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
In India, Context Books (Westland/Delhi)
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.
Rebecca Watson, Financial Times
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.
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
This spiky, argumentative book is the novel as protest, as polemic, as dark comedy, as game.
Aida Edemariam, Guardian
As in When I Hit You, a cinematic, Bergerian self-regard permeates the text. She is showing us the sleight of hand in slow motion, and grinning from ear to ear as she does so. Exquisite Cadavers is a backflipping rebuke to the nexus of culture- and capital-making which would seek to backhandedly praise her bravery over her craft, and thereby keep her pushed to the sidelines. It is a joy.
Stephanie Sy-Quia, Los Angeles Review of Books
Fascinating... The cleverness of Kandasamy's bricolage is that it allows her to explicitly separate fiction and memoir, while ensuring they're intimately intertwined.
A novel that simultaneously constructs and deconstructs itself, questioning and demonstrating the mechanisms of control. Kandasamy creates a wonderfully destructive text, its beauty manifest in its collapse.
The Columbia Review
The result is memorable, even mischievous, as the real and fictional stories separate like oil and water.
Supriya Nair, Mumbai Mirror
Other than Italo Calvino I cannot recall such a device delivered with such masterful ease as Exquisite Cadavers. The first thing that strikes you with Kandasamy, if you have not read her before, is that she a feather-light touch and yet complete control of her words.
The Asian Age
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.
An extraordinary formally-inventive, beautiful at sentence-level novella.
The way Kandasamy uses this text on the margins as metafictional foil puts Exquisite Cadavers in a small club of novels where typographic/page-setting idiosyncrasies are crucial to the way the text functions. Kandasamy’s strategic usage of the text on the margins are witty, sometimes laugh-out-loud deconstructions of the circumstances behind the writing of each chapter — to extend the book’s cinematic metaphor, it’s a split-screen film where one of the screens is a perpetual behind-the-scenes commentary.
Aditya Mani Jha, Hindu Business Line
‘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
LONGLISTED FOR THE SWANSEA UNIVERSITY INTERNATIONAL DYLAN THOMAS PRIZE 2020
That's my 3rd novel on this longlist. I tend to take prizes with flippancy and a measured cynicism, fwiw.