Both a fictional account of couple Maya and Karim, and in the form of notes in the margins is Kandasamy’s parallel account of thoughts and research while writing it, showing her workings and asserting which is which. From the author of When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife.
Kandasamy is one of the rising stars of contemporary literature ... Kandasamy looks the reader directly in the eye ... the results scrolling down the page margins creates a peculiar poetry ... The key question about Exquisite Cadavers, however, is does all of this work?...That is the hardest question to answer, because the terms are that it should be an experiment – there has never been a book quite like this. Better to ask, then, whether it surprises, grips, makes the reader take notice – all those things literature is supposed to do – to which the answer is, easily, yes, yes, and yes again.
... deeply lyrical, with space given for thoughts to build ... With the writer present on the page, every choice feels driven. The result is an exploration of how discrimination can pull and pick at intimacy. Kandasamy’s presence only enhances the fiction; her sense of life and art introducing a never-ending conversation between writer, text and reader ... The reader must make a choice about how to read Exquisite Cadavers — but it isn’t difficult. There is a natural step-back, step-forward between the two sides of the page, like letting yourself be moved by waves. The margins aren’t pedantic, but powerful ruminations on Kandasamy’s role as artist, and the news and research that dominate her mind as she writes ... a book that is slyly funny and profoundly thoughtful. It is common for critics and readers to belittle women by assuming they write out of catharsis rather than to create. Exquisite Cadavers is not just a fierce rebuttal. It’s a work of brilliance.
Often, the authorial notes are more satisfying than the fiction, but they come together to explore overlapping themes. What transpires is a rich and absorbing text full of allusion to domestic Indian politics, Marxism and feminism. It’s equally a fascinating account of a writer’s process, and a successful reclamation of her own authorial control. If what we write is of course informed by what we know, Exquisite Cadavers asks the old question of why books written by women are dismissed as memoir so often, but does so in a remarkably fresh way. Kandasamy’s work becomes more bold and exciting with each new book.