Pulp Fiction from South India

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But as I turned over the glossy, hardbound book in my hands, the seductive, bespectacled young woman with jasmine in her hair and an unusually large revolver in her hand beckoned with a look that both allured and mystified. What, I wondered, had my grandmother been reading all these years?

For the Los Angeles Review of Books, Kaavya Asoka dives into English translations of the Tamil pulp fiction she couldn’t quite read well enough to enjoy while growing up in Madras (now Chennai) in South India.

The stories she finds blend Western pulp’s “Mad scientists!” and “Hard-boiled detectives!” with uniquely Tamil foods, beauty standards, and morals, each cultural force somehow exoticizing the other in a dizzying and fascinating hall-of-mirrors effect—”imaginative fragments broken off from my own provincial cultural universe.”


Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →