The Tamil author has also been a recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award, one of India’s highest literary awards, for her novel Sivappu Kazhuthudan Oru Pachai Paravai (A Red-Necked Green Bird)
C S Lakshmi is credited with transforming Tamil fiction, especially the short story genre, imaginatively experimenting with both form and language. Photo Courtesy: Tata Literature Live!
Pathbreaking author C S Lakshmi, (publishing fiction under her pseudonym Ambai) has been conferred the Tata Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement Award for 2023. She is one of India’s leading writers and academicians, forging a trailblazing path at a time when education and literary pursuits were not common for women. Her contribution to the field of Indian literature cannot be overstated. She is indeed credited with transforming Tamil fiction, especially the short story genre, imaginatively experimenting with both form and language.
As a leading raconteur of women’s stories, exploring their loves, relationships, quests and journeys, C S Lakshmi’s writing is both incisive and nuanced. Throughout the long span of her body of work, her writing has continued being fresh and original. She is a recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award, one of India’s highest literary awards, for her novel Sivappu Kazhuthudan Oru Pachai Paravai (A Red-Necked Green Bird). Most of her work has been translated into English, one of the best known being Veetin Mulaiyil Oru Samayalarai which was translated by Lakshmi Holmström as 'A Kitchen in the Corner of the House'. The book is a riveting composition in which the lives of three generations of women in a Rajasthani household are portrayed through the gaze of a Tamil daughter-in-law.
C S Lakshmi was born in Coimbatore in 1944. She has graduate and post graduate degrees in Arts from Bangalore and Madras Universities respectively and a PhD from JNU. She has taught at both school and college levels. A leading feminist, alongside writing fiction she has been a dedicated researcher and teacher, with several academic publications and non-fiction books in English and Tamil to her name. She is a pioneering archivist in women studies and a co-founder of SPARROW, (Sound and Picture Archives for Research on Women) India’s first archive dedicated to only women, which holds a range of writings and visual and oral records.
On receiving news of the award, C S Lakshmi said, “I am honoured to receive this award which has been received in the past by writers I admire. It is an honour to the Tamil language in which I write."
Announcing the Award, co-director of the festival, Amy Fernandes said, “We are delighted that C S Lakshmi, one of India’s leading authors, has accepted the Tata Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement Award. Pioneering in her life and writing, outstanding in her command over language, women-oriented in her work, C S Lakshmi exemplifies in many ways the essence of our festival. It will be our pleasure and honour to have her distinguished presence with us."
Harish Bhat, brand custodian, Tata Sons said, “I am deeply honoured to present the Tata Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement Award to Sahitya Akademi awardee, CS Lakshmi, affectionately known as Ambai among Tamil literature enthusiasts. It is a true joy to celebrate Ambai's extensive body of work, which has left an indelible mark. Her voice embodies courage in challenging the stereotyping of women, brims with empathy, unwavering conviction, and a delightful sense of humour, spanning diverse forms, including research, translations, poetry, and both novels and short stories. Her literary contributions not only push the boundaries of storytelling in regional languages, but also enrich the global literary landscape, offering a wealth of profound experiences. This award is also a testament to the Tata Group's commitment to promoting diverse voices in India's literary landscape."
Past recipients of the Tata Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement Award include Mahesh Elkunchwar, Anita Desai, Ruskin Bond, Shanta Gokhale, Sir Mark Tully, Girish Karnad, Amitav Ghosh, Kiran Nagarkar, M T Vasudevan Nair, Khushwant Singh, Sir V S Naipaul and Mahashweta Devi.