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Vikram and the Undead

Gayathri Prabhu, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Vikram and the Undead is a contemporary retelling of a cycle of stories from an eleventh-century Sanskrit text, Somadeva’s Kathasaritsagara. Widely considered the largest single collection of stories in the world and the oldest documented frame story, a selection of this text (via a Hindi version called Baital Pachisi) was adapted into English with an Orientalist slant in the nineteenth century by scholar-explorer Richard Francis Burton. Aimed at his Victorian audience, Burton’s book Vikram and the Vampire is subtitled “Tales of Hindu Devilry” and includes eleven stories placed within a framing narrative that links the otherwise unrelated stories. These become the foundation of the revisionist work undertaken by this creative dissertation. Vikram and the Undead is hence a double retelling that is in conversation with Burton’s text as well as Somadeva’s compilation of Indian folklore and oral tradition. In the spirit of a storytelling model where everyone in the text is simultaneously storyteller, listener and performer, Burton is also a character in Vikram and the Undead, forming yet another link between its multiple narratives. Sharing with the original a celebration of the delights of earthly life and the infinite nature of storytelling, these stories attempt to speak to the socio-cultural realities of contemporary India, particularly the role and agency of women. They are whimsical, philosophical, laced with the fantastic, and constantly dissolving the lines between telling and listening, questions and answers, beginnings and endings, life and death. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Modern|Language, General

Recommended Citation

Prabhu, Gayathri, "Vikram and the Undead" (2011). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3449708.