ELLE Book Club

Book of the week: The Gospel of Yudas by K.R. Meera

Love in the time of post-Emergency Kerala

Cliffsnotes: It is well after 1977, but a little riverside village in Kerala is still in an Emergency state of mind. Prema, the fifteen-year old daughter of a tyrannical ex-policeman, is young and wild, but not free. She seeks salvation in the Naxal ideology her father so ruthlessly crushed before he was struck with Parkinson’s disease. A hot-blooded young woman, she is rabidly in love with Yudas, an ex-Naxalite, who dredges corpses for a living. But Yudas cannot return the affections of wilful Prema because he hides secrets, river-deep.

The Gospel of Yudas is a thorough romance: it tells the tragic love story of people and the ideologies they evangelize, live, suffer and die for. A translation from the Malayalam, it possesses in its metaphors a whiff of the charming landscapes and language of Kerala.

Get a taste: When Prema goes to meet Yudas alone for the first time, she urges him to teach her how to swim, but discomposed Yudas rejects her proposal. Spurned, she jumps into the water to provoke him.

I plunged intractably into the dense water like a chromide with plaited hair. My heart began to stir as I neared the bottom. I craved for water like a fish thrown out of it. Sometimes I felt as though I was a baby jostling to get out of its mother’s womb. At other times, I was a combatant waging a revolution all by myself.


Author 101: K.R. Meera is an award winning author who writes in Malayalam. Her novel Aarachaar (Hangwoman), published 2012, is widely regarded as one of the best literary works produced in Malayalam.

Fun Fact: K.R. Meera used to work at Malayala Manorama, where she was senior sub-editor,until 2006.

Similar Reads: An Iron Harvest by C.P. Surendran


The Gospel of Yudas (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Books) is out now.