The Queen of Jasmine Country
HarperCollins India is proud to announce, on the occasion of Andal Jayanti, the publication of Sharanya Manivannan’s The Queen of Jasmine Country, which imagines the life of the devotional poet Andal from medieval Tamilagam, in October 2018.
This is Manivannan’s second book of fiction, after the awardwinning collection of short stories The High Priestess Never
About The Queen of Jasmine
Country: Ninth century. In Puduvai, a small town in what we now know as Tamil Nadu, young Kodhai is taught to read and to write by her adoptive father, a garland-weaving poet. As she discovers the power of words, she also realizes that the longing for a great love that she has been nursing within her – one that does not suppress her desire
for freedom – is likely to remain unfulfilled. Then, she hears of a vow that she can undertake that might summon it to her. In deepest winter, the sixteen-yearold begins praying for a divinely sensual love – not knowing that her words will themselves become prayers, and echo through the centuries to come. Rich with the echoes of classical poetry, The Queen of Jasmine Country, Sharanya Manivannan imagines the life of the devotional poet Andal, whose sublime and erotic verses remain beloved and controversial to this day. Speaking about The Queen of Jasmine Country, Sharanya
Manivannan said, ‘Centuries before she was accorded goddess status, a teenage girl in ninth century CE Tamil Nadu expressed all her sorrows and desires through poetry. Unusually for her time, she was both unmarried and literate, yet bounded by the norms of society. What could it have been like to have been her? The Queen of Jasmine Country is not so much about Andal, whose verses still resonate in Tamil temples and homes today, but about Kodhai, the only name she knew herself by, all those centuries ago. Her interior life, the fabric of her days, all the loneliness and longing so palpable in her work – these were what consumed my thoughts. I wrote this novel with equal amounts of love and sadness: love for Kodhai herself (who came to me bright and sweet, melancholic and brave, sublime but wholly human), and sadness for all whose stories we never hear because we are taught to never ask for them. Udayan Mitra, Publisher [Literary], HarperCollins India, added: ‘Andal is a mystical figure and a devotional poet who has evoked a great deal of curiosity; very little, though, is known of her life. In her novel, Sharanya Manivannan imagines Andal’s world as it might have appeared to the teenage girl. The Queen of a Jasmine Country is a lyrical, evocative novel about devotion and creativity; it will resonate with readers long after they have finished reading it.’ About the author: Sharanya Manivannan is the author of the
short-story collection The High Priestess Never Marries, which won the 2015-16 South Asia Laadli Media and Advertising Award for Gender Sensitivity (Best Book – Fiction) and was shortlisted for the TATA Lit Live! First Book Award (Fiction) and longlisted for the Atta Galatta – Bangalore Literature Festival Book Prize. She is also the author of two books of poetry, Witchcraft and The Altar of the Only World, and a picture book for children, The Ammuchi Puchi.’