Anita Nair is an Indian novelist who made her mark by not conforming to the prevalent trends in Indian English Literature. She has chosen her own way of writing and thus, also became the best seller and not only in the terms of the number of books sold (that we all know can be done by hiring one of the best book marketing companies in India) but also in garnering the opinions and critically valued appreciation from the book and literature critics in India. She has tried hard to become (but does not acknowledge) the voice of true feminism in the contemporary Indian English literature, not like Shoba De and others who have rather turned feminism into a show where you get to see unnecessary demands of headless equality with men rather than essential necessities that can change the actual situations on the ground for women. We will look into the writings and life of Anita Nair in this article.
Anita Nair was born on 26th January 1966 in Kerala. She went to Chennai for early education then returned to Kerala to obtain a graduate degree in English language and literature. She started her writing journey when she was working in an advertising agency as a creative head. She published a collection of short stories that made her famous and helped her to receive a fellowship from Virginia centre. That incident changed her life and she turned to be a full-time novelist. And then, we all know how famous Anita Nair became as a novelist in India as well as abroad.
The concept, ideas and plot of Anita’s novel are somewhat different than the ordinary contemporary fiction writers. She tries to describe everything in detail and you cannot find a rush in narrating a certain context. She has shifted the idea from the city lights to the dawn of villages. Her novel The Better Man recalls the values that are inherited in the village atmosphere that is almost forgotten in the contemporary Indian English fiction. Jealousy, anger and ambition all you can find in this novel. The novel forced me to think of Mulk raj Anand and R.K. Narayan while reading it.
Arguably her best novel Ladies Coupe (Ladies Coupe book review) portrays the conditions of women in a (supposedly) male-dominated society. It does have a different plot and the author does narrate her story in a different way. However, like the usual ‘jamaat’ or group of feminists does in India, Anita Nair, unfortunately, sweeps the entire ‘Brahmin’ community in a colour of shame. The problems against women are everywhere in the world and a little more (supposedly) in India. However, it is in every community – not only in ‘Typical Brahmin’ family. I come from a Brahmin family and in our family and our neighbourhood and our region, women are FREE – Anita! And this attitude of the feminist writers delude the true meaning of feminism and often compels the readers to think that the authors are not writing to support the case of feminism but to bash Brahmans! And this is, sadly, the tragedy of Indian fiction today!
The Better Man by her, published in 2000, is indeed a better novel that tells the story of a common man and his problems. It also takes the readers to the village side of the country rather than keeping them suffocating in the towns and call centres of Chetan Bhagat. Another remarkable novel by her, Mistress (published 2005), tries to explore and perhaps synthesise various perspectives in the relationship between man and woman. This is written in a first-person narrative and the repeated use of the word ‘fuck’ and also many other modern adjectives and the adjacent vocabulary that made the swift transition from 20th to 21st -century possible show that Indian English fiction was about to change for the traditional as well as the contemporary readers. We were about to enter in a new world of writing where Indianness in Indian English novels, as well as Indianness in Indian English poetry, were about to be served with the slangs that we borrowed – taking the dilemma to a further level of the medium of expression.
Her latest novel Eating Wasps is about a writer and her ambitions and contradictions. Anita Nair writers in an emphatic but gentle manner with her narrative sharp and precisely focused on the delivery of messages and conveying of emotions to the readers.
In terms of language, Nair’s novels are very much contemporary. However, it the gravity of her themes that alienate her from the usual young readers who cannot digest the depth in their shallow reading schedules that often table the books by young authors writing for youthful fancies. Anita Nair’s novels demand a maturity from her readers and that is something one needs to develop before diving into the fictional cage of hers.
Her novels reflect the struggle and conflict they have to go in order to represent themselves.
List of Works:
A list of Works published by Anita Nair:
- Saytr of the Subway, published in 1997
- The Better Man, published in 1999
- Ladies Coupe, published in 2001
- The Puffin books of Myths and Legends, published in 2004
- Mistress, published in 2003
- Adventures of Nonu, The skating squirrel, published in 2006
- Living next door to Alice, published in 2007
- Magical Indian Myths, published in 2008
- Cut Like Wound, published in 2012
- The Lilac House, published in 2012
- Alphabet soup for lovers, published in 2016
- Eating Wasps, published in 2018
You can buy all the novels (or selected ones) by Anita Nair from Amazon India here – Buy the novels online – Amazon
- The Kerala Sahitya Academy Award ( 2012)
- The Hindu Literary Prize (2014)
- Crossword Book Award (2017
Anita Nair is not like the usual contemporary Indian novelist who writes for cheap popularity by comprising with language and plot and most importantly, by managing the depth of the theme according to the ‘market policies’. She writes because she has to and whether it’s her agenda behind a feminist fiction or her characters’ enigma. Her novels may be problematic in terms of her one-eye-sightedness at times. Though with the use of contemporary language she tries to connect with the contemporary readers, that is still something which does not seem happening as it happens with Chetan Bhagat. Anita connects with the serious readers and so she has the respect of the literary fraternity and Chetan Bhagat (and likes of him) connects with the reader base and fan base with cheap stunts and so he does not have the literary respect. And this is where I rest my case.
by Amit Mishra for The Indian Authors