The stories feature, to a large extent, the dark worlds of lonely characters experiencing varying degrees of tragedy, portrayed through dark, simple language.
by Grace Baby Doll: Stories is an exemplary affair with loneliness; and strenuous lock reading. Translated from Malayalam by Fathima EV, they present, to a large extent, the dark worlds of solitary characters experiencing varying degrees of tragedy, portrayed through dark and simple language. Written over three decades of his career and arranged in chronological order, they present loneliness as a permanent force, which can often lead to mental instability. For example, in Arundhati’s Dream, the protagonist is afraid to fall asleep because of her vivid and terrifying dreams. In Cat, the narrator is convinced that his wife, who has cat eyes, is a cat herself and was impregnated by the tabby cat that hangs out in front of their house. And in panchali, Krishna learns that her husband is staging the five Pandavas every night in the bedroom until she decides that, as with Draupadi, instead of her husband, someone else must come to her rescue.
Instead of allowing empathy between women, mother-daughter relationships are also often strained. “You have vengeful mothers and daughters who refuse to forget what was done to them,” Fathima says. An example is the story Illusory visions where a woman sees coffins and upon opening them speaks with her deceased parents. The conversation turns to bickering and fighting until her mother curses her, “Wait, you’re going to pay for this.” And shortly after, a car arrives with the body of her husband. In What the mother should know, a woman’s rebellion is to wear a bright red sari to her mother’s funeral. “In Gracy’s stories, life seems to be horrible even for children in most cases,” adds Fathima. A great example is the titular story, where the girl, who loves dolls, is lured by her neighbor to her room in exchange for a living doll.
“These are all intimate portraits of people. It’s about lonely people caught in the net of deception and adultery, complex human dynamics, and family and marital issues,” Fathima explains. Sometimes it looks like she’s about to embark on a new stream of thought, such as alternative sexualities and the undertones of a same-sex relationship in Separating from Parvathi. But such itineraries are never fully developed, and the reader continues to exist in the same unsettling world, where “there are no comforting things to fall back on.”
The sense of loneliness that permeates the pages of the book is reinforced by its use of language. Gracy, says Fathima, “often adopts a conscious distance and indifference” in her writing, a language that is heavily used to create atmosphere.
Everything is laid out clearly in front of the reader and the emotion comes from the lack of escape from the stifling intimacy of the characters.
Complementing this use of language is often a dark or acerbic humor, another common thread running through much of his writing. At other times, his writing can also employ a “disarmingly playful” tone and create brave characters like Orotha in ‘Orotha and the Ghosts‘ who speaks easily with the ghosts that hang around and are awakened by the wind. And while there are constant references to Hindu folklore and mythology, Gracy’s stories “also draw on a strong Christian ethos.”
While the stories feature multiple strands thematically, from loneliness to religion and sanity to the intrinsic nature of human beings, Gracy is widely recognized for her depiction of women. At first, she attracted attention and controversy due to her outspoken portrayal of female sexuality and desire, especially when linked to Pennezhuthu, the women’s movement. They brought writing about women and female desire to the fore, and discussed core issues such as gendered perceptions, patriarchal ideologies, and “the rampant misogyny that exists in the cultural fabric of Kerala.” After the movement slowed, Gracy preferred to stay on the sidelines, not really aligning with any other movement or collective. “It was a secluded path that she preferred.” But his concerns have remained the same, largely reflecting the issues facing the society around him. “Because the situation hasn’t fundamentally changed, Gracy continues to write about these things, so of course there are repetitions.” However, in other respects, “Kerala’s social fabric is changing, and Gracy’s recent stories reflect concerns of changing demographics, the reception of migrant workers and other marginalized characters on her turf. fictitious”.
With a range of themes and characters between the covers of the book, Fathima successfully challenges the assumption that Gracy only writes about women, which is her primary focus in undertaking the translation. “Of course, in any translation, there will be semantic and cultural difficulties. But I read a lot of her stories and she was really generous with her help,” Fathima says of the process. When translating, while ensuring clarity was most important for English-speaking readers, in some cases, particularly when a mood is strongly evoked, Fathima found a deliberate lack of clarity. Translating then meant working closely with Gracy so she could clarify things if needed, with the translation process becoming an intimate collaboration between the two. “Translation is like extended authorship. It’s an act of collaboration between reader, translator and writer,” says Fathima, who has also previously co-translated Delhi: a soliloquy.
“I think translation gives writers a chance to review their work, edit it and re-evaluate it, and give editing another chance,” she adds. However, this opportunity for reassessment is lost with the recent trend of publishing translations with or shortly after the publication of the book in one language, among the recent trends she notices in the Malayali literary landscape. “Once upon a time there was an incubation period. The book would reach the reading public and establish itself before demanding or demanding a translation. Now it’s the writers who are asking for translations. “Is there a selection process involved? I don’t know. “Without an incubation period and more accessible to translators, more books are coming out in multiple languages. Whether this is better or worse for Malayali literature remains to be seen,” although the emphasis on translation by editors and readers certainly bodes well for Malayalam”.