Moustache – S. Hareesh
WINNER OF THE JCB PRIZE FOR LITERATURE 2020.
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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 Award, Rasavidyayude Charithram, and Appan. He is also a recipient of the Geetha Hiranyan Endowment, the Thomas Mundassery Prize, and the V.P. Sivakumar Memorial Prize. Moustache (Meesha in the original 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 the revenue department, and hails from Neendoor in Kottayam district, Kerala.
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 children’s book that has been translated into Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi.