ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Whence Kusumabale, Whence Postmodernism?


Kumar Shashi - University of Alberta, Department of English and Film Studies, Edmonton, Canada


35 – Postmodern Narratives of Caste and Indigeneity


 When Kusumabale,a Kannada Dalit literary text, was published in 1988, it not only posed achallenge to realism that existed in the language since its inception, but italso posed challenges to modernism, which preceded Dalit literature. In fact, Dalitrealism questioned the realism that existed until then, and Kusumabale tookit to new heights. Did that introduce literary postmodernism that never existedin its strict sense in Kannada? Kusumabale could not be categorized as anovel either, as it was less than 120 pages and written in a language spoken bya Dalit community in Nanjanagud taluk in Chamarajanagar district. With nopunctuation, nonlinear narration, and sounding like a folk verse, it posedchallenges to even some of the major Kannada modernist writers, who demandedthat it should be translated into Kannada first. It was labeled as the most ‘untranslatable’literary text in the Kannada language. It took almost three decades to see theEnglish translation after several translators attempted to translate it. I hadthe privilege of overseeing the English translation of Kusumabale at OUP.This paper will be a personal, professional, and academic account of Kusumable’s journey. It will take up questions on aesthetics, realism,modernism, postmodernism, untranslatability, and editing in the context of Kusumabale.