July 06, 2020
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Words, Pistol Shots

Chitre succeeds in reproducing the images and metaphors of Dhasal's work, and his unmistakable, hard-hitting voice.

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Words, Pistol Shots
outlookindia.com
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Namdeo Dhasal—"Poet Of The Underworld", Poems 1972-2006

Photographs by Henning Stegmuller Translated By Dilip Chitre
Navayana Pages: 180; Rs: 350
"I am a venereal sore in the private part of language".

This is the first line of Namdeo Dhasal’s poem Cruelty from his fifth collection, Gandu Bagicha (Arsefuckers Park). It is one of 42 poems selected and translated by Dilip Chitre for this book. They force the reader into the city’s gutters where Dhasal has lived and written. Brutally disempowered by the caste system, this Dalit activist-poet turns language into a weapon. He drills and hammers into us detail upon remorseless detail of his community’s life. From his pen rises the stink of bodily functions, the anguish of hunger and a compassion for lumpens (his word) like himself.

Chitre selects poems from all eight collections of the poet for "the quintessential Namdeo Dhasal". In his introduction, Chitre confesses to having found the translation "hazardous". The original text, with the technique of free associations, street language, myth and folklore creates problems. But Chitre succeeds in reproducing the images and metaphors of Dhasal’s work, and his unmistakable, hard-hitting voice. Henning Stegmuller’s B&W photographs, including the bold gaze of a Kamatipura sex worker, reveal the lightless heart of the world Dhasal’s poetry inhabits.

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