharjanam

Lalithambika Antherjanam
Translated byJ. Devika
Oxford University Press
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Lalithambika Antharjanam (1909-1989) was one of the earliest women to gain recognition in modern Malayalam literature as one of the first voices raised on behalf of women. Her works deal with the struggles of the women in her community, their assertion of independence from the men in their lives, and their unease with modern domesticity and community reformism. She has, however, always been straitjacketed as a 'romantic author', as a 'voice of social reform among the Malayali Brahmins', due to a selective readings of her writings, which projected some of her writing as more valuable than others. This collection of her twenty-two short stories covers almost the entire span of her writing, from the 1930s to the 1980s. The volume seeks to place her as a feminist public intellectual intervening in the literary and sociopolitical debates of her times, which, of course, change dramatically across the course of the century. Antharjanam emerges as an important voice that responded critically to imaginations of gender that were dominant in the mainstream of social reform discourse in the 1930s and after, and indeed sought to rewrite the terms of that discourse in ways that could potentially be more favourable to women. It also reveals the limits of her attempts at reinscription, due to the limitations of her times and social location.