Qabar: Magic and realism are hard to mix


Qabar is a novel written originally in Malayalam by KR Meera and translated into English by Nisha Susan. The story is a first-person narrative told by the central character Bhavana Sachidanandan. Bhavana is an Additional district judge and a single mother. The plot centrally revolves around a case of demolition of an ancestral grave of Kaakkasseri Khayaluddin Thangal. 

Theme (8/10)

The novel explores themes of religion, ancestry and the struggle of a single mother. It tries to tie all these themes together through Bhavanna’s story. However, there is no central theme to which all the other themes relate. It is hard to understand the core point of the story. Every new perspective offers a different core point. Otherwise, the topics the story touched upon are worth a thought. 

Creative choice (5/10)

The story makes the creative choice of mixing realism and magic. It is both the weakness and the strength of the book. Many can not like the book due to this choice, while others may like it. Mixing two different genres in one book is not easy, significantly if the boundary between the two is blurred. Qabar suffers from its description of fantastical happenings, like Bhavana seeing rainbows or flying. These instances take away from the seriousness of the rest of the story. It also makes Bhavanna’s inner struggle seem far less important than otherwise. It takes a great deal to understand the story’s deeper meaning with its constant surreal descriptions. 

Writing style (7/10)

The writing of the book, overall, is compelling. I have grown to think that first-person narratives are not the most effective way of storytelling. However, Qabar can tell the story effectively through the eyes of Bhavan. This is where the straight of the creative choice comes in. Having Bhavan read Thagal’s mind allows her to let the reader see into Thangal’s mind through Bhavana’s eyes, which is impossible in a first-person narrative. However, the writing can feel draggy and descriptive to some readers. 

Overall (6/10)

The final impression of the book is that it is a good read. If magical elements and realism interest you, pick the book. Its creative choice, if able to attract the reader, is its biggest strength. But if you feel that a blurred mix between realism and magic can put you off, you can find the book draggy. I would say, still go ahead and give it a read, even if only half of it. 

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