Free Press Journal

When I hit you or a portrait of the writer as a young wife-Review


Title: When I hit you or a portrait of the writer as a young wife

Author: Meena Kandasamy

Publisher: Jugernaut

Pages 249 Price Rs.499, 2017

It is a long time since I read poetry as literary interest, so I must admit that I was unfamiliar with the poet/novelist under present consideration, but now I am glad that I got the opportunity to read her book which I have found engrossing, awesome in content and un-put-down-able. Confusing at times, courageously written at all other times, but would it not be more fitting on a psychoanalyst’s couch?

Nevertheless, it makes fascinating reading. I understand it is somewhat autobiographical, although the book’s back flap gives no background knowledge about the writer except that she is a poet who has also written another critically-acclaimed novel.

The unnamed first-person narrator is a poet and writer with a political bent that wants to make this a better world. Obviously, an intellectual narrator, names like Frida Kahlo, Pilar Quinterne, Margavet Atwood are encountered throughout the book, which makes one wonder how such a person could succumb to the action she succumbs to from her brand new husband who is a professor as well as a Maoist.

The book starts with her mother making excuses for the return of her newly-married daughter. Next, we are in the midst of a film production, “Lights, camera, action.”

“I am the wife playing the role of an actress playing out the role of a dutified wife watching her husband pretend to be a hero …….. “I play the role with flair” That is the next essay/chapter.

She marries this man, and then the beatings and vicious sexual behaviour. She phones her parents in their home in Tamil Nadu (she is now in Mangalore), but they persuade her to bear it all, after all, she is newly married and settling down takes time.

Frankly, now I am confused. Do well-educated couples, left-leaning, newly married couples really behave like this? Do husbands really sexually misbehave with their brides?  College professors at that? Men who remove all contacts their wives _____ among people from villages or small towns, but this couple is a different class. And she suffers through all this for four whole months before she flees to her parents home?

It is a well-written book, one has no quarrel with her writing and literary style, but one wonders about professors or other educated persons especially if they had been married before, as this Maoist man had been.

Violence and rape between this newly married couple seem to come very easily, at least from one partner, while the other bags for mercy. I truly am very confused, especially since this novel is said to be autobiographical.

This book is well written though not lyrical and I cannot say I was devastated, nor assaulted by the desperate, but underlying anger and pain. However, it truly makes me anxious to know if in such middle-class _____ do husbands drag their wives by the _____? Do they beat them till they scream for pity and panic?

Is this book, I repeat, I found confusing. I would like to know about the reason the author wrote this book. What was the motive before such a literary but true outpowing of rage and pain?