New Delhi [India], June 30: About the novel: From the award-winning author of Hangwoman. ‘An allegory of our blood-soaked times … K.R. Meera is easily one of the finest storytellers today’ – K. Satchidanandan.
Late one night in November 2016, Satyapriya, a middle-aged professional living alone in a big city, is attacked by an unidentified assailant. Though she escapes unhurt, a conversation with her paralysed father reveals that this was no random incident but the latest in a series of attempts to kill her. And when he dies unexpectedly soon after, a devastated Satyapriya sets out to unravel the conspiracy coiling around her.
Beginning at the height of India’s demonetization drive and culminating on the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, this is a novel that raises uncomfortable questions of identity and gender in a country where power, patriarchy, caste and money conspire every day to shape the contours of women’s lives.
K.R. Meera’s Assassin – originally published in Malayalam as Ghathakan, and brilliantly translated by J. Devika – is a genre-defying magnum opus that every Indian must read.
K.R. Meera says, ‘An assassin is created of violence, trained by violence and designed for violence. His first and last target is the idea of non-violence, upon which our democratic ideas are built. This book is an attempt to understand the omnipresent assassin, whom women of my generation have been living with. I have never written any fiction more personal than this novel. Let this be a tribute to the women of my generation.’
According to the translator, J. Devika, ‘Meera’s writing has always been remarkable for the ‘reversible imagination’ that it provokes – akin to reversible images, like the picture that looks like a duck and a rabbit at the same time. In other words, a single work of hers seems to contain more than one story – as different from each other as the duck and the rabbit. For me, the extraordinary power of Assassin lies in its searing critique of neoliberal feminism. Satyapriya, the chief protagonist, is a woman who has fought patriarchy alone – built for herself both material and emotional strength in the face of the stiffest patriarchal challenges. Meera’s reversible imagination is perhaps the most compassionate strategy that a writer can devise for the woman who is swept into the utterly ambiguous market-shaped, individual-centred empowerment that neoliberal feminism enables. She approaches Satya’s ever-wounded self with a tenderness that is both admiration and critical compassion; she lets this self speak its pain and paranoia.”
Rahul Soni, Associate Publisher – Literary, HarperCollins, says, “.R. Meera is, of course, one of the most important novelists writing today. Her novel, Hangwoman, was an instant classic, and with Assassin, she has crafted her most urgent and ambitious work to date. Meshing real events with fictional incidents, an engaging plot with biting social commentary, the personal with the political – Assassin is a genre-defying magnum opus that investigates the dangerous times we live in and the roads that led us here. We are hugely excited – and privileged – to be publishing it in J. Devika’s superb translation. It is one of the absolute highlights of our literary and translations list for this year.”
Udayan Mitra, Executive Publisher, HarperCollins, says, “Once you’ve read K.R. Meera’s Assassin, you’re not going to be able to forget it. Parts of the story are going to come back to haunt you in the dead of night and interrupt the routine of your workday. Such is the power of this extraordinary novel, a major bestseller in Malayalam, now translated brilliantly into English by J. Devika. Like some of the great long novels that we grew up with, Assassin is set in a world that we think we know well – in this case, the modern India that we live in. But as we follow Satyapriya on her quest for the truth, we begin to see the contours of that familiar world in entirely different ways. Reading Assassin is an immersive experience, and a rewarding one. This is the very first time that we at HarperCollins are publishing K.R. Meera, and we’re really excited to be able to bring this remarkable novel to readers this July.”
K.R. Meera is the author of five novels, six novellas, six collections of short fiction, two novels for children, and two collections of essays in Malayalam. She has been the recipient of numerous literary prizes, such as the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award (for best novel and best short fiction), the Vayalar Award and the Odakkuzhal Award. A number of her works have been translated into English; they include, Jezebel, Hangwoman, The Poison of Love, The Unseeing Idol of Light, Yellow Is the Colour of Longing, The Gospel of Yudas, Qabar and The Angel’s Beauty Spots. Hangwoman, J. Devika’s translation of the author’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning novel Aarachaar, was shortlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature in 2016.
J. Devika is a feminist historian, social researcher and translator currently with the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. She translates literary writing from Malayalam to English and social science writing from English to Malayalam. Her literary translations include works by, among others, K.R. Meera, Sarah Joseph, Unni R., Ambikasutan Mangad and Lalithambika Antharjanam. Her website https://swatantryavaadini.in/ contains a collection of translations of the writings of twentieth-century Malayali feminists.
HarperCollins is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, having begun publishing in India in 1992. HarperCollins India publishes some of the finest writers from the Indian Subcontinent and around the world, publishing approximately 200 new books every year, with a print and digital catalogue of more than 2,000 titles across 10 imprints. Its authors have won almost every major literary award including the Man Booker Prize, JCB Prize, DSC Prize, New India Foundation Award, Atta Galatta Prize, Shakti Bhatt Prize, Gourmand Cookbook Award, Publishing Next Award, Tata Literature Live! Award, Gaja Capital Business Book Prize, BICW Award, Sushila Devi Award, Sahitya Akademi Award and Crossword Book Award. HarperCollins India also represents some of the finest publishers in the world including Harvard University Press, Gallup Press, Oneworld, Bonnier Zaffre, Usborne, Dover and Lonely Planet. HarperCollins India has won the Publisher of the Year Award four times at Tata Literature Live! in 2022, 2021, 2018 and 2016, and at Publishing Next in 2021 & 2015. HarperCollins India is a subsidiary of HarperCollins Publishers.
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