Mahasweta Devi is widely acknowledged as one of India's foremost writers. Her trenchant, powerful, satiric fiction has won her recognition in the form of the Sahitya Akademi (1979) and Jnanpith (1996) awards, amongst several other literary honours. She was also awarded the Padmasree in 1986, for her activist work amongst dispossessed tribal communities.
This cluster of short fiction has a common motif: the breast, As Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak points out in her introduction, the breast is far more than a symbol in these stories. It becomes the means of a harsh indictment of an exploitative social system. In 'Draupadi', the protagonist, Dopdi Mejhen, is a tribal revolutionary, who, arrested and gang-raped in custody, turns the terrible wounds of her breasts into a counter offensive. In 'Breast-Giver', a woman who becomes a professional wet-nurse to support her family dies of painful breast cancer, betrayed alike by the breasts that for years became her chief identity, and the dezons of 'sons' she suckled. In 'Behind the Bodice' migrant labourer Gangor's 'Statuesque' breasts excite the attention of ace photographer Upin Puri, triggering off a train of violence that ends in tragedy.
About the Author:
Translator, critic and scholar Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University, introduces this cycle of 'breast stories' with thought provoking essays which probe the texts of the stories, opening them up to a complex of interpretation and meaning.
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