Until the Lions
Echoes from the Mahabharata
by Karthika Nair
Pub Date 12 Nov 2019
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Karthika Naïr refracts the epic Mahabharata through the voices of nameless soldiers, outcast warriors and handmaidens as well as abducted princesses, tribal queens, and a gender-shifting god. As peripheral figures and silent catalysts take center stage, we get a glimpse of lives and stories buried beneath the dramas of god and nation, heroics and victory - of the lives obscured by myth and history, all too often interchangeable. Until the Lions is a kaleidoscopic, poetic tour de force. It reveals the most intimate threads of desire, greed, and sacrifice in this foundational epic.
• "The most eloquent meditation on the Mahabharata in this generation - a lyrical, unflinching exploration of the souls embodied in many of the great epic characters, a moving and intricate weaving together of their destinies and desires...and a profound lament for the suffering that all human beings must know. In her hands, the ancient epic assumes new life, one that is somehow close to our own experience of the world, familiar yet also utterly strange and new. No one has read the Mahabharata this way before her." -- David Shulman • "In this retelling of the Mahabaratha from the point of view of its hitherto minor female characters, Karthika Naïr uncovers a seminal feminist text." -- Jeet Thayil • "Has been rightly hailed as a magnum opus by the critics." -- Wasafiri • "The Mahabharata will always take you back to the deepest existential questions. It continues to instigate superlative writing as well. Karthika Naïr's Until the Lions is an unshakable masterpiece of modern poetry, one of the great retellings of the text." -- Indian Express • "Naïr's intervention -- a series of dramatic monologues that give the epic's women psychological depth, wrath and despair -- is brilliantly executed. -- Times Literary Supplement • "Karthika Nair explores the contrapuntal stories of the Mahabharata in a virtuoso collection of dramatic monologues. Queens, warriors, sages, slaves and peasants, even wolves have their say, as the tales of rulers and lovers, parents and children, gods and humans, are retold in metered prose and poetic forms of myriad origin: the Spanish glosa, the Malay pantoum, the Provençal sestina, the Pashtun landay, shaped stanzas and nonce forms. This is a glorious work of storytelling." - Marilyn Hacker • "Until the Lions is a triumph of narrative and poetic risk-taking. Five years in the making, Nair's collection of poems, written in the voices of women in the Mahabharata, has been rightly hailed as a magnum opus by critics." - Aditya Mani Jha, Wasafiri • "Until the Lions is a powerful lesson in how the legacy of hate can flow from one generation to another. Nair's writing is constantly informed by the intricate structures of choreography and, at the same time, has had a profound influence on several prominent dance artists of this generation." - Alistair Spalding