Othappu : The Scent of the Other Side

Sarah Joseph. Translated from Malayalam by Valson Thampu, Oxford University Press, 2009, xxxiv, 286 p, ISBN : 0198062168, $25.00 (Includes free airmail shipping)

"This transfiguring work opens with Sister Margalitha leaving the convent in search of God. When she decides to live with Karikkan, a priest who has abandoned his vocation, she offends her family, society, the church, and the law. The scandal rocks Thrissur, and the couple become social outcasts.

Othappu--the first Malayalam novel of its kind--is about a woman's yearning for a true understanding of spirituality and her own sexuality. The novel is a powerful indictment of the hypocrisy that plagues Christianity in many parts of the subcontinent. Othappu unfolds at many levels to critique notions of class, caste, antiquity, and prestige that have, over time, eroded the power of the first church.

The detailed introduction by Jancy James provides rare insights into the work and skillfully sketches the social history of Kerala, the location of the novel. Two special inclusions--Paul Zacharia on the different meanings of 'othappu' and a dialogue between the author and Githa Hiranyan--lend fresh perspectives to the work.

With its strong social message, this novel will appeal to students and scholars of Indian writing in translation, comparative literature, gender and cultural studies, as well as general readers." (jacket)

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