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Cover for Cat in the Agraharam and Other Stories

Cat in the Agraharam and Other Stories

Dilip Kumar


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This collection of stories from celebrated author Dilip Kumar offers a distinct perspective on everyday life in the South Indian cities of Coimbatore and Chennai. The stories set in the Sowcarpet neighborhood of Chennai give readers a glimpse into the orthodox world of Gujarati Vaishnavas, transplants from the northwestern region of Kutch, who find themselves living usually at odds—and occasionally in harmony—with the Tamil-speaking community.
The volume is introduced by its award-winning translator, Martha Ann Selby, who worked closely with the author. The universal appeal of these stories is rooted in their utterly truthful local specificity as they explore complex themes of abduction and restoration, humiliation and despair, and related issues of identity and wholeness. Known by Tamil readers for his description and detail, Dilip Kumar also writes with humor and a deep compassion for his characters, highlighting their strengths in the face of degradation and strife. His perspective and insight build on his own status as a northerner in this southern setting for whom Tamil is a second language—much like his characters.


Praise For Cat in the Agraharam and Other Stories

“These stories carry you sweetly into intimate feelings and dialogues about death, love, sickness, frailty, longing, failure, hunger, poverty, community, and family in a worn-down neighborhood of Chennai . . . Only astutely observant family members could create the subtle, caring relationships that emerge between readers and the humane narrators who live in this book thanks to the poignant Tamil prose of Dilip Kumar and loving translations by his friend and co-storyteller, Martha Ann Selby.” —David Ludden, author of Peasant History in South India

“This book is one of the finest available translations of contemporary Tamil literature. The narratives in this volume capture Dilip Kumar’s unique formations of twentieth- and twenty-first century Tamil realism inflected by autobiographical experience, and are some of the most striking Tamil short stories of our time. Martha Selby brings these literary and cultural complexities alive for English-speaking audiences through her own unique, deeply intimate style of translation.” —Davesh Soneji, author of Unfinished Gestures: Devadasis, Memory, and Modernity in South India

". . . turns toward the unexpected." —L.D. Barnes, Newcity Lit

Northwestern University Press, 9780810141551, 184pp.

Publication Date: March 15, 2020

About the Author

DILIP KUMAR is an award-winning Tamil-language writer and editor. He has published three collections of short stories and one of literary criticism and has edited two anthologies, Contemporary Tamil Short Fiction and The Tamil Story: Through the Times, through the Tides.
MARTHA ANN SELBY is a professor of South Asian studies in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the translator of Grow Long, Blessed Night: Love Poems from Classical India; The Circle of Six Seasons: Poems from Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Old Tamil; and Tamil Love Poetry: The Five Hundred Short Poems of the “Ainkurunuru.”