KAKKA: A Dalit Novel
The novel that “turned Telegu literature on its head,” Vemula Yellaiah’s 2000 debut is a stylistic Cirque-du-Soleil act. Boy and body politic come of age together in Kakka; stark, minimalist realism meets the symphonic forms and registers of fantasy. A storytelling triumph, in particular Dalit, and at large, the novel is a pioneering record of slavery’s myriad manifestations, and of the productive work Madigas render unto the landlords. Even as their daily inter-caste encounter is described as never before by Yellaiah, never before has the marginalization of a Dalit within his Dalit kinships been written about as in Kakka. Eponymous hero and reader alike grow into their cast through one after another outcast(e). K. Purushotham and Gita Ramaswamy’s sparse translation is as unapologetic as its source, and as exceptionally beautiful.
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21 September, 2021
K. Purushotham and Gita Ramaswamy
Vemula Yellaiah (b.1973), a Madiga, is one of the most
promising contemporary Telugu Dalit writers. He is a
post-graduate in Telugu and presently pursuing his Ph.D.
Yellaiah has so far published two novels, Kakka (2000)
and Siddi (2004), a drama, Bahuvidha (2019), and Ladda
(2020), a poetry collection. A stage artist, Yellaiah employs
the technique of Dalit street plays in the narration of the
K. Purushotham, an academic, author, administrator, and
translator, teaches at Kakatiya University, Warangal. His
works in Dalit writing, some prescribed in different universities
include OUP Anthology of Telugu Dalit Writing (Co-ed),
Black Lilies: Telugu Dalit Poetry, and April 14: Telugu Dalit
Short Stories (Ed & trans, forthcoming). In addition, he has
carried out funded research projects, guided several scholars,
and has been a recipient of significant literary awards.
Gita Ramaswamy works with the Hyderabad Book Trust
(HBT) in publishing alternative, low-cost literature in Telugu.
She is the author of India Stinking, Jeena Hai To Marna Seekho: The Life and Times of George Reddy and On Their Own and has co-authored Taking Charge of Our Bodies and co-edited OUP Anthology of Telugu Dalit Writing besides editing Prison Notes of a Woman Activist, Here I Am and other stories. As an activist, she has worked extensively with Dalits on bonded
labour, agricultural wage labour, and land entitlements.