Author: S Hareesh
Translator: Jayasree Kalathil
Publisher: DC Books ( Malayalam) , Harperperennial (Translated)
First published: 2018 ( Malayalam ), 2020 (Translated)
Genre : Contemporary Fiction
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐⭐ ⭐ (5/5)
About The Book
Vavachan is a Pulayan who gets the opportunity to play a policeman with an immense moustache in a musical drama. The character appears in only two scenes and has no dialogue. However, Vavachan’s performance, and his moustache, terrify the mostly upper-caste audience, reviving in them memories of characters of Dalit power, such as Ravanan.
Afterwards, Vavachan, whose people were traditionally banned from growing facial hair, refuses to shave off his moustache. Endless tales invent and reinvent the legend of his magic moustache in which birds roost, which allows its owner to appear simultaneously in different places and disappear in an instant, which grows as high as the sky and as thick as rainclouds—and turn Vavachan into Moustache, a figure of mythic proportions.
Set in Kuttanad, a below-sea-level farming region on the south-west coast of Kerala, the novel is as much a story of this land as it is of Vavachan and its other inhabitants. As they navigate the intricate waterscape, stories unfold in which ecology, power dynamics and politics become key themes.
Originally published in Malayalam as Meesha, S. Hareesh’s Moustache is a contemporary classic mixing magic, myth and metaphor into a tale of far-reaching resonance
About The Author
S Hareesh is the author of three short-story collections: Adam, which received the Kerala sahitya Akademi Awards, rasavidyayude Charithram, and Appan. He is also a recipent of the Geetha Hiranyan Endowment, the Thomas Mundassery Prize, and the V.P Sivakumar memorial Prize. Moustache ( Meesha in the orginal Malayalam ) is his first novel. Hareesh is also the author of two screenplays – for the film Aedan, which received the Kerala State Award for best screenplay in 2017, and for the 2019 film Jallikattu, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and won a silver peacock at the International Film Festival of India. Hareesh works in revenue department and hails from Neendoor in Kottayam district, Kerala.
About The Translator
Jayasree Kalathil’s translations have been published in the Malayalam Literary Review; No Alphabet in Sight, an anthology of Dalit writing; and as part of Different Tales, a book series for children. Her translation of Kerala writer N Prabhakaran’s Novellas, Diary of a Malayali Madman, was shortlisted for the 2019 Crossword Book Award for Indian Language Translation. She is the author of The Sackclothman, a childrens book that has been translated into Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi.
This book is mesmeric. From the beginning to the end the words draw you away from the reality you live in to the land of Kuttanad with coconut trees, lakes, snakes and moustaches. The Translator has done a brilliant job of capturing the stories without loosing its essence. And the author has also done a brilliant job in developing the essence of the 18th and 19th century Kuttanad. There is no big plot in the book, but it is a big box filled with stories with so many different and recurring characters which end up connecting to the hero of the book, Vaavachan or lets say Moustache. The book brings out so many themes, starting from poverty, caste discrimination, power abuse, unhygienic conditions, the list would just go on. I felt myself going through various emotions while reading the book. The one emotion that I will always have is the sorrow that the stories had to end. Sometimes its just sad that everything has a ending.
Being a half mallu but also being a north Indian by heart, I felt i could connect more with the mundu and the paddy fields. I had the entire story running as a movie in my head imagining the beautiful lakes, the paddy fields, the toddy shops, the forest and the hills as i have seen while travelling around Kerala. This book just makes me want to catch a bus and go to alleppy and Kottayam right away and see the beautiful lakes and forests around while a little voice inside my heart wants to see the man with the big mostache resting in the lake.
Though I would also point out the fact that the names can get pretty confusing at times. Being a mallu myself i still found myself rereading the chapters when i was confused with few names here and there. The english is simple but it took a while till i could get comfortable with the narration. But after hitting the comfort zone spot i just wished the stories would not end.
I rate this book five out of five stars for engrossing me into the stories of a small part of gods own country. The book is a must read and a beautiful modern classic. I recommend this book to everyone who enjoys contemporary fiction and loves Gods own country. This book is not going to upset you. It is a book that totally deserves a spot on your bookshelf.
Happy Reading !!
Source of “About the book” and “About the Author” – Goodreads & Amazon
Source of Picture of the author and the translator – google Images