This cluster of short fiction has a common motif: the breast. As Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak points out in her introduction, the breast is far more than a symbol in these stories. It becomes the means of a harsh indictment of an exploitative social system. In Draupadi , the protagonist Dopdi Mejhen is a tribal revolutionary who, arrested and gang-raped in custody, turns the terrible wounds of her breasts into a counter-offensive. In Breast-Giver , a woman who becomes a professional wet-nurse to support her family dies of painful breast cancer, betrayed alike by the breasts that for years became her chief identity and the dozens of sons she suckled. In Behind the Bodice , migrant labourer Gangor s statuesque breasts excite the attention of ace photographer Upin Puri, triggering off a train of violence that ends in tragedy. Mahasweta Devi is one of India s foremost writers. Her powerful fiction has won her recognition in the form of the Sahitya Akademi (1979), Jnanpith (1996) and Ramon Magsaysay (1996) awards, amongst several other literary honours. She was also awarded the Padmasree in 1986, the title of Officier del Ordre Des Arts Et Des Lettres (2003) and the Nonino Prize (2005) for her activist work among dispossessed tribal communities. Translator, critic and scholar Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University, introduces this cycle of breast stories with thought-provoking essays which probe the texts of the stories, opening them up to a complex of interpretation and meaning.
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