Manucaritramu, or The Story of Manu, by the early sixteenth-century poet Allasani Peddana, is the definitive literary monument of Telugu civilization and a powerful embodiment of the imperial culture of Vijayanagara, the last of the great premodern south Indian states. It is the story of Svarochisha Manu, who ruled over the previous cosmic age and who serves here as prototype for the first human being. Peddana explores the dramatic displacements, imaginative projections, and intricate workings of desire necessary for Manu’s birth and formation. The Story of Manu is also a book about kingship and its exigencies at the time of Krishnadevaraya, the most powerful of the Vijayanagara rulers, who was a close friend and patron of the poet. The Story of Manu, presented in the Telugu script alongside the first translation into any language, is a true masterpiece of early modern south Indian literature.
The Murty Classical Library of India makes available original texts and modern English translations of the masterpieces of literature and thought from across the whole spectrum of Indic languages over the past two millennia in the most authoritative and accessible formats on offer anywhere.
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Velcheru Narayana Rao is Visiting Distinguished Professor of South Asian Studies at Emory University.
David Shulman is Renee Lang Professor of Humanistic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Eloquently outlining Peddana’s groundbreaking innovations and his acute awareness of himself as an innovator, the terrific introduction by the translators Velcheru Narayana Rao and David Shulman makes the point that: ‘We might think of Peddana, like Dante, as the epitome of an entire civilizational moment.’ (Neel Mukherjee New Statesman 2015-03-05)
Throbs with worldliness in its vivacious medley of prose and poetry... V. N. Rao and David Shulman’s nimble translation makes what otherwise might have been a baroque and chaotic text a pleasure to read. It also gives readers access to historical literature from southern India, a region whose written traditions rarely win the same national recognition as those from the North. (Kanish Tharoor Los Angeles Review of Books 2015-04-13)
The Story of Manu, translated for the first time into any language, gives a much wider readership access to [Peddana’s] masterful, lyrical wordsmithery. It also affords, through its plot, a rare glimpse into the political and religious philosophy of its times. (Pragya Tiwari India at LSE blog)
Few Western poets have been so audacious and unconventional. (Roberto Calasso New York Review of Books 2015-09-24)
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