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Anita Nair: The Cartographer of Fragmented Consciences

Kumar Paral is a writer, a culture enthusiast, and a bibliophile.

Anita Nair, Indian Writer

Anita Nair is a prominent Indian writer who is celebrated for her novels, short stories and travel writings. As a writer with uncommon narrative power, unparalleled psychological realism, extraordinary historical semblance and unusual amorous sensibilities, her writings are an unorthodox exploration of psyche as well as the inner spirit of individuals.

Nair has been a fervid traveller and passionate chronicler of the past and employs her dissipated experiences to unravel infinite possibilities of the individual in their aleatory journeys through dormant and eruptive pathways of deterritorialisation and temporal displacement. The trajectories of her characters, both in real and imagined terrains, always survey the strange interiors of singular minds in order to reveal structures of outer realities.

"Satyr of the Subway & Eleven Other Stories"

"Satyr of the Subway & Eleven Other Stories"

Anita Nair's Fiction

Anita Nair's novels are a journey to the interiors. She situates deciphered realism, coloured fantasies, fragmented consciousness and disconnected visualities in her fiction for augmenting encoded cyclic narration. Even though her characters are mostly strangers to the core values and customs of the society and they like to subsist on their own terrains of agony and ecstasy, they are ordinary human beings in another sense as they always desire to relish the emotional wilderness of estranged individuals.

Nair's novels and short stories portray individuals who can overwrite their destiny over their crude imagination and can get away from the assigned intricate trap-doors of everyday lives. They are always in a long struggle not only with the stratified world but also with themselves in order to overcome the multitude of infernal fires burning both inside and outside their mind.

"The Better Man"

"The Better Man"

The Better Man

The Better Man, Anita Nair's debut novel, is a compelling narrative about human foibles and frailties. It is set in Kaikurissi, a real-and-imagined village in Kerala, and it becomes the focus of the untold chronicles. The writer, by scintillating narration and semi-rustic language, weaves the lives of a number of people along with village lore and mythology. The novel also narrates the attempts of Mukundan, the protagonist of the novel, to reclaim his identity and lost roots, in which he succeeds by sacrifice.

“This is where I was born, after all. This is where I belong.”

— "The Better Man," Anita Nair




Mistress is a novel which looks into the minds of individuals who are destined to be live together, even though their trajectories are not overlapping anywhere. This novel embeds Kathakali in its plot and structure so that it unravels a world of reality and imagination by coalescing its spatial layers of fragmented consciousness. It is also an exploration of predicament of artists in their old age. This novel also depicts the hidden temporal structures which are continually influencing individuals and put them into servitude, in spite of their attempt to move away by reterritorialisation.

"Love lives in the present. All else is memory and hope."

— "Mistress," Anita Nair

"Ladies Coupé"

"Ladies Coupé"

Ladies Coupé

Ladies Coupé is the most celebrated novel by Anita Nair which has been translated into more than 30 languages including all major European languages. It narrates stories of women who happened to meet in a ladies' coupe, a reserved train compartment for women in Indian railways, and share their life stories. The novel is widely read as a feminist narrative in which all the major characters, refuse to be subdued by the patriarchal norms which are trying to dominate them. All the characters of this novel try to resist patriarchy in one way or other and become a symbol of resistance in an androcentric society.

“Once you stop worrying what the world will think of you, your life will become that much easier to live.”

— Ladies Coupe, Anita Nair

The Lilac House

The Lilac House is a novel which probes the role of axenic love in human relations. The main character of this novel is Mira who lives in Bangalore with her mother and grandmother in their own house. That house decides the rise and fall of the family. When Mira objects to her husband's demand to sell the house, not only her marriage but her relationship with her children also shatters. The novel probes the intricacies of human relations and unreclaimed areas of the human mind that every individual possesses. It also reveals that nobody can fathom the depths of the human mind.

“How can adults expect forgiveness of children?It is an adult emotion. It is not a child's natural instinct to make compromises on behalf of a parent.”

— "The Lilac House," Anita Nair

"Idris: A Novel"

"Idris: A Novel"


Idris is a historical novel which is considered as the masterpiece of Anita Nair. In this novel, the writer has introduced Idris, a great traveller from Africa who is a person with unmatched wanderlust. Being a member of the merchant adventurer community, he has travelled many parts of the world. He reaches Kerala to do business at Vaniyamkulam Chandha, which was a world-renowned market in India in the seventeenth century. On this visit, he happened to meet Kuttimalu, a young woman who is a member of the upper-class community, which has transformed his life and aspirations. This novel probes the interconnectedness of spatial structures and cultural identity related to an individual's existence.

“I travel because I don't know what else to do.”

— "Idris," Anita Nair

"Alphabet Soup for Lovers"

"Alphabet Soup for Lovers"

Alphabet Soup for Lovers

Alphabet Soup for Lovers is an unusual novel which depicts the analogous structures of food and love. Lena Abraham, the main character of this novel, realizes that food and passions of the heart are closely connected, and so the easy way to the heart is through luscious food.

She can see the dark contents of the mind of man, which are visualised by nostalgic gustatory sensations. She finally realizes that her true love does not lie in her marital bonds, but outside of them. This novel reveals the strange manner of working of human minds which are always unpredictable and unstable.

“If a dish could make a woman strong enough to ignore the call of heart, then the world would be ruled by women. There would be no tears or shattered dreams.... there would be no wars or bloodshed”

— "Alphabet Soup for Lovers," Anita Nair

"Eating Wasps"

"Eating Wasps"

Eating Wasps

Eating Wasps is the latest novel by Anita Nair; it was published in 2019. This novel depicts the life stories of nine women who have gone through various horrid experiences and become victims of unreciprocated love, incorrigible hatred, brazen exploitation, inhuman neglect, terrible acid attacks, and virulent forms of gender violence.

Sreelakshmi, one of the major characters of this novel, follows Rajalakshmi, a well-known Malayalam writer who committed suicide many years ago. As Anita Nair tries to find out the causes of the mysterious self-annihilation of the writer, this novel becomes a mediation on the death of a fellow writer.

"Only those who have been truly afraid can understand the crippling hold it can have on you."

— "Eating Wasps," Anita Nair

Anita Nair's Poems and Travel Writings

Anita Nair's poems share varied experiences of individuals that are always in an eternal struggle for elusive tranquillity. Her works are eager to learn more about the dark spaces permeating human minds, to make the world a better place and to gauge the problems of both person and society. As a travel writer, she reveals her own unsatiated mind which is always zealous “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

© 2020 Kumar Paral


Unni on April 30, 2020:

Nice Article.

Sk on April 28, 2020: