This blog post is part of the tour for the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize longlist.
On the longlist for SUDTP20 is Meena Kandasamy’s stunning second book, Exquisite Cadavers. The title is obviously a reference to the parlour game by the same name that the Paris surrealists came up with. You may also know it as Consequences.
In the game, players take turns to write or draw on a sheet of paper, fold it to conceal part of their writing, and then pass it on to the next player for a further contribution. Kandasamy’s book also follows the same technique. It’s split into two sections–one with a fictional account on a London couple and another with her thoughts about the creative process and her own life.
On experimental fiction
Like in Exquisite Cadavers, experimental fiction usually involves literature that’s not entirely steeped in realism. It is realistic but the experimental writing makes it completely not straightforward. It challenges literary traditions and is definitely not easy to read.
And yet, I love any kind of experimental fiction. While genre fiction helps me get lost in a story, experimental fiction makes me stop and admire the prose too. It gets me to identify technique, to go back pages to piece incidents together so I can uncover the actual story. Experimental fiction to me is all about the experience of reading more than the story itself.
Maybe this is why I love The Sound and the Fury so much. It took me several re-reads to even begin to understand the first quarter of the novel. But once I did, it felt so rewarding. And I actually wrote all about how to read the book and it’s one of my more popular posts!
But, Shruti, shouldn’t reading be easy?
Yes it should. And I’m all for getting lost in a story.
But sometimes, I love how experimental writing comes in and shakes up the status quo. I love non-linear storytelling, filled with metaphors and allegories, that I’ll have to pay complete attention to at least scratch the surface of the story. I don’t know if this makes me a masochist but all the work I put in makes the read all the more rewarding.
This is why I can’t wait to read Exquisite Cadavers soon. And if you’re a fan of experimental writing, you definitely should check it out too!