Book Review: The Demon's Daughter- A Love Story from South India by Pingali Suranna




Genre: Fiction/ Translation

Publishers: Aleph Book Company

Price: Rs. 299/- (I got the book for review from the publisher)

Behind the Book

The Demon’s Daughter is a sixteenth-century novel by the south Indian poet Pingali Suranna, originally written in Telugu. Suranna begins with a story from classical Hindu mythology in which a demon plans to overthrow the gods. Krishna’s son Pradyumna is sent to foil the plot and must infiltrate the impregnable city of the demons; Krishna helps ensure his success by having a matchmaking goose cause Pradyumna to fall in love with the demon’s daughter. The original story focuses on the ongoing war between gods and anti-gods, but Pingali Suranna makes it an exploration of the experience of being and falling in love. In this, the work evinces a modern sensibility, showing love as both an individualized emotion and the fullest realization of a person, transcending social and cultural barriers.

The translators include an afterword that explores the cultural setting of the work and its historical and literary contexts. Anyone interested in the literature and mythology of India will find this book compelling, but all readers who love a good story will enjoy this moving book. Velcheru Narayana Rao and David Shulman have provided an elegant translation that will serve well the contemporary reader who wishes to encounter a masterwork of classical Indian literature.

About the Author

VELCHERU NARAYANA RAO is Krishnadevaraya Professor of Languages and Cultures of Asia at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

DAVID SHULMAN is Professor of Indian Studies and Comparative Religion at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. They are the co-translators of The Sound of the Kiss, or The Story That Must Never Be Told by Pingali Suranna and God on The Hill: Temple Poems from Tirupati by Annamayya.

I have said this before and am saying it again, I simply love the Aleph Classics. Their choices of titles, cover design, internal layout - the whole packaging is so beautiful that cannot help falling in love with them.

I picked this title because the title intrigued me, imagine having demon and love story in the same line together. And I was pleasantly surprised by what lay in store for me. Moreover the other reason for me wanting to read this is because this book was originally written in Telugu, my mother tongue. And though I could not learn how to read or write in it, I have always tried reading Telugu literature through translations as it helps me stay connected with my roots. (Learning how to read and write in Telugu has been on my wish list for the longest now and I hope it happens someday soon!)

In translations I have always noticed how sometimes the core essence of the narrative goes missing and is replaced by the translator's interpretation of the scene. Here, I did not feel even for once that such a slip-up had happened. The narrative was flowing, taking me along with the story and transporting me to a time when life was albeit quite simpler compared to today's times. I simply loved the depiction of love, such poignancy and beauty in words!Though the story has mythological roots, it still feels as if it could have happened to any of us.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Afterword as it helped me put things in perspective before jumping to conclusions about the story. The detailed discussion on the various underlying themes in the book, along with the intricate details of the scenes and their subtle meanings have been explained so well that a reader cannot help but exclaim at these efforts. As a reader of today's times, such context always helps in understanding the period in which the story was set. This story is based in 16th century, a time which for me was totally alien. Though one can always argue if reading such works now feel relevant or not. For that I always have one thing to say - somethings are meant to be enjoyed, for their beauty and that is what I do when I read classics.

The book has been written in a unique fashion. It is not entirely prose, it is a combination of prose and poetry. The grandeur of poetry mixed with the powerful prose creates for a mesmerizing read. The message of the story shines throughout the book and keeps you hooked till the very end. It is interesting to observe how stories have always contributed to social awakening of sorts in almost every era. The author is credited with cultural continuum in late medieval South India.

If like me you love classics, this one is not to be missed. You will surely love it!

Foodie Verdict

This book is like Khicdo - every bite is full of nostalgia as it reminds you of all the good things in your life!

Source: NDTV Food