Rural Indian existence explored with Postmodern spin

THE GYPSY GODDESS<br><b>Meena Kandasamy</b><br><i>Atlantic</i>
THE GYPSY GODDESS<br><b>Meena Kandasamy</b><br><i>Atlantic</i>
From the personal to the epic, the third book in this round-up could not be more different again, propelling the reader as it does into the postmodern.

The ''traditional'' plot elements of Indian fiction are all there: the caste system, politics, religion, corruption, exploitation - and appalling violence and inhumanity.

Meena Kandasamy, an Indian poet and activist, has based the novel, her first, on a real-life massacre. The action takes place in 1968 in a small Indian village where wealthy landowners rule over their peasant workers, who live in poverty. The rise of the Communist Party provides hope for the workers, but fuels the already stoked environment.

But in addition to telling the story in a traditional fashion, which is powerful enough, she uses a postmodern construct to comment omnisciently on the unfolding events, their context, herself and her family.

The chopping and changing between the two narrative structures takes some getting used to, and will not appeal to all, but I found it a highly inventive way to present this story of rural Indian existence. I would be surprised if it did not win a major literary award.

- Helen Speirs.

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