Composed in the mid-sixteenth century, The Sound of the Kiss , or The Story That Must Never Be Told , could be considered the first novel written in South Asia. Telugu, the language spoken in today's Andhra Pradesh region of southern India, has a classical literary tradition extending over a thousand years. Suranna's masterpiece comes from a period of intense creativity in Telugu, when great poets produced strikingly modern innovations. The novel explodes preconceived ideas about early South Indian literature: for example, that the characters lack interiority, that the language is formulaic, and that Telugu texts are mere translations of earlier Sanskrit works. Employing the poetic style known as campu , which mixes verse and prose, Pingali Suranna's work transcends our notions of traditional narrative. "I wanted to have the structure of a complex narrative no one had ever known," he said of his great novel, "with rich evocations of erotic love, and also descriptions of gods and temples that would be a joy to listen to."
The Sound of the Kiss is both a gripping love story and a profound meditation on mind and language. Shulman and Rao include a thorough introduction that provides a broader understanding of, and appreciation for, the complexities and subtleties of this text.