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KR Meera's The Gospel of Yudas: A gripping, disturbing portrayal of the Naxalite movement during Emergency in Kerala

Winter mornings are great to read gripping novels that explore the heart's longing for the forbidden, but you need the comfort of a warm sweater, an inviting quilt and a cozy bed to snuggle into. 

And lots of chai - piping hot, laced with a dash of cardamom.

That is how I read the first sentence of KR Meera's novel, The Gospel of Yudas, translated by Rajesh Rajamohan, and the sentence simply leapt  into my consciousness as I read the words, "A traitor can never sleep. His hunger is eternal; his thirst, insatiable."

I HAVE to say this: This blurb took my breath away - the different shades of green-blue tones and the sinking girl evoked strong emotions even before I touched the first page.




And you feel a spark of rebellion stem from within when you read poignant sentences like this, "In our lake, dead bodies raced among themselves daily to find their way to the surface," and "In our feudal home - our Naalukettu - before I went to sleep in my room under the yellowed ceiling made of Anjiliwood, I'd chant silently 'Naxalbari Zindabad!'

The story of the hero, is narrated through Prema, a retired policeman's daughter who is infatuated with Yudas, a man whose existence is all about diving into lakes and river bodies to retrieve corpses. 

The  novel is constructed around Prema's dangerous obsession with Yudas, who is still grieving over his betrayal of the woman he loved - Sunanda. This leads Prema to undertake an intense exploration of his past, blending with it all the elements of a bittersweet love tragedy, neither page turning nor sensual, but deeply moving. 

One of the most impressive aspects of this book is that within the hidden layers of human behavior, more is revealed about what the Emergency did to change human nature, turning it into something  darker than we can ever imagine and how those people caught in its warp try to snap out of it but remain stuck, unable to pierce beyond the damage that the era has wrought on them.

We are perplexed by the questions that Yudas and Prema inject into our minds as they dive deep within their own seas asking-  What is it about fear that causes people to betray those whom they love?

Prema's self-inflicted confusion is consistent and comes through more strongly than the author may have intended. It is made bare for us to see when she meets Sangeeta, who tells her, "I am not scared, sister. Don't I have the blood of Sunanda and my grandfather coursing through me?" 

The emotion this statement triggers in Prema makes her vulnerable and strong at the same time, as she reels under its impact, "I was speechless. Rage surged inside me...Sunanda was always ahead of me."

This 'Prema-moment' feels like the ultimate moment of truth and betrayal.

KR Meera's novel, The Gospel of Yudas, offers no answers but it is dark and brilliant in a way that intensely grips your mind, word by word, para by para and page by page. 

Prema's obsession throws into your face the bleak truth of what happens to human beings when they are forced to conform with laws imposed on them by an authoritarian State, where brutality becomes a way of preserving the draconian laws.

The way this book ends turned out to be slightly disappointing for me. I had expected something very unpredictable, as KR Meera had done in The Hangwoman. But that didn't happen with this latest novel on Yudas

[MUST READ: How the Hangwoman Swept Me off my feet ]

And if you liked reading this book review, do check some of the other books that caught my interest:

1. The Other Woman in Your Marriage
2. The Nambisan Novels
3. Daughter by Court Order 
4. Custody
5. The Marriage Bureau for Rich People

Summing up, KR Meera's "Gospel of Judas" is a short, gripping book that has much to say about how the Emergency messed up many lives in Kerala.

Now, it's your turn to tell me - What's on top of your reading list this winter? 
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