Meena Kandasamy, Chennai-born novelist and poet, inducted as Royal Society of Literature fellow

As a Royal Society of Literature fellow, Meena Kandasamy joins a list of renowned literary figures including JRR Tolkien and JK Rowling.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jul 20, 2022 | 7:22 PMUpdatedDec 21, 2022 | 6:45 PM

Meena Kandasamy Royal Society

Author and poet Meena Kandasamy has been inducted as a fellow of the prestigious Royal Society of Literature (RSL) earlier this month.

The Chennai-born novelist, who has a PhD in sociolinguistics, was chosen along with 29 others as part of the RSL Open programme to celebrate “the excellence of writers from communities that have been under-represented in UK literary culture”.

George Eliot’s pen

“In the largest mass induction in the RSL’s history, nearly 100 Fellows and Honorary Fellows signed our historic Roll Book with a famous writer’s pen. This year was the first time writers could use Andrea Levy or Jean Rhys’s pens, introduced to our collection for our 200th birthday in 2020, or Arnold Wesker’s pen, new for this year,” the RSL website noted.

To sign her name in the Roll Book of the RSL, Kandasamy chose a pen that belonged to the 19th century British novelist Mary Ann Evans, more famous as George Eliot, the pseudonym she used.

The Royal Society’s roll book contains signatures of all the fellows inducted since its foundation in 1820. Renowned authors elected as fellows include JRR Tolkien, Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, and JK Rowling.

‘Lucid, haunting descriptions’

Kandasamy’s collection of poems include Touch (2006), and Ms Militancy (2010). She has also penned the novels The Gypsy Goddess (2014), When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife (2017), and Exquisite Cadavers (2019).

Hirsh Sawheny, in his review of her first novel The Gypsy Goddess in The Guardian, wrote: “Kandasamy uses an array of iconoclastic narrative voices. One chapter is a breathless single sentence that evokes the [Kilvenmani] massacre [of Dalits in Tamil Nadu in 1968] with lucid, haunting descriptions.”

Her non-fiction works include The Orders Were To Rape You: Tigresses in the Tamil Eelam Struggle (2021), where she has written about the horrors faced by Tamil women at the hands of Sinhalese troops during the war in Sri Lanka that ended in 2009.

In her review of the book in The Hindu, Colombo-based senior journalist Meera Srinivasan wrote: “Kandasamy records the gruesome experiences recounted by the two survivors of war in chilling first-person accounts. … But her stubbornly romantic rather than critical view of Tamil nationalism falls short in its reckoning of women’s emancipation in the Tamil struggle.”

Kandasamy a critic of Modi

Earlier this year, she was awarded the Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi Porkizhi Virudhu, an award for literature, by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin.

Kandasamy is a fierce critic of the Narendra Modi government.

“Modi’s regime has left every single institution, structure, and aspect of life in India not only gasping for breath but in a state of bloody disembowelment,” she had tweeted in 2021.