Silenced for centuries by caste prejudice and social oppression, the Dalits of Maharashtra have, in the last sixty years, found a powerful voice in Marathi literature. The revolutionary social movement launched by their leader, Dr Ambedkar, was paralleled by a wave of writing that exploded in poetry, prose, fiction and autobiography of a raw vigour, maturity, depth and richness of content, and shocking in its exposition of the bitterness of their experiences. One is jolted too, by the quality of writing of a group denied access for long ages to any literary tradition.
When published in 1992, Poisoned Bread was the first anthology of Dalit literature. The writers-more than eighty of them-presented here in English translations, are nearly all of the most prominent figures in Marathi Dalit literature, who have contributed to this unique literary phenomenon.
This new edition includes an essay by Gail Omvedt (1941-2021), a distinguished scholar-activist who worked with new social movements. Omvedt was actively involved in anti-caste campaigns from the 1970s until her passing. She lived and worked in Maharashtra.
Arjun Dangle, born in Mumbai in 1945, is an important name in the politics and literature of Maharashtra. A founder member of the militant Dalit youth organization, the Dalit Panthers, he has also been the president of the State Unit of the Bharatiya Republican Party of India.
Dangle’s poetry, essays and short stories, published to critical acclaim, have been translated into several Indian and foreign languages.