Karim and Maya
✓ share a home
✓ worry about money
✓ binge-watch films
✓ love / quarrel / fight / argue all the time.
Karim, a young film-maker, carries with him the starry-eyed dreams of the Arab Revolution. Maya carries her own pressing concerns: an errant father, an unstable job, a chain-smoking habit, a sudden pregnancy.
When Karim’s brother disappears in Tunis, and Karim wants to go after him, Maya must choose between her partner and her home city, her future and her history…
In a conversation between forms, fictions and truths, Exquisite Cadavers is a novel about a young couple navigating love in London, and a literary hall of mirrors about an author navigating the inspirations behind her work.
(112 pages, Atlantic Books (London), £5.99
Exquisite Cadavers' experiment delivers a book that is slyly funny and profoundly thoughtful. It is common for critics and readers to belittle women by assuming they write out of catharsis rather than to create. Exquisite Cadavers is not just a fierce rebuttal. It's a work of brilliance.
Only in her mid-30s, Meena Kandasamy is building a spiky, angular, fiercely singular corpus. In fewer than 150 pages, Kandasamy shows us what it is to forge a worldview and moral philosophy as if from thin air, or rather from the act of reading and committing words to the page.
An inventive fusion of fact and fiction.
Fascinating... The cleverness of Kandasamy's bricolage is that it allows her to explicitly separate fiction and memoir, while ensuring they're intimately intertwined.
The key question about Exquisite Cadavers, however, is does all of this work? That is the hardest question to answer, because the terms are that it should be an experiment - there has never been a book quite like this. Better to ask, then, whether it surprises, grips, makes the reader take notice - all those things literature is supposed to do - to which the answer is, easily, yes, yes, and yes again.
The Irish Times
The result is memorable, even mischievous, as the real and fictional stories separate like oil and water.
Supriya Nair, Mumbai Mirror
It's wonderful, a different view of difference.
Kandasamy achieves the unachievable in this genre-defying, brilliant and satisfying double narrative. She subverts the mainstream by inserting her self into the margins of this timely novella. In doing so, she adds depth and intensity to an already gripping story of a mixed-race millennial couple grappling with identity, unexpected parenthood, zero-hour contracts and nearsightedness within academia. There is nothing Kandasamy can't do.
Zeba Talkhani, author of My Past is A Foreign Country
A rich and absorbing text full of allusion... Kandasamy's work becomes more bold and exciting with each new book.
Kandasamy is a poet, and it’s in the fiction that it wholly shows.
Absorbing and innovative
An extraordinary formally-inventive, beautiful at sentence-level novella.
‘If I was going to write my life story, I would condense that marriage to a footnote’
Interview with John Self in The Guardian about the troubling line between memoir and fiction and how Brexit politics shaped my new book.
Interview with Sana Goyal in Mint Lounge about how & why Exquisite Cadavers
Interview with Urvashi Bahuguna in Scroll.in about the unique structure of the novella; my rules for manuscripts-in-progress and the role of editors; political engagement as an immigrant; and the ways in which writers of colour and non-Brahmins have historically been excluded from laying claim to avant-garde writing and intellectual spaces.
Interview with Farhana Shaikh in Asian Writer, where they also (surprise!) selected me as their writer of the year
Interview with Bhavya Dore in Open Magazine about politics, parenthood and the new novel
With Claire Armitstead and Richard Lea