The Reclining Chair

The Reclining Chair

Product ID: 9676

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Author: Thoppil Mohammed Meeran
Translator: M Vijayalakshmi
Publisher: Sahitya Akademi
Year: 2002
Language: English
Pages: 315
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8126013699


This novel relates a generational history of a family settled in the imaginary village of Tenpattan in the Southern coastline of India with a predominant Muslim population. The story centers around Musatafakannu Pillai, proud claimant to a heritage rich in myth and imagination but moth-eaten and bereft of substance in reality. Given to a life of indolence and a single-minded pursuit of sensual pleasures Mustafakannu Pillai presides over a ramshackle mansion and little else, selling off anything and everything to please his palate.

Cruel and perverse by nature he suppresses his wife, Mariam Bivi, a woman of conscience, with bestiality. He is served well in this endeavor by his vainglorious sister Ayesha who makes her home in paternal house out of pique. Israyil, a personal servant, helps and abets Mustafakannu in all his wrong ventures leading him to irretrievable ruin. Shahul Hameed, Mustafakannu's only son rejects this 'inheritance' and walks out on the family.

In this broad framework the author has worked an intricate tapestry of interesting and curious details of history myths and social tradition. Mustafakannu's reflections on the hallowed past of his family, embellished by the deeds of his ancestor Pavureen Pillai, a trusted commander of Raja Marthanda Verma and the racy episodes of his life are woven skillfully into the narrative. Strange myths are spun around family heirlooms, including the reclining chair, stories that talk of the magical and extraordinary.

A repertoire of stories about jinns and magicians that are part of muslim local myths are adroitly used by the author. Be it history or myth or local custom they lend themselves to unchallenged exploitation of the weak and the helpless - often women by the strong and the unscrupulous.

An admirable element of the Tamil original is the use of the local language, as the story alternatives between several time-spans and locales.