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Exquisite Cadavers

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  164 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Karim and Maya are lovers. They share a home, they worry about money, and then Maya falls pregnant. But Karim is still finishing his film degree, pushing against his tutors' insistence that his art must be Arab like him. And Maya, working a zero-hours job and fretting about her family, can't find the time to quit smoking, let alone have a child.

Framed with fragments and
Hardcover, 112 pages
Expected publication: November 1st 2020 by Atlantic Books (first published November 7th 2019)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  164 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is the follow on work from When I Hit You and there are links between the two. It is also an experimental novel with two parallel streams of narrative on the same page. One narrative is the story being written, the other is a sort of commentary on it, on Kandasamys life, on the current political context, especially on Mohdis India. The author is present on the page in a very obvious way and there is inevitably an interaction between writer, text and reader. This could have been irritating, ...more
Callum McLaughlin
Nov 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
This experimental novella takes the concept of meta fiction to a whole new level. Throughout its entirety, two separate narratives run in parallel. One is the fictional account of a young couple living in London, attempting to navigate growing tensions within their home and across the globe. The second, written within the margins, is a series of musings on Kandasamys own life, giving us an insight into the wider context of the books creation, as well as the thoughts and inspirations behind ...more
Abbie | ab_reads
Nov 04, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars - so unique and a rare insight into a writers life as they write. Full review to come! ...more
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Exquisite Cadavers, an excellent work of fiction set in the time of political divide and rise of the extreme political right in Britain and India. Meena Kandasamy's two columnar storytelling hooked me to read it in two sittings. The style, voice, and format are new to me and addictive. I completed one column for ten pages and forget there is another column to read, went back and reread. While I was reading, I was contemplating, how could be the experience of reading Kafka on Shore in a similar ...more
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This little novel absolutely blew me away with its structural innovation, smashing down the wall between the author and the work they produce. Exquisite Cadavers is a dual narrative. Its primary (imagined) story is about Karim, a Tunisian immigrant, and Maya, his English wife. Struggling to make ends meet, and in the face of constant casual racism, theirs is a love circumscribed by the realities of Brexit-era London. Meanwhile, in the margins, Kandasamy tells her own story of writing the book, ...more
Chitra Ahanthem
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How much of an author is in a book? Does literature and art take shape from and form from the realities around the writer/artiste? How much does an author's real life experiences or belief systems influence her book? Can an author writing literature walk away from it all? 
Meena Kandasamy's Exquisite Cadavers is a demanding book: it asks you to be attuned to the socio political situation of the country, it asks if you to question literary forms and structure. If you are willing to give in to the
Vivek Tejuja
Jan 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I do not know where to begin talking about this book. There is so much going on in this book love, hate, fights, religion, a book about a young couple navigating love and hate in London, about migration, and how we are in the modern world. Or rather how we perceive love, and its failings (if any).

Exquisite Cadavers is about a young couple, Karim and Maya. Karim is a filmmaker who has left his house in Tunis, and made his house in London with Maya, an English woman, who is battling her demons of
Anupama C K(b0rn_2_read)
3.5 stars
The book is written in a unique format. There is the story of Maya and Karim, and at the margins we get to read the author's thoughts while writing this novel. Her narrative is so lyrical. It is a story which will remind you of the current times.

The format was hard to read. I couldn't follow both stories together. It was frustrating to go back and read the other story after each chapter
Roshan Singh
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'Exquisite Cadavers' is the most innovative book I have read this year. The format of the book is unlike anything I have read before. Meena Kandasamy has separated the personal from her fiction in the literal sense. Each page is divided into two parts : one has her personal thoughts and the other has the fictional story. Although the two portions are separate, they are not different. I read the 'memoir' first and that did not just introduce me to the author, but also made me aware of her ...more
Feb 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2020
Written in a strange, confusing, absolutely fascinating unique format that combines the story of fictional London couple Karim and Maya in the main part and the author's own musings and comments in the margins, this exquisitely written experimental novella packs an astonishing punch.
Chris Haak
Nov 26, 2019 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this more, and even though the subject matter was interesting enough, the structure of this small novel didn't work for me. The two stories being told next to each other on the same page confused me and distracted me.
Mandy Marsden
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a bold and masterful experiment which delivered a lyrical, powerful book. Just beautiful.
Simant ♥ Flipping Through the Pages
Full review on: Flipping Through the Pages
Actual reading: 3.5 stars

🌸 Kandasamys work is never easy for me to read in one go. Exquisite Cadavers is a piece of experimental fiction which would take more than one reading attempt to fully comprehend and understand everything which she has tried to incorporate within just 100 pages.
🌸 The title of the book has been taken from a famous parlour game also known as Consequences. In this game, players take turns to write or draw on a sheet of paper, then
Arathy Puthillam
Jesus fucking Christ. What a fantastic piece of work. I am so saddened by the state of the world right now, and this book is so reflective of that feeling of doom and rage. She writes with such eloquence; no word out of place, the emotions she wants to elicit crescendo as the book progresses. What a brave thing it is to live and love and pursue art in these times, she seems to say. But, also how trite. How do you integrate the domestic and the political; but how can you not?
Dhanya MG
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-revisit, the-best
Pure lyrical beauty
Experimental format that worked well for me as i loved her thoughts which were powerful n so current.
Intimate yet distancing
Makes us detached yet involved spectator
An author resolution to get full hold of her craft n shy away from boxes assigned to her work
aman caur
Feb 11, 2020 rated it liked it
An invention by the French surrealists, exquisite cadavers refers to a game in which words are assembled into a piece of writing by each player in turn. Playing on this technique in her new novel, Exquisite Cadavers, Meena Kandasamy gives importance to both the story and her process, which is, in fact, a continuation to some extent of what she has done in her two previous novels, THE GYPSY GODDESS and WHEN I HIT YOU.

This may be a slim book, but she manages to pack in two powerful stories. Every
Exquisite Cadavers by Meena Kandasamy is a real treat for those who love scathing political commentary, real relationships, and experimental writing styles. This slim book packs a lot into its 100 pages. When Kandasamy wrote her previous novel, When I Hit You, she described it as auto-fiction which drew heavily from her own experiences. Too often, critics and readers were referring to it as a memoir and she became frustrated that her words were being ignored in the process. So she wrote this ...more
Dec 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
The synopsis of Exquisite Cadavers is what gripped me. The exploration of two people of colour who weren't fulfilling the stereotypical narrative boundaries of people of colour. It was definitely interesting, but I did find that the main story dragged a little. I found that I was absolutely more invested in the marginal story which chronicled Kandasamy's experience of life as she wrote this book and the stories being shown on the news at the time. I really appreciated the format, the way the ...more
Dec 31, 2019 rated it liked it
As someone who has known Kandasamy for her topical, politically engaged work, I picked this book with a considerable amount of excitement. I anticipated something fresh, something shot through with the glamour/comfort of what is not explicitly Indian, a complete deviation from her existing body of work. The format of Exquisite Cadavers annoyed me a little as I read it. I get that postmodernism brings with it the need for innovation,and this was innovative alright- but as somebody who picks up ...more
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Even if all the hate around us comes undone, what will become of those who were killed? They will never be brought back to life. And if we do nothing to challenge this atmosphere of hate, they will have died in vain. Their inert corpses will mock and mock our inaction. ...more
Kirat Kaur
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
A really interesting experimental short novel that combines a fictional account of domestic life in a London suburb with the author's personal thoughts and experiences in the margins. Meena Kandasamy's prose is really poetic, even when she's describing atrocities. Beautiful book cover too.
Pascal Dsouza
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book reminded me of exit west but with a slightly funny twinge.
Meena has shared her thoughts on the current scenario in India in parallel with the story.
Robert Watson
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was so looking forward to this after being totally enthralled and shocked by her auto fiction When I hit you.... but in the end I was frustrated by the two narratives, the non-fiction in the margins and the ? main text - fiction -centre page. I found it challenging and distracting to switch from one to the other and would have preferred to read them consecutively. Not really sure what was intended in structuring the work this way. Read immediately after Tishani Doshis Small days and nights it ...more
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
weaving between two stories was interesting and lovely. It made the relationship between the author, the characters and the reader tangible and dynamic. It also provoked questions about how fiction written by women of colour is interrogated and often presented as a thinly veiled story of the self. It made me realize how I had read When I Hit You, and indeed, other stories by women of colour. In seeing everything as autobiography, I unintentionally minimized the creative and imaginative work put ...more
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Pitched as an Oulipo-style project, I don't think this quite fits the bill in that regard but it's a fascinating read. It has a parallel commentary running alongside the fictional story of a young married couple where Kandasamy comments on her own life, the reception of her previous novel, artistic decisions she is making about this work and political concerns in India. There's not much plot in the central story and the whole book only runs to 100 pages, but there's some beautiful writing. ...more
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
I loved the ideological stance, I'm super critical of and don't endorse the current regime in India, but I simply didn't get this book, this might be because:

a) I shouldn't have read it on kindle

b) I couldn't focus on two parallel storylines simultaneously

c) I genuinely didn't read this book 'right'
Ramya Abhinand
Jan 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Read the complete review here :

Written by Meena Kandasamy, this book was my second book of 2020. I picked it up considering the fact that I had loved Meena Kandasamy's earlier book When I Hit You. The earlier book When I Hit You came with a narrative that was so powerful; a tale that was so well told with emotions, love, trust , egos and violence expressed perfectly. However I really would not be able to say the same thing about Exquisite Cadavers. Let me
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Another short novel - could almost be called a short story . The writing style was very interesting. Political and so relevant. This book was recommended by a voracious reader friend.
Areeb Ahmad (Bankrupt_Bookworm)
The reception reinforced my perception that, to a Western audience, writers like me are interesting because we are from a place where horrible things happen, or, horrible things have happened to us, or, a combination of the above. No one discusses process with us.


Leave it to Meena Kandasamy to conjure up such a complex work of literature in barely a hundred pages all the while challenging writer-ly expectations in the most brilliant ways. Written in two narrative strands going on
Very impressed by this striking experimental novella. Kandasamy's prose sparkles with poetry to produce a lyrical intimate novel skilfully exploring two different narratives straddling the domestic and the political. The 'central' story surrounds Karim and Maya's relationship in London as they navigate the contemporary difficulties of a mixed relationship, including the racism Karim suffers as as a Tunisian artist of colour. The narrative in the 'margins' provides us with valuable meta-fictional ...more
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reception reinforced my
perception that, to a Western
audience, writers like me are
interesting because – we are from a place
where horrible things
happen, or, – horrible things have
happened to us, or, – a combination of the
above. No one discusses process
with us.”
“No one treats us as writers, only as diarists who survived.” 0 likes
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