Vetaal and Vikram: Riddles of the Undead

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Vetaal and Vikram is a playful retelling of one of India’s most celebrated cycles of stories. The narrative of King Vikram and the Vetaal is located within the Kathasaritsagara, an eleventh-century Sanskrit text. The Vetaal who is neither living nor dead is a consummate storyteller, and Vikram is a listener who can neither speak nor stay silent. Together they are destined to walk a labyrinth of stories in the course of a moonless night in a cremation ground.

In 1870, eleven of the Vetaal’s stories were adapted to English by the famed scholar-explorer Richard Francis Burton who tailored them to his audience’s gothic taste. Vetaal and Vikram is a contemporary response that includes Burton within its storytelling folds. Fantastical and delightful, this retelling dissolves the lines between speaker and listener, desire and duty, life and death.

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