by S. Hareesh, Translated by Jayasree Kalathil
Publisher: Vintage Books
“Adam” is a collection of nine short stories written by S.Hareesh originally in Malayalam and translated to English by Jayasree Kalathil. The original book was awarded the Kerala Sahitya Academy award in 2016. I can describe this book with three words- random, blurring and mirroring.
Random because it shatters all the expectations and take the reader in a random path which is not at all anticipated. Also, the backdrop of the stories and the characters are so random. The reader might feel that they know the characters, or they have been to these places but would never imagine that the characters could have such a life story, or such incidents could have happened in those places.
The author blurs several concrete boundaries which we humans made. For instance while I was reading the first short story in the book-“Adam”- I thought it was a story about humans and then it turned out to be a story of dogs. I was deep into the story when I realized this. The transition happened so gently, that it went by unnoticed. It thrills you when you eventually notice it. In another story, “Death Notice”, the author blurs the distinction of dead and alive, which is something I really liked.
I feel that S.Hareesh is not putting out his thoughts on the society, rather he is keeping a mirror in front of us and showing us what our society is. If certain lines of his is hit hard, then it is supposed to hit hard. There are casual mentions of caste in some of these stories. It reflects the casual ways in which caste comes into place in the lives of the Malayali people. The mirroring Hareesh did in the story “Kavyamela” truly unsettled me. I wanted to believe that it was just fiction, but I had real life examples to contradict the thought strongly.
A review about this book wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the amazing job the translator has done. It is a difficult job to translate a book from a language to another let alone not to lose the essence of the stories. In case of this book Jayasree has been on point with her translation that I never felt that the essence got lost. This was very evident in the last story “Maoist” which was later made into a Malayalam film- “Jallikettu”.
Each story in the book left a piece of something in me. I’d guess it would leave something in each reader. It could either be a sense of the unsettling or a need for introspection. Even if it doesn’t shake you completely it would tilt your head a few degrees and show another perspective of mankind. With 180 pages and a variety of backdrops S.Hareesh shows us nothing but ourselves. It is a short read in terms of number of pages and yet condensed with the content, deep in terms of expressions.
A good review. Cryptic but, captures the essense of the stories.
A small suggestion: Original book translated into English would be read by non-malayalees. This aspect should have been captured in a para to tell the readers which all aspects of malayalees life are being brought out in the stories. As it is, the review seems to be aimed at malayalees who read the English translation of the book.
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