CHEMMEEN by Thakashi Slvasankara Pillai


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Written by a popular Indian novelist, this book took top literary honors and became ""the most widely discussed novel"" in India. Its simple, bald, declarative style may make it seem a little strange to Western readers, for it is a novel of romantic passion. Yet (how unlike ) no words of passion escape these lovers, kept apart by a difference in caste. Karuthamma, a fisherman's daughter, loves and is loved by Pareekutti, a young Moslem trader. But life on the seacoast is harsh, and the livelihood of the fisherman is supposed, by religion, to depend on the chastity of the women. The lovers cannot marry, or even speak of their love; but the boy can and does lend money to the girl's family with which they buy a boat and become prosperous. They do not, however, pay back the debt. Pareekutti becomes bankrupt and Karuthamma, overwhelmed by shame, allows herself to be married to a young fisherman and goes to live in the next village. The debt of honor works destruction on her family. Her mother dies; her father, plagued by guilt, casts off laughters and friends. Karuthamma genuinely tries to make her marriage work but the force of love drives the lovers together and the sea, taking its ordained toll, drowns all three... A powerful and touching story.

Publisher: Harper