Views and Reviews


                                                                  INTERFACE OF POETRY AND TRANSLATIONS IN SOUTHERN LANGUAGES - BHASHANTARA ANUBHAVA

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Neela Padmanabhan

(Talk as Chairperson in the first session of National seminar of Sahitya Akademi at

Thiruvananthapuram on August 30 2014)

Nowadays when one turns the pages of periodicals or supplements of newspapers one cannot but come across short poems on light and heavy subjects. Most of them deal with contemporary social problems with sharp and piercing diction. In between serious cerebral and hair-splitting analysis of current topics, it is no surprise that these crispy poems easily catch hold of readers’ mind kindling their emotions as well as thoughts. I think it is common not only in regional languages but also in English. It does not mean that lengthy poems like epics on grave issues being written with great efforts are either under estimated or neglected.

As a vast country of many languages, it is not surprising that readers those who have an aesthetic urge desire to share their reading experience to another language quite familiar to them. As Jean Paris pointed out that a poet is first a translator, the translator of an unknown world to which he gives a tangible form, a sensitive expression. In effect both the poets and translators are re-creators or co-creators.

Though the form, content and development of poetry in all Indian languages including southern ones are uneven, there are certain common features like poverty, hunger and diseases, social evils, tension and conflict between idealism and realism, between tradition and modernity etc. Of these, translations of contents of contemporary nature to another language win the popular attention easily and quickly. I recollect here the English translation by late T.K.Duraiswami (Nakulan) of a short Tamil poem of late Shanmuga Subbiah appeared few years ago (1974) in the anthology New Writing  in India edited by Adil Jussawalla. Let me read that poem which is quite relevant not only to law framing houses but also to the whole country, even today;




Of the top floor

Of Parliament House

A dead rat


Is there no one

To sweep it away

And bury it

Fathoms deep?

In this land

The only thing

That can be said

For the likes of us


We can smell things.

You great ones

Who rule over us

Haven’t you the heart

To feel it?


                     I shall read the Tamil original;


Arasiyal veettin

Mel thattil

Eli chethu


Athai eduthu



In nattil

En poondrookku


Muukku mattumthanaiyyaa.

Emai yaalum


Athai unara


Ulamendru ondru

Undoo aiyyaa!


Since the translator is a scholar cum poet in the both languages he more or less succeeds in bringing the form along with the content of the source language to the target one. However, in most of the cases form, diction, phonetic elements, ambiguity-dhwani etc of the individuality of a particular poet cannot be brought to another language.

In fact, translation means introducing the culture of one language to another one. To find out exact equivalent of the words that have minute meaning in one culture to another culture is a Himalayan task. Also there are entirely different colloquial terms-snags and proverbs even in one language which are not popular among the usage of that particular language itself. That is why Robert Frost has made the cryptic comment, “Poetry is that which is lost in translation.” However, even if all translations are imperfect in the larger sense, it is somewhat a necessary evil, which cannot be avoided in a pluralist society like India. 

When one comes specifically to the translating  experience-Bhaashaanthra Anubhava of poetry in Southern languages, even though   above mentioned aspects hold good in general, there  may be some ease because of the historical and geographical nearness of the four languages of these regions viz Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu. On approaching the translation among these languages from one to another one can make use of the Sanskrit words, as they are prevalent in all the three, except Tamil. As all these four southern languages belong to the same Dravida Gotra, other three languages have no aversion to Sanskrit; instead they have some affinity with it, like English has to Greek and Hebrew.     I don’t want to discuss here the age old historical, political and social background of Tamil Nadu which led to this puritan attitude of the anti-Sanskrit feeling.   But, when I was engaged by Sahitya Akademi a few years back to translate Ayyappa Paniker’s Malayalam poetry collection in to Tamil, Sanskrit words used by the poet have not been substituted with equivalent pure or standard Tamil words, as far as possible because of my ambition to bring the individuality and sweetness of the poet to Tamil. Of course, no particular language can claim that Sanskrit is only its possession and all Indian languages have an equal right to Sanskrit.

Another major problem to be tackled in translation is slang or colloquial terms and proverbs, as I mentioned earlier. For example, Ayyappa Paniker’s original Malayalam version of one of his cartoon poems Moshttaavu in Ayyappa Panikerude Krithikal Volume 2 (1994);

Verumoru Moshttaavaayorenne

Kallanennu Vilichille,   (page 102)

Here the two words Moshttaavu and Kallan have the same meaning thief, but different effects in the poem. In Tamil, I had to translate the lines as follows, though I am not fully satisfied;

Verumoru Thirudanaana Ennai

Kallanendru Azhaithaaye,


Of all Indian languages especially southern I find Tamil and Malayalam have many resemblances-similarities and nearness not only in the languages but also in people’s culture and behaviour. Hence translation between these two languages is not painstaking and tiresome if it is done with enthusiasm and enjoyment. When a few years ago some modern Tamil poems were transliterated to Malayalam alphabets in Kerala Kavitha-a Malayalam poetry journal, as requested by Ayyappa Paniker, Malayalam readers experienced not much difficulty to understand them. The spirit and overall poetic beauty of even many stanzas of the classical Tamil literature, for example in world famous Thirukkural- one of the great classics of Tamil literature authored by the Saint poet Thiruvalluvar in between 2nd century B.C. and 8th century .A.D. can be communicated to a certain extent to Malayalam readers by transliterating it. Here, I shall quote-transliterate the first stanza of Kural hereunder in English, as a sample;

Akara Muthala Ezhuthellaam Aadhi

Bagavan Muthathre Ulaku.


Meaning; just as all the alphabetical letters have the letter “A” for their first, the whole universe has God, the Eternal as its first.

Before concluding, as I indicated earlier, I would like to point out that it is very difficult to bring to another language the individuality in the craft of writing, namely diction, form of expression to another language. Nowadays, there is a common tendency among most of the translators content themselves by translating mechanically only the main content or central idea as a newspaper report in the conventional or standard style of the target languages, ignoring completely individual flavour of the poetic language in diction, rhythm etc. Of course, it may be appreciated as it can be read like the original work in the translated or target language. But, how can a sincere or genuine translator neglect or sacrifice the unique individuality or personal stamp achieved by the poet after a long period of efforts, experiments and experiences, trial and error method, as penance. Hence, a good translator of poetry should have at least an inner consciousness to segregate translation or trans-creation from adaptation. For example, though Thirukkural is a work of ethical aphorisms on high moral ideas and ideals applicable to the whole universe, its greatness lies not only on this aspect; but also the peculiar-unusual way of expression of the content or form that compressed in one and half line metre-stanzas. Even a couplet cannot be fully interpreted in many pages. Most of the translations in other languages are only commentaries. A few attempts of translations in verse form have not succeeded, as the lines in them could not be suppressed within crispy one and half or two lines, as in the original. However, we may content ourselves with the view that something is better than nothing.

On the whole, as indicated earlier, the translator should have at least this consciousness and awareness of bringing not only the content and dimensions of the poem he intend to translate but also the individuality of that poet’s particular diction and craft from the source language to target language.

I shall conclude my words with reading of one of my recent short poem Vanaprastham. First, English version, then Tamil original and Malayalam version;



                                                                            Neela Padmanabhan


Same sex mingling has now a social license

And no bar nowadays….

Under the veil of friendship

first ashramam has cracks

without waiting for next ashramam

and without the fear of society….. 

There is no forest in these days

for the third ashramam to live…

One may practice it in home and outside…. 

Though no scare from life partner

who is now interested

neither in sex nor in lovemaking ,

one should know to overcome

the pinpricks  on materialistic necessities

that come from that partner everyday…..

If the urge due to past experience

on biological necessity arises

and jumps to other places,

should  know to suppress and succeed it

as abandoned bitter fruit…

Though the superficial materialistic inclinations and desires

could be controlled to a certain extent,

if one cannot  conquer the hidden

minute feelings and urges

inherent, in born ,

the mass media

to give world wide publicity,

let the conquering practice continue

 till the last breath….

be careful……

                                                                     (Translated from Tamil by the poet)




                                                     நீல பத்மநாபன்


                   ஒரின சேர்க்கைக்கு

                      சமூக அங்கீகாரம் ஒரளவுக்கு


                      நட்பெனும் போர்வையில்

                      ஊரார் பயமின்றி

                      அடுத்த ஆசிரமம் வரை காத்திராமல்

                      உடைபடும் முதல் ஆசிரமம்........

                      மூன்றாவது ஆசிரமத்துக்கானால்

                      இன்று போக காடில்லைதான்....

                      நாட்டிலே, வீட்டிலே பயிலலாம்.....

                      காம உணர்வுகள் அற்றுப்போன

                      வாழ்க்கைப் பங்காளி பற்றி

                      இவ்விஷயத்தில் பயமில்லாவிடிலும்

                      வேறு பல லௌகிகத்தேவைகளுக்காக

                      வந்துகொண்டிருக்கும் சீண்டல்களை

                      மறிகடக்கத் தெரியவேண்டும்....

                      “பட்டறிந்த தேக சுகம் விட்டுப்போகாமல்”

                      வேறிடங்களுக்கு தலைகாட்டித் தாவினால்

                      சீ சீ புளிக்குமென ஒதுக்கிவிடமுயலவேண்டும்...

                      ஸ்தூலமான லௌகீக வாசனைகளை

                      ஒரளவுக்கேனும் கட்டுப்பாட்டுக்குள்

                      நிறுத்த முடிந்தாலும்

                                    உள்ளுக்குள்ளே     புதைந்து கிடக்கும்

                      சூக்குமமான பிறவி வாசனைகளை

                      அடக்கி ஆளாவிட்டால்

                      அனர்த்தங்களை பாரெங்கும்

                       பறைசாத்த காத்திருக்கும்

                       ஊடகங்கள்.... கவனம்.....

                       அடக்கியாளல் அப்பியாசம்

                       தொடரட்டும் கடைசிவரை.....





                                                                    Neela Padmanabhan


Like any other person living in this world I am also a social animal. Hence it is quite natural that my writing is my world and vice versa. But it is not a photographic portrayal. Instead, from the outer world somehow I reach my own inner world and my recreation is from this inner world.

 As a child in a middle class family, my early childhood world was limited to a small circle- home, street, nearby drama theatre, school, a small river in front of the school, and temples and ponds. Shyness and lack of self-confidence hindered me to a certain extent from mingling freely with the people around me in those days, although members of our family and neighbours were large in number, I think so. 

 Sensitiveness, imaginative nature, and a habit of keenly observing of things that are unimportant to others lead me to a kind of restlessness and emotional impact. Even from those early childhood days I felt affected by trivial and trifling events around me. May be this trait was inherited. Naturally, I could not but escape to find out an outlet for expressing my responses and reactions to the actions and the activities of the world around me.


I was born (26-4-1938) and brought up in the capital of a princely state (Travancore) whose southern boundary is Kanyakumari District. My maternal grand parents and other relatives live in interior villages like Padmanabha puram-Thuckalay, Thiruvithancode, Eraniel, Colechel etc in this district-within a small radius of the capital. Only after 10 years of my birth i.e. in 1947 this state merged with Indian Union.

Though I grew in a house consisting of my father, mother, brothers, sisters, and paternal grand- mother (widow), my frequent and close contact with the large number of the people in the neighbourhood and the grand parents and other relatives living in the nearby villages mentioned above expanded my world to a great extend.

In addition to all these, now I remember, during evening hours of those days, our street was filled up with the sweet waves of music and dialogues coming from the nearby drama theatre. Besides, I occasionally witnessed not only classic songs and dances but also folk songs and dances from the main big temple in the city and nearby small temples.  The beauty of nature, sudden changes in the seasons and particularly the two rainy seasons in a year, are also catalyst agents in keeping the aesthetic elements in me alive. These are some of the facts and figures of the scenes of my world-environment to rekindle and inspire the hidden artistic talents within me.

 The folk tales and songs, stories and poems from our ancient legends( purana), the affairs and happenings in actual life  heard from my grand-mother, mother and father fostered the writer in me.

 My path to reading and writing through the alphabets of languages starts from my school days in the forties. Though we people speak Tamil in home and family circles, Malayalam is the spoken and official language here. In school, Malayalam is the first language and English is the second one. Hindi is compulsory for us.  After the state reorganization on the basis of languages Kanyakumari District has become Tamil Nadu. It is an irony that we Tamil people here are strangers in both of these languages and states since the Tamil we speak here has a Malayalam accent and the Malayalam we use has a Tamil accent. In spite of a feeling of isolation haunting me from my school days I started reading stories, poems and classics that I came across in Tamil, Malayalam and English. Simultaneously my raging appetite forced me to engage writing too.

 Even now I have no idea to pinpoint any specific reason for my starting of writing in that early boyhood days in Tamil though my acquaintance with both Tamil and Malayalam are equally good or bad. May Tamil (?)-even if it is spoken colloquially in our house and family circles as mother tongue and hence more fluent to me be a reason, I think so now.

 Writing poems, stories, plays for children, enacting some of the plays with my young friends in the street, editing manuscript magazines were some of the literary activities in those days. Simultaneously my solitary raptures with books and periodicals began during my student days. Public library in our city helped me for this. I have been reading books of poems, fiction, dramas, essays etc in Tamil, Malayalam and English as well as translations from Russian, French, Bengali, Hindi and other Indian and foreign languages. The overall effect of what I read enhanced my innumerable impulses on the real world and people around me by which an inquisitiveness to know life in all its realities-beauties and ugliness overwhelmed and made me restless.

Even from those early days, though not always, I have had a feeling of hollowness. Perhaps, I cannot find out any specific reason for this phenomenon of mind. But, now I guess, because of my witnessing  the deaths that occurred in our family and neighbourhood houses and also closeness to people not only of my age but also elder ones a feeling have been developed in me that there are many things in this world, which cannot be reached and explained by our material means alone. Hence even while dealing with the lighter or romantic moments in life my natural inclination is towards serious and critical matters.

 I don’t want to analyze here the specific inspiration and root cause around my world for all my writings, though which is laborious and tiresome I have repeatedly expressed in my speeches and interviews on some previous occasions. In this forum I am just trying to recall or rethink loudly the essence of such crucial moments in my creative world.

 Every individual has his or her own mental moulding by birth or by the compulsion due to the strong influence of the surroundings or circumstances of the world where he or she lived in his or her early years. A writer is not an exception .Of course, this state of mind may shape or reshape by the deep real experiences in life in the course of elapsing of years. Although his experiments and explorations on various techniques, processes and other up-to-date ways of expression are changed according to time and space, his basic mental moulding may not undergo any major or revolutionary change. Hence, if one carefully analyze or distil and filter all the major creations of a writer he can find out that they are repeatedly encircling or wandering within the radius of that writer’s particular basic mental moulding though the forms are different.

 I am now 73 and nearly 60 years in the writing field. In this some what long span of literary career, I have to my credit 20 novels, 11 collection of short stories, 4 volumes of poems, a collection of plays and 11 collections of essays—all in Tamil, besides a novel, 5 collections of short stories, a collection of poems and a collection of essays written in Malayalam, and a volume of essays and a poetry collection in English. In addition, some translations from Malayalam to Tamil and Tamil to Malayalam. I have consciously tried to avoid the imitation of myself in these works even from the beginning. I shall just mention specifically in brief hereunder some of my major novels in Tamil (7 numbers).

In sixties-nearly half a century back I began to write Thalaimuraikal (1968)(Generations). This novel was the outcome of the hazy impressions of social life of a world around me in my very early childhood. Here there is earnest attempt of the present generation to seek a strong foothold where the past and the future meet by which I can have a close look of my society of that period enabling a comparative study. Then, my next novel Pallikondapuram(1970)  (Where God sleeps) came. It was entirely based on different aspects-mythology, historical background, geographical details, social and political realities-setbacks of yester as well as contemporary periods of my home-town where the Lord sleeps and where I was born and brought up. Next my major novel Uravugal(1975) (Relations).  Distinct from Thalaimuraikal and Pallikondapuram,  in this novel total experience is portrayed through father-son relationship in a hospital atmosphere. Nowadays as the joint family has given place to the nuclear family, may be this portrayal of that father-son relationship in this novel, a traditional as well as timely concept of the sacred value of the family, if not of the joint family, is sought to be revived.

 Differing from my previous 3 novels, my next novel Vattathin Veliye(1980) (Outside the Circle) which deals with the world of technocracy that has to be guided by the practical wisdom is also bound by the red-tapism found in the bureaucracy. Again a few of the hidden seeds began to sprout from my sub-conscious mind and they came out as another novel Therodum Veedhi(1987) (Chariot Road).Though the world portrayed here is a dream world, it reflects not only the sheer bitterness that pervades life but also  the intervals of relief that go with them. This novel was woven round the central figure Kathiresan who was born 10 years before India attained freedom, lived only 40 years in free India and at last died in his 50th year. The basic theme is the struggle for existence and the need to establish oneself as an average Indian, who has no backing or support on political or other grounds but who is supposed to be a free citizen with equal opportunities in a country that proclaims that all chains of slavery are broken.

In my next novel Koondinul Pakshikal(1995) (Birds in a Cage) the quest for self-realisation in the spiritual sense that resounded in my first major novel Thalaimuraikal reached in its ultimate fulfillment I think. It is neither escapism nor flight from the society, but it is an entity of society itself and not cut off from the society. One does not renounce the world and preach the negation of charity towards all and malice towards none. However, its writing changed me thoroughly as a writer and individual and I attained tranquility of mind that leads me to a relief or rest to my creative urge. Though I have handled with understanding and compassion not only in the above novels but also in some of my earlier short stories old people or senior citizens to whom I have a soft corner from childhood, when I too have gradually reached old age I felt that there are many live problems of them, which deserve treatment with a humanitarian and psychological approach. Thus nearly after 13 years Ilai Udhir Kaalam(2005) (Autumn Reveries), my next novel is born.


Before concluding, I may tell a few words about my translations also. As I mentioned earlier, though I began to write in my mother tongue Tamil it is quite natural that I could not neglect Malayalam, the language spoken by the majority people of the outside world even from my young age. Hence, along with my translation of my own heart felt agonies and feelings of my inner world in to words of my original writings I am inclined to translate the writings of others that affected me from one to another of these languages I know, simultaneously. Thus, I translated some of the Tamil stories of the stalwarts like Mauni, Ka Naa Subramoniam, Nakulan and some of the younger ones in to Malayalam and published under the title Kurukshetram(1976) and other 2 anthologies in Tamil (1985 &2000) contained my translation of famous Malayalam writers. Also Ayyappa Panikkar’s poems (1999, 2002) and Basheer’s novel (Mathilukal (1966) have been translated by me from Malayalam to Tamil and published. As far as I am concerned translation is more difficult if we do it seriously and sincerely. In original writing I have my freedom, ease, joy, but in translation it is not so. In spite of this, I know we cannot avoid it to interact with the souls of different cultures of this land of diversity.

 After traveling this long literary journey, may I call it as a pilgrimage? I understand that even if the world around me is appeared me somewhat hurting and against my will and pleasure, everything I wish to be within me, I have to bring out those qualities by positive thinking and concrete imagination. I am trying continuously and constantly to affirm and practice this all these years, I think so.   

 I shall conclude this by reciting the English translation of one of my small Tamil poems;


                                                Kavi Yogi (Saint Poet)


                                      As he uses to exhaust his emotions and feelings

                                      lavishly on even petty matters to others

                                      a man of letters asks him to write poems

                                      writing and writing of poems

                                      his emotions feelings urges

                                      have become more sharpened

                                      intense harden

                                      why not you divert your attention on yoga

                                      to control your emotions and urges

                                      asks a yogi

                                    On immersion in yoga

                                    all his emotions and urges are

                                    more sharpened, intense and harden

                                    with the self strength- soul power

                                    Now with the unquenched

                                    emotions, feelings and urges

                                    poems and yoga too

                                    dissolved in his life


Tamil original;



சின்ன விஷயங்களுக்கெல்லாம்

அமிதமாய் உணர்ச்சிகளை

விரையம் செய்வதைக் கண்டு

கவிதை எழுதத்தூண்டினார்

எழுத்தை ஆள்கிறவர்

கவிதைகள் எழுத எழுத

உணர்வுகள் உணர்ச்சிகள்

மேலும் கூர்மைபெற்றன


உக்கிரம் கொண்டன

உணர்ச்சிகளின் உளறல்கள்


யோகத்தில் சித்தத்தைச்செலுத்த

பணித்தார் யோகி

யோகத்தில் முழுக முழுக

உரம் பெற்ற ஆன்ம பலத்துடன்

உணர்வுகளும் ஊக்கம் பெற்றன

மிச்ச நாட்களின்


முற்றிலும் சமனம் அடையா

உணர்ச்சிகள் உணர்தல்களின் கூட





         (Talk at ABHIVYAKTI Programme of Sahitya Akademi on 18 August 2011 in         

          Thrissur, Kerala.)                                               



New Voices in South Indian short stories

                                                                   Neela Padmanabhan


     I am here like you all to listen to the new voices of short stories of south India in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. Even the most ancient treatise NANNUL by Pavanthi Munivar (a Saint) written about thousands of years ago in Tamil welcomes new voices by stating

                               Pazhayana kazhithalum puthiyana pukuthalum

                              Vazhuvala kaala vakaiyinaane

means, the secret of survival of any language lies in its capacity to reject the past which does not meet the demands of the present and to welcome the new innovations that the contemporary situation calls for.

    Not only in literature but also in all fields including science and technology new voices have a creative effect in shaping growth. No society can face the challenges of the future if new voices are suppressed. As yesterday’s new voices become old today, today’s new voices will become old tomorrow. Perhaps old is gold, only if it has the power to survive age after age.

      Globally, the richness and diversity of cultures of human races of various sectors are being captured with insight and self-examining and criticizing attitude. In the face of emerging international contacts and friendships, conflict between conservatism and modernity is a common feature in the East and the West. In India, though there are various tongues and behavioural patterns of different regions, our outlooks, value systems, manners etc have a common thread based on tradition. In new voices that are being heard from various Indian language writers of the South as well as the North, one can listen to the clear penetration in the present than the glory of the past or brightness of the future.

      While listening to the new voices in short fiction one can feel the multiplicity of the Indian experience. As you know, the limited span of time and space determines the success of the story. In today’s new stories-may we call them post-modern stories or post post-modern stories, setting and characters that delineated through explicit information as well as implications are less significant than the atmosphere, which will stimulate the readers’ own imagination, submerging it with images from their own knowledge and experience. Cutting across the region, the language and the cultural patterns, today’s story leads the reader to a kind of restlessness, which enriches him (the reader) widening his view of the man (of course, woman too) and the matters around him.


     The collective voice of the community searching its social identity has a significant role in the post- independence period stories since freedom of thought and expression has been suppressed under foreign rule for a long period. But in new stories being written at present, even though the social dimension of the individual’s identity is emphasized, no conscious effort is being taken to generalize the individual’s personal agonies, peculiar experiences and private world of anxieties and desires. Perhaps, this individualizing of stories sometimes leads some of them to the extent of certain individualism. However, in a civilized society one cannot neglect the individual lone voice even if it may be feeble and non-flamboyant.

      The tone of intimacy in today’s stories never reaches to the level of exciting and emotional level, instead a kind of intellectual intensity leads these stories, I think so. In fact, the dramatic use of the spoken word characterizes many stories.


     In India-South or North I wonder how can one enlist and categorize the best of the new young writers and best of their stories since the simple reason that not all the best writers are known to readers other than in their own languages. Less significance in story value, absence of clear-cut linkage in between the spread over images on first reading, a heavy doze of myths and signs etc are the general features of most of the new stories I come across. Also, committed and didactic stories with or without Marxian perspective are also being written. The emergence of woman and Dalit writers, with their highlighted issues of caste, religion, gender, ethnicity etc in their stories makes an intense impact on the society. These issues, though previously handled by the non-Dalit writers, now attain a special merit and vigour, loading with sharpness and a penetrating effect because of their first hand and felt experience.


     I may mention here some of the names of the young writers who are active with their worthy writings in their languages; In Tamil; Konanki, M.G.Suresh, Imaiyam, Paama, Darman, PerumalMurugan, Salma.InMalayalam; Murali, SanthoshEachikkanam, Kochu Bava.InTelugu;SreenivasaRao,ChandrasekaraRao.InKannada;JayaShreeKasaravalli,Sripathi,Vishakh.I shall conclude my words with an apologetic note that I can’t include here many of the other young writers due to my ignorance in this regard.



                                               TRANSLATING POETRY

                                                        Neela Padmanabhan


All poets are translating their imaginations and mental feelings-emotional as well as intellectual to their languages through their own characteristic form of diction or style. Just as a translator translates a poem from one language to another, every poet transforms his akam(inner world) to puram(outer world) as poem in a broader sense. To quote Jean Paris:


     “I do think that a poet is at first a translator, the translator of an unknown world to which he gives tangible form, a sensitive expression. But it is clear that if we cease to mistake the poem for the secret order it more or less translates successfully, the translator finds himself in a similar position, and becomes the co-creator of the work of art, as the artist is the co-creator of reality.”


Translation from one language to another means introducing the culture of a language to another. We know plenty of words that have minute meanings in one culture have no exact equivalent in another culture or language. Hence all the translations are imperfect in the larger sense, but it is somewhat a necessary evil, which cannot be avoided, in a pluralist society like India. The P.E.N. Manifesto on Translation (in May 1970) described the translators as “the lost children in an enchanted forest of literature” but insisted that it is through them that one gains an access to other cultures and indeed, “without the lost children we are all lost”. However, literary translation is a cultural communication bridging cultures and civilizations.


Translating poetry is always difficult and problematic. Problems in between South Indian (Dravida group) languages, North Indian and European languages are different and divergent. All Indian languages except Tamil (of course, due to age old historical, political and social reasons) have no aversion for Sanskrit, instead they have an affinity for it like English has for Greek and Hebrew. Not only scholars, but also most of the creative writers-poets in those languages are fondly using Sanskrit words without a feeling of strangeness even they don’t mind to sacrifice oral and dialects in their languages. But Tamils are opposite to this trend, even from the age of Kampan(9th century, another version 12th century) who recreated Valmiki’s Ramayana in to Tamil(Kampa Ramayanam, 885 AD) . Kampan changed the name of ‘ Lekshmanan ‘as ‘Ilakkuvan’, ‘Vibheeshanan’ as ‘Vipidanan’, ‘Suparnan’ as ‘Uvanan’, ‘Akalya’ as ‘Akalikai’ or Aalikai’etc. He translated even some names into pure Tamil, for eg ‘Swarna Varnan’ became ‘Chuvana Vannan’ and ‘Kanaka Meni’ ,’Yakgna Viroodhan’ became ‘Velvippakainjan’. In this context it may be noted that ancient Tamil grammar Tolkappiyam (3rd century BC) allows such practices as “tharsamam”-means words from Sanskript used in Tamil without any change in sound and “tharpavam” means Sanskrit word with altered pronunciation current in Tamil.


So, when one comes to translate a Malayalam creative work especially poetry which is rich with Sanskrit words and idioms into Tamil he has to change that word and find out an equivalent pure word, by which poetic beauty of the piece may be affected. I shall point out an instance from the famous Malayalam poet Ayyappa Paniker’s poem Mrithu Pooja.


His Malayalam lines read:


          He mandha gaamini

          Hemantha yaamini

          Ghana syama roopini


In these lines we can enjoy the sweet poetic diction in between words: also there is a word play. First line He, mandha gaamini means Oh, slow motion beauty. Second line Hamantha yaamini means midnight girl of spring season. If translated these lines into pure Tamil without the Sanskrit letter he Tamil lines read as:


          Ye methu nadaiyaale

          Vasantha kaala kaarikaiye


wherein the poetic beauty missed a lot.


Orature(the medium of expression and communication of folk and minority cultures), dialects, urban and rural slang etc are now finding place in poetry today. The plurality of Indian languages and our cultural ecosystem begin to comprehend these poems like our country’s vast diversity of habitants and plant and animal life. Discovering the most appropriate equivalents in the target language for the new and revealing poetry being written in India by the vast underclass in the above mentioned oral tongue is a challenge while translating from the source language.


Translating poetry from the classical texts is a daunting task as the ethnicity tends to get diluted. Evoking the atmosphere is particularly difficult to bring to the target language. For overcome this, a creative collaboration between the creator and the translator should be very strong as in the case of A.K.Ramanujan who translated into English ancient Sangam classics of Tamil such as Kurunthokai; medieval devotional lyrics in Tamil and Kannada, such as the poems of Nammalvar and the writings of Virasaivites of Kannada. As S.Krishnan puts it on A.K Ramanujan, “ ‘to translate is to carry across’, and not merely from one language to another, but from one mode of thinking to another.”


As regards the method or technicality of translating poetry there is difference of opinion whether word by word translation or simply bringing the content of the source language into the target language purely by the target language’s way of expression and standard style. Every creative writer including a poet has his own style or diction and way of expression. The craft of writing is different from poet to poet, though the content may be the same. If one simply transform fluently into another language by that target language’s standard diction and metre or rhythm of course it may be readable and appreciated as the translated poem can be read like an original work of that target language. But, a poet as a creator possesses his own diction and way of expression after a long period of efforts, experiences and experiments. How can a sincere translator neglect this unique individuality of a poet and his or her poem? Hence, to bring not only the content and dimensions of the poem, but also the individuality of that poet’s particular diction and craft from the source language to target language, word-by-word translation is preferable, according to some genuine translators cum creators.


On the whole, translation and creation cannot be compartmetalised as both are equally serious and significant. In one angle, translation is more difficult. In original writing poet has his/her freedom, ease and joy, but in translation, it is not so. Bringing the inner world of a poet to another language by translation is indeed a different kind of joy and thrill being experienced by the translator, but the translator should be more careful and faithful to the original poet since all the credit will go to the creator-the original poet and discredit to the translator usually.


Book Reviews



An epic revisited


Neela Padmanabhan

Kural – Oru Amoolya Rathna Samhitha; Malayalam translation of Thiruvalluvar's epic ‘Thirukkural' by Sarada G. Nair. Distributed by National Book Stall, Kottayam-686001. Price: Rs.105

Tamil epic ‘Thirukkural' has many translations in Malayalam, both in verse and in prose. As in Tamil, there is a pocket edition in Malayalam too. This book differs from the previous ones in that the English version of each couplet too is given, along with the corresponding Malayalam translation in verse form.

Detailed study

The translator has taken pains to bring the deep and profound facts, which are well compressed in very few thoughtful, sweet words with a masterly spirit by the great Thiruvalluvar in Tamil, well within double lines into Malayalam and English.

A detailed study that enlightens the myths and historical background of the life and writings of Thiruvalluvar aptly supported by authentic proofs with reference to a few Tamil and English books are also included. ‘Kural' is a classic that gives importance to practical worldly life instead of preaching and advice. Going through all the 1, 330 couplets, one can find that the apt and appropriate words used by Valluvar cannot be substituted by another one. For example, Valluvar's use of the wordArammeans virtue (dharma) which guides one away from bad qualities such as jealousy, greed, anger, and harsh words and is one of the main components for a family life full of peace and harmony.

Though the inner meanings of the poetic contents can be brought in to another language – here Malayalam and English to a certain extent by severe effort, fully bringing the poetic beauty and artistic fulfilment of the original to the translation is very difficult to achieve.

One may wonder why the wordaadhi bhagavaanin the first couplet in the Tamil original, which means Origin God, is translated into English as ‘Siva-Sakthi.' On the whole this book is a useful addition on the great Tamil epic to Malayalam readers.

Copyright © 2012, The Hindu




Heat and light of  folk literature

Neela Padmanabhan

THRUKKOTTOOR VILAKKU: U.A. Khadar; DC Books, DC Kizhakemuri Edam, Good Shepherd Street, Kottayam-686001. Rs. 90.

BORN IN Myanmar for a Burmese mother and Keralite father, Khadar is well known in Malayalam literary circles for his mystical fiction centred on Thrukkottoor-Thikkodi and places surrounding it in north Kerala, where he has been living since his early childhood.

Myths, miracles, haunted houses, and fables that are part of the folklore are handled deftly. The first two novella ( Naanikuttiyude naadu and Naagathaankulangara valiya vilakku ) vividly portray the social milieu and the behaviour pattern of most of the inhabitants. The pivotal characters are Naanikutti and Lekshmikutti.

The three pieces that feature evil spirits like Yakshi and Nagayakshi, portrayed as wicked women given to amorous overtures, set off a sense of horror and revulsion all round.

The last one ( Kunjaliyude Ira ) also is a story woven around a ghost. The ghost is that of Kunjali, a Hindu belonging to an oppressed caste who embraces Islam. It takes revenge on the entire family of Aluppikkeyi who buried Kunjali alive.

The author makes no distinction between the spoken languages of the characters. and the style of the narrator, which is full of colloquial terms, proverbs, idioms etc. The peculiar phonetic tone of them leads the reader straightway into a mystic world, providing a strange experience of varied dimensions.

  Copyright © 2012, The Hindu




Life style of Kolkata

Neela Padmanabhan

KAL VAISHAGHI: K. S. Aniyan; DC Books, DC Kizhakkemuri Edam, Good Shepherd Street, Kottayam-686001. Rs. 130.

MALAYALAM READERS, as readers in other Indian languages, are familiar with Bengali novels right from the period of Bankim Chandra's Durgesh Nandini . This novel under review, written in Malayalam with a Bengali title denoting the seasonal rain in summer, brings out the unique aspects of the historical background and life style of modern Kolkata and its suburbs with the fine craftsmanship and spirit of a typical Bengali novelist.

Central to the plot are two characters — Hari, a Kerala-based Malayali, and Hema, born and brought up in Bengal with an old maternal contact in distant Kerala. A company started during the British days runs into liquidation because of mismanagement by a corrupt, villainous head, Ramakrishnan. As a consequence, the lives of many employees, including Hema and Hari, are ruined. Some details of the Naxalite movement are thrown in. The romantic relationship between the Hari and Hema is pictured emotively; the two however do not unite.

There are quite a few relatively minor characters who make an impression: For instance, Ramakrishnan's wife, Ambi; Bengalis Moonduda and Mahuva; Andal, a Tamil woman and Ramakrishnan's live-in partner who stays with him and takes care of him in hospital when he falls critically ill and when everyone else among his kith and kin had deserted him

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu



A different travelogue

Neela Padmanabhan

PAZHASSIYUM KADATHANADUM:K. Balakrishnan; DC Books, DC Kizhakemuri Edam, Good Shepherd Street, Kottayam-686001. Rs. 200.

THIS IS a different type of travelogue. It deals with the past and the present, providing minute geographical details and relating mythological stories connected with parts of North Kerala. Already, the author has to his credit three travelogues featuring places from Manjeswaram to Vadakara.

This book covers Peralasseri part of Kannur taluk and most of the places in Thalasseri taluk. The Kottayam kingdom of yore, including parts of Kurumbanadu and Koodali, but excluding Vayanad, is portrayed vividly.

It starts with Kottiyur, famous for the worship of Sivalinga during the Vaishakh festival, and covers the region up to the boundary of Kadathanadu. Mythology has it that this is the place where Sati Devi immolated herself on being humiliated by her father, Daksha Prajapati, who was conducting a Yaga without inviting Lord Siva, her spouse.

Such mythological and folk accounts, religious practices and rituals connected with places of worship he came across during the travel have been recorded faithfully and interestingly by the author, a Left-leaning journalist.

Famous personalities such as Pazhassi King, Brunnan, Gundert, Chandu Menon, Sanjayan, and C.K. Govindan Nair who hailed from these parts of Kerala come in for detailed mention. On the whole, this book has something interesting or new to offer about “God's own land” even to Keralites.

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu




Reanimated fiction

Neela Padmanabhan

NJAN VIVAHAM KAZHICHATHU ORU SAKHAVINE:Translation of Philip Roth's novel I Married A Communist by Johny M.L.; DC Books, DC Kizhakemuri Edam, Good Shepherd Street, Kottayam-686001. Rs. 175.

ONE OF the well known novels of Philip Roth — a controversial novelist of America who won the Man Booker International Prize for his most recent novel Nemesis (2010) — I Married A Communist is a part of his trilogy of the late 1990s. The other two are the Pulitzer Prize-winning American Pastoral and The Human Stain .

This novel tracks the ups and downs of Era Rimgold, who is famous as ‘Iron Rin'. Era, who starts off as a ribald character, comes into limelight suddenly when he, as a radio artist, criticises the government. He is married to Eve Frames, who was previously married to Calton Pennington, a Hollywood actor, and has a daughter from him. When Eve discloses, in her book, that her husband Era is one who follows the Russian suggestions blindly, all hell breaks loose, and the lives of Era and his relatives are ruined.

How the anti-Communist feelings spread in post-war America and influenced social and political life is portrayed effectively. As a work that reanimated the genre of fiction by the author's imagination, it is impressive and memorable. Chapter after chapter he recasts the prejudgments on human behaviour afresh with insight.

The translator and the publisher deserve commendation for having made this novel accessible to the Malayalam readers and, thereby, enabling them to familiarise themselves with the latest trends and developments in the world of fiction at the global level.

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu



Classic stories

Neela Padmanabhan

LOKOTHARA KATHAKAL: Translation of Charles Dickens'stories by Jeny Andrews; DC Books, DC Kizhakemuri Edam, Good Shepherd Street, Kottayam-686001. Rs. 85.

THIS IS a translated version of six of Charles Dickens' famous stories. They include The First of May,A Christmas Tree, The Signal Man, and The Wreck of the Golden Mary, noted as much for their literary merit and as for the beautiful portrayal of real life experiences and social realities. Typically they project the Victorian period in all its varied aspects — the way of life, human behaviour, philosophy, and so on.

In this bunch, the finer elements of human relationships, namely kindness, warmth, love, and affection, are portrayed forcefully. All the colour and mirth that pervade the atmosphere during Christmas come alive in A Christmas Tree, with every branch of the tree pictured as in a dream world.

The beauty and simplicity of the 19th century England is recreated graphically in Kodi kattunna aal ( The Signal Man) and Kadalilninathia Sandesam ( A message from the Sea). Moving away from the usual theme of children being subjected to cruelties because of poverty and exploitation, Avadhikkaala Pranayam ( Holiday Romance) speaks of the heroics and adventures of children.

Golden Mary ( The Wreck of the Golden Mary) tells the traumatic story of the people aboard the ship ‘Golden Mary' that hits an iceberg and crashes.

The agony and travails that the travellers went through in their struggle for survival come across sharply. There was the captain of the ill-fated ship staking everything to inspire confidence and hope in the desperate travellers who were struggling to save their lives with a lifeboat and a small quantity of food. Jeny Andrews' translation retains the flavour of the original.

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu



Portrayal of Indian women

Neela Padmanabhan

ADACHITTA VATHIL MARAVIL: Translation of Behind Closed Doors edited by Rinki Bhattacharya; Translator Divya Warrier; Published by D.C.Books, Kottayam-686001. Price Rs.140.

THIS is a rare book that presents the true picture of women in India based on case studies conducted in families living in the rural as well as the urban areas. It is indeed a cruel irony that in a country where woman is deified she is also subjected to all sorts of discrimination and indignities. For all the affection she shows and the personal sacrifice she makes for the well-being of others in the family, she is given short shrift both by the family and society.

One cannot but feel ashamed of all the cruelties, mental torture, and abuses perpetrated on women behind the closed doors in the so-called ‘cultured' families. The sad part of it all is that even women with formal education submit to all the humiliations and harassments and hesitate to break away from the families because of their mindset steeped in the age-old tradition of male dominance.

The book, which sharply brings out all these women-related issues, also presents analytical studies by Anveshwa Arya, Shoba Venkatesh Ghosh, and Kalindi Majumdar.

The editor and the contributors deserve appreciation for having provided a reality check of the ‘family system' in India, without trying to put a gloss in the form of ‘ideological' justifications. Divya Warrier has succeeded in being true to the original work while translating it.

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu


Haunting stories



THIRANJEDUTHA KATHAKAL:K. P. Ramanunni; DC Books, DC Kizhakemuri Edam, Good Shepherd Street, Kottayam-686012. Rs. 120.

THE STORIES in this collection are knitted from contemporary events and issues like plastic surgery, tsunami, entrance examinations etc. But one cannot go through these stories leisurely without effort. They are consciously and intelligently narrated with a skilful special style.

Ramanunni’s keen and brilliant observations and ability to select varied themes from actual life in an aesthetic manner are well depicted in most of these 25 selected stories. One common feature in many of them is an exaggeration or an enlarged view of the bitter truths of life as well as an overemphasis in the description though they are ironical (cruel?). For example, the first story Mukha lekshanam (facial expression) describes plastic surgery conducted cleverly and skillfully on a handsome army officer to convert his handsome face to express a cruel look for frightening the enemies and for commanding his own subordinates, on the directions of higher officials by which his wife and father-in-law are also very well satisfied.

Another peculiar story is Pranaya Parvam (chapter of love). In this Bhaskar brings his sweetheart, Bhanu Priya, by car to the very beauty spots in high ranges which she had visited with her previous lover, Jose. After killing him and hiding the corpse under a rock to show her, he wants to know her version of their affair and activities there.

The ego clashes between a working wife and her husband is portrayed with a kind of sarcasm in the stories Purusha Vilaapam (male’s lamentation) and Aadi Vaasikam (tribalism). Even after completing this book the stories haunt the reader by their extraordinary plots and exceptional way of narration.

Literary masterpiece


KAYIRU — Parts I, II and III: Translated by C.A. Balan; Sahitya Akademi, Rabindra Bhavan, 35, Ferozshah Road, New Delhi-110001. Part I: Rs. 240, Parts II and III: Rs. 200 each.

THIS NOVEL, in three volumes, is the Tamil translation of eminent Malayalam fiction writer, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai's, masterpiece Kayar (1978), which won him the Jnanpith Award in 1984.

The author took 20 years for completing this novel, which covers 200 years, beginning with the first survey of his native region of Kuttanad in Kerala and ending with the aftermath of the land ceiling legislation of 1959.

In this epic work he vividly handles with an effortless, spontaneous flow nearly 1000 characters in six generations. It deals with the social, political and economic changes of a historical period — pre- and post-Independence — lying inter-twined in the relations between the people and the land.

The universal drama of humanity associated with a particular region or landscape (Mullai, Marutham etc., named after a plant or flower in that region, according to Tinais of Akam poetry in the literary theory in ancient Tamil grammar work, Tolkappiam) is recounted here aesthetically with a romantic touch.

Fantasy and mythology in connection with Gandarvas, Nagas, Sarpakkavus (serpent land) of this land are used with beautiful images taken from the age-old folklore stories.

The fall of the Nair community because of matriarchy, mismanagement of Devaswom lands, laziness, inter-sub-caste rivalries and the growth of Christian and Muslim communities owing to their tireless hard work and energetic enthusiasm, severe quest for education and knowledge, and competitive spirit in achieving equality and financial security in society and class consciousness of backward class community like the Ezhavas and the Scheduled Class community like the Pulayas are portrayed through many interesting characters like Kodanthru Kuruppasan, Cheeratta Kaimal and Outha, Vattanthra Gregory, Peerukannu Surendran and others.

Also, one can feel in the chronological order the reflections of the world wars, echoes, reactions and participation in the freedom struggle under the leadership of Gandhiji and elected governments of the Congress and Communists after Independence, and the Naxalite movements. One cannot expect perfection in translating such a lengthy novel, which has many individualistic special qualities in the style and content of a particular region. However, the translator has done the job satisfactorily.

Unpalatable truths


MANAIVIYIN MAKAN: Tamil translation of Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai's Malayalam novel by Sura; Raamprasanth Publications, 106/4, Jani Jahan Khan Road, Royapettah, Chennai-600014. Rs. 30.

THIS IS the Tamil translation of Thakazhi's Malayalam novel written 60 years ago (1945). The title of the novel is not the true translation of the original Malayalam title `Paramarthankal' which means `truths'. `Unmaikal' an apt Tamil translation of the original may be more appropriate to focus the various dimensions in the search of the truth by the characters in this novel.

It is a peculiar story of a man who marries a pregnant woman, but the father of that child is unknown to him. Their marital life is unhappy. He is always haunted by doubts and suspicions. Even after the birth of that child — a boy and his own son and daughter — he is unable to face his wife and stepson without hatred and anger. Instead, he has affection and attachment to his own son and daughter.

As he grows up, the stepson, Prabhakaran realises that his father was somebody else. Then he is also in constant search like his stepfather to find out the truth. The conflict and clashes in between the family members aggravate when Prabha falls in love with a girl. Though her husband could not know the truth from his wife, her son achieves it. He learns the bitter truth how she was forced without her consent due to her ignorance and timidity. The truth reaches her husband when Janaki is in her deathbed. The unknown wanderer responsible for Prabha's birth appears for a short while and disappears.

Sura has succeeded to a certain extent in bringing in Tamil Thakazhi's psychological dealings of the highly dramatic moments in the novel.


Malayalam novelettes in translation

MOHA THEE — Tamil translation of M. Mukunthan's two Malayalam novelettes by Sura: Ramaprasanth Publications, 106/4, Jani Jahankhan Road, Royapettah, Chennai-600014. Rs. 25.

THIS BOOK is a translation of Mukunthan's two novelettes, "Moha Thee" and "Raasa Leela" in Malayalam. His masterpiece "Mayyazhippuzhayude Theerangalil" (On the bank of Mayyazhi) vividly describes the political and social background of his native place Mahe, the former French colony, in the past, in a mystical way.

In "Moha Thee", he portrays the lust of Ramunni, head of the old Mithaledathu family towards the voluptuous Savithri, wife of a low caste Neelakantan. The lust begins to burn as fire in his mind when Neelakantan pledges his wife's gold waist chain to Ramunny for money to fulfil his drinking habit. Throughout this novel one can see Ramunni's blind love for Savitri through this ornament symbolically like a lunatic, despite having a beautiful wife and grown up children.

"Raasa Leela" is a different novel. It begins with the receiving of Krishnan who has lost his vision, at a city railway station by his friend Balan, after a long journey from his home village. They had both lived together in the same city in one room and worked for their livelihood before Krishnan lost his vision.

Though there is not any visible change in the narrow room with its unhygienic surroundings Balan gives an entirely different picture to his friend of all the places they visit and persons they meet now. Their visit to the flat of Leela, Krishnan's former beloved, is touching and the author's skill is evident in that scene.

The novel ends on an optimistic but with the false impression of Krishnan that at present all are well and not as in the past when he lived here with his friend.

Sura's translation brings to the Tamil readers the attractive form and content of the Malayalam originals without losing their charm and spirit.

Neighbouring countries


ASWASTHAMAYA AYALRAJYANGAL — Essays: M. Yunnus Kunju; Z Library, Thiruvananthapuram-695014. Rs. 75.

THERE IS a human tendency to know about our neighbours; this may be even from the primitive days. In this book `Aswasthamaya Ayalrajyankal' which means `Disquiet (or disturbed) neighbouring countries', Yunnus Kunju sincerely attempts to know about our neighbours including Pakistan and Bangladesh, which were once part and parcel of our subcontinent and then separated after bloodshed and still in the middle of disputes.

This book throws light on the social, economical and political developments with minute details of 14 countries such as Afghanistan, Myanmar, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Quit, U.A.E., Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Sri Lanka and China besides Pakistan and Bangladesh.

One can understand from these essays that those countries where a stern elected democratic government is not in power are in the middle of unrests and turmoil in the socio-political fronts to a certain extent caused by the religious fundamentalist forces.

The geographical details and historical background of all these countries highlighting their formation are also indicated aptly.

The terrorist attacks in Kashmir, Pakistan's interference in Kashmir and the internal problems of Pakistan, direct confrontation between two women leaders in Bangladesh, unending agony and fighting of Tamils in Sri Lanka, Maoists' attacks and counter attacks in Nepal, fear and worry of the common people in Maldives while talking about real democracy, Afghanistan citizens' fate of suffering always and such key problems of all the above nations are discussed impartially with a human touch in this book in a readable manner.

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu

Novel in translation

Neela Padmanabhan

HARITHUVAARIL MANIYOOSAI — Tamil Translation of M. Mukundan's Malayalam Novel: Translated by Sura; Sarhu Prabha Publications, 106/4,Jani Jahan Khan Road, Royapettah, Chennai-600014. Rs. 35.

THIS BOOK, which is a Tamil translation of Mukundan's Malayalam novel `Haridwaril Mani Muzhagunnu' deals with a young bachelor Rameshan Panicker who has a good job in Delhi.

Although he is addicted to drugs and drink, he has an aesthetic mind with a philosophical bent. He is very fond of his mother who is living in their native village in Kerala. He visits Haridwar with his lover Suja, a Punjabi girl. The author gives details of the various temples and pilgrimage centres of the holy place as well as the mythological stories, and poems in Sanskrit.

His confidence in narrating simultaneously Rameshan's vigorous hunt for drugs and drink and his dalliance with his lover against the religious background of the city results in a tale that is gripping without being sensational.

Rameshan's profound emotional recollection traces his native land, affectionate mother and death of his father. One cannot forget the characterisation of Suja, who loves and nurses Rameshan and her strong will to marry him in spite of all his weaknesses.

The novel ends with Rameshan's revisit to Haridwar alone without Suja. A short story `Kumaran Nayarin Maranam' unveiling the mystery behind the death of Kumaran Nair is also included in the book. Sura's translation is fluent and readable.

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu


Study on novels


MARUTHIRA KATHU NINNAPPOL: V. Rajakrishnan; Studies on novels; D.C. Books, DC Kizhekemuri Edam, Good Shepherd Street, Kottayam-686012. Rs 120.

THOUGH PLENTY of novels are being published in all the Indian languages nowadays, comprehensive studies on these works are very rare. The book under review is one in such uncommon genre.

V. Rajakrishnan’s studies are purely neither academic nor scholarly. Instead, he approaches the novels with an aesthetic as well as an artistic mind, which is exceptional and unusual one seen in critics. Not only Malayalam novels but also Indian and western novels are taken up for study, analysis and assessment.

This book that critically and interestingly analyses the various minute factors and aspects of the literary genre of novel is divided into three parts.

Keats’s poem in his last days when he was suffering from tuberculosis inspires the author of the book to discuss seriously in two chapters the diseases and drinking habits reflected in writings.

In this regard, Joseph Roth’s “The Legend of a Holy Drinker”, Albert camus’s “The Plague”, Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”, Nikolay Gogal’s “The Nose”, Philip Roth’s “Breast”, and many other western novels are skilfully compared with the recent Malayalam novels “Asura Vithu” by M.T.Vasudevan Nair, “Pathummaayude Aadu”, by Vaikkam Muhammad Bashir and “Arimpaara” by O.V.Vijayan.

Also, many other Malayalam, Indian and western novels are meaningfully discussed under different chapters with penetrating aesthetic studies on various images, fantasy as well as different manifestations of nature. Sethu’s “Paandavapuram”, Punathil Kunjablulla’s “Marunnu’, Kaakkanadan’s “Ushnamekhala”,V.K.N.’s “Aarohanam” M.Mukundan’s “Kesavande Vilaapankal”, Tharasankar Banarjee’s “Arogyaniketan”, Boris Pasternak’s “Doctor Zhivago”, Richard Wright’s “Native Son”, Albert Camus’s “The Fall’, and Orhan Pamuk’s “Snow”, are a few among them.

On the whole, the book is indeed a welcome addition to the field of study on novels.

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu


Malayalam fiction in translation

RAACHIYAMMA — Malayalam Sirukathaigal: Sura — Tr. in Tamil; Imayavan Pathippagam, 824, N.V.N. Nagar, Thirumangalam, Anna Nagar West, Chennai-600040. Rs. 55.

THIS IS a collection of stories by some of the renowned writers of Malayalam. While the stories of Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, Karoor Neelakanta Pillai, Vaikkam Mohammed Basheer, P. Kesava Dev, S.K.Pottekkad and Uroob represent the previous generation, stories of M.T.Vasudevan Nair, Madavi Kutti, Paul Zacharia, Unnikrishnan Puthur, M. Mukundan and Eakalaivan who are all still in the scene are also included. The stories representing the post-modern period are not included.

Karoor Neelakanta Pillai's story "Mara Bommaikal" (Wooden dolls) is outstanding for its crispness and peculiar narrative style with the use of minimum words. It has already been translated into other Indian languages including English and Tamil.

The effective Tamil translation by the famous Tamil writer Nakulan some years ago (Marappachikal) was well appreciated in literary circles. However, one more translation shows its exceptional quality.

The stories of Thakazhi ("Avan thirumbavaruvaan" He will come back), Basheer ("Pazham" Banana) and Eakalaivan ("Namakku nallathu kaadukal" Forest is good for us) cover the anguish and pains of people living below the poverty line. Uroob's "Raachiyamma", though somewhat romantic, touchingly pictures the melancholic life and silent attachment of a raw village girl of Nilagiri.

M. T.Vasudevan Nair's "Koottai Nizhal" (Shadow of fort) is about a love affair and sacrifice of the past with a historical background of northern part of India in a moving tone. Madavikutti's "Virundu" (Feast) narrates the vanity of the luxurious life of a society lady at Kolkata, as in her other stories.

Kesava Dev's "Kaaykarikkari Kaarthiyaayini" (Vegetable vendor Kaarthiyaayini) essays humorously the lighter moments of a local woman vegetable vendor. Zacharia's story "Crane shot" is different from other stories because of his narrating technique through a film director's movie camera eyes.

If in T.Padmanabhan's story Kili (Parrot) a parrot plays the main role to unwind the protagonist's mind who is admitted in a nursing home, Mukundan in his "Muttai idum yaanai" (Elephant which lays eggs) depends on fantasy to bring out the hollowness of marital relationship. On the whole, imaginative skill and sensibility make most of these stories readable. Sura's translation is satisfactory in bringing the essence and meaning of the original stories.


© Copyright 2000 - 2005 The Hindu


ILAM PARUVATHU THOZHI: Tamil translation of Vaikkam Mohamed Basheer's Malayalam novel and a short story by Sura; Ramaprasanth Publications, 106/4, Jani Jagan Khan Road, Royapettah, Chennai-600014. Rs. 25.

VAIKKAM MOHAMED Basheer is not a new name to Tamil readers. Most of his eminent novels including this one (title of the Malayalam original is Baalya Kaala Sakhi) have already been translated into Tamil.

Due to various reasons the inner social life of the Indian Muslims, particularly their peculiar problems have not been dealt with realistically in local language literatures without prejudices till now. But even from the early-1950s Basheer has handled the social life and burning problems of his community artistically. The unfulfilled love affair, may we call it calf-love or sincere friendship between Suhara and Majeed, the protagonist which flowers from their early childhood is the main theme of the novel. Not only their cheerful plays and petty quarrels but also ceremonies like Suhara's ear piercing are pictured interestingly with an aesthetic awareness.

This world, strange to others, but well-known to the author is recreated here with the minute details effectively and effortlessly through meaningful colloquial words, phrases and proverbs familiar to his community. Ignoring refined ornamental literary style his diction and expressions are flourished with beautiful images and allegories quite common to the rural folk.

In the end of the novel, Majeed loses his childhood lover, father and his leg, but he faces life with a mind full of sweet memories. Even after completing the book, Basheer's simple, clear and free-flowing words loaded with the greatness of the human spirit reverberate in our consciousness like a melodic song.

It is difficult to bring Basheer's individual way of expression in another language without losing its charisma. However, Sura has tried to capture the beauty of the original in the translation to a certain extent. One may doubt whether the colloquial equivalents of Tamil Muslims would have enhanced the quality of the translation.

Neela Padmanabhan

© Copyright 2000 - 2005 The Hindu



Malayalam novels

M.T.VASUDEVANAYARIN CHIRUKATHAIKAL — Tamil translation of five Malayalam short stories of M.T.Vasudevan Nair by Sura: Saru Prabha Publications,105, Jani Jahankhan Road, Royapettah, Chennai-600014. Rs. 25.

M. T. VASUDEVAN NAIR is a popular literary figure not only in Malayalam, but also in other languages including Tamil through the translations of his famous Malayalam novels like "Naalu kettu", "Asura vithu", and "Rendaam oozham". His short stories are also equally memorable because of their artistic merit. His earlier five stories including the prize-winning "Valarthu Mrugangal" have been translated into Tamil and collected in this slim volume. The plight and pitiful condition of circus artists when their physical charm and health vanishes is pictured effectively in "Valarppu Mirugangal".

The false prestige and fall of the old matriarchal joint family system of the Nair community as well as the power hungry maternal uncle, who is the family head, are M.T.'s favourite subjects which have an important place in most of his novels and short stories. Three stories "One Nenaivaaka", "Oru Pirantha Naal Jnaapakam" and "Akka" are also crafted on the above background and atmosphere with M.T.'s characteristic clarity and flavour.

"Maranathin Charukkal" is a different kind of story of a boy who ran away from his native village due to poverty and starvation, to a town where the middle class protagonist lives with his friends in a lodge for his job and the pathetic end of the boy by a moving goods train.

On the whole, after going through these stories a tone of sadness will echo in the reader's heart like a melody, which is the individuality of M.T.'s fictional art that cannot be imitated.

The translation, though the style and expression seem pedantic in some places, succeeds in bringing the essence of the source language to the target language.


© Copyright 2000 - 2004 The Hindu



Voyage of self-discovery


NAKULAN NOVELKAL — Collection of Eight Novels of Nakulan: Kaavya, 4, First Cross Street, Trustpuram, Kodambakkam, Chennai-600024. Rs. 450.

THIS BOOK is a collection of eighth novels of Nakulan, an important Tamil writer of yesteryear, starting from his first novel, `Nizhalkal' to the latest one, `Antha Manchal Nira Poonaikutty'. Nakulan is known for his uncompromising serious and valuable writings.

The publisher's note indicates that the book is one novel having eight parts or a lengthy diary in total. (Naveenan Diary-1976 is one of the novels in this collection.) Consciously or not, most of the serious writers are either searching or discovering their inner soul or self in different situations, through various characters by permutation and combination, or by trail and error method. In fact, one cannot find any similarity or continuity between the first novel and the last or last but one (Vaakkumoolam, 1992) in their structure, form or content.

The hero of these novels, Naveenan is a thinker, good conversationalist, eccentric with a sense of humour and with a penchant for reading and writing.

The novels evoke anxieties arising from complexes to men and matters, to theories on how to argue wisely, how to live in the present moment. All of them have a particular atmosphere unique to the author. They sharply demonstrate his peripatetic interests.

On the whole, Nakulan has produced a sensitive but unsparing portrait of a thoroughly unconventional world around him.

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu



Suspense thriller

NILA ADHIRVUMANIGALE NANDRI — by C. Radhakrishnan: K. Natchimuthu — Tr. in Tamil; Sahitya Akademi, 35, Rabindra Bhavan, Ferozshah Road, New Delhi-110001. Rs. 250.

THIS BOOK is a translation of the award winning Malayalam novel "Spandamannikale Nanni". It was first serialised in a popular Malayalam weekly. All terrorist outfits have a common purpose viz. to capture the power at any cost. Of course, they have their own justification, philosophy, logic, psychology and even the ethics for their struggle.

In the novel Appu, an ambitious young scientist working in a research institute at a hill town joins a terrorist group of scientists that has international roots and plans to burst the major scientific research organisations including the one in which he is working. The novel opens on an alarming note with the mentioning of the explosive material kept in the underground dark room of the institute under his custody.

He waits for the signal to put on the fuse, burn the wick and quit the place. The major portion — the first half of the whole novel unravels this suspense, by introducing the characters one by one and the anecdotes about these characters using the flashback technique. Even the minute technical details about the equipment and the scientists who handle are described skilfully and accurately. In a democratic set up implementation of political decisions has a significant role, for which infighting goes on between the bureaucracy and the technocracy. Some rebels like Appu among the scientist community come forward as in this novel to free themselves from the clutches of power of not only politicians but also of self-centred scientists for which they unfortunately choose bombs and cyanide capsules.

The characters especially the female ones like Prema, Devi, Deepa and others are bold as well as intellectual. Their discussions and arguments are highly philosophical and humane, sometimes romantic. On the whole, the author weaves a terrorist story in an atmosphere of science and technology with a poetic style and contemporary social and political problems are analysed aesthetically. The translator has succeeded in capturing the tone and spirit of this novel in fluent Tamil.


© Copyright 2000 - 2003 The Hindu



Historical novel

ORA PRO NOBIS — Malayalam novel: Ponjikkara Raphi; D.C. Books, DCB Complex, Good Shepherd Street, Kottayam-686001. Rs. 65.

THIS IS a historical novel carefully woven on the background of Kochi in the 16th and 17th Centuries A.D. when the Portuguese dominated the western shore of India. The title is in Latin meaning, "Kindly pray for us", which is a repetition of a line of the prayer by the chorus (luthinia) addressed to Holy Mother Mary, sung by the Latin Catholics.

In 1663 A.D., the Dutch defeated the Portuguese who succeeded to a certain extent in implementing their "divide and rule" policy among the local rulers in the northern part of Kerala during their reign for one and a half centuries.

Though the chain of events narrated in this novel happened in 1750 A.D., the social and political scenarios of the preceding 115 years are also artistically amalgamated with minute anthropological details.

The incidents after the mass migration of the Portuguese from Kochi to Goa and Portugal are pictured through the distracted mental reflections and conversations of Chinna Ambrose — a fifth generation old man whose ancestors had been brought to Kochi by Captain Achakko and his wife Isabella, successors of the Portuguese barons Aswerasu in 1635 A.D. for looking after their horses.

The life stories of these Latin Catholic generations starting from the couple Michel-Monica and their children Jocki, Paaval and Ambrose are recorded in the family history by the third generation man Chinna Ambrose in Malayam-Tamil — a mixture of Malayalam and Tamil languages.

Their dialect throughout the novel is also in this mixed style, which gives a special individual flavour and effect to this work. Not only are the trials and tribulations of these family members living and dead but also the misdeeds like looting of the stockyards and temples by the Portuguese for want of money, by which they earned the hatred and enmity of the people, the inefficiency and surrendering mentality of the Kochi kingdom in that period and the social condition of the people in other religious classes like the Jews, Ezhavas, Nairs and the Konkanis are well depicted in the novel.

The interesting and pathetic incident narrated is the offering of the bloody sacrifice of the first generation Ambrose on January 13, 1663 A.D. at the age of 33 like the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in his 33rd year, with his full consent by the Portuguese for protecting their valuable treasure earned in this land that was buried secretly, just before their mass exodus from Kochi.

It is the firm belief of Chinna Ambrose who is the grandson of Ambrose (first) that he and his grandson — the present young Vella Ambrose and others who will follow after them should not disclose the place of the hidden treasure up to the period of the seventh generation when the real owners of the treasure, the Portuguese, will come again to claim it according to a record of the family history.

The novel ends with the demise of Chinna Ambrose while praying with the family members, but with a broken heart as his elder son Michel attempted to kill him a few hours ago since he did not disclose to him the place where the treasure was hidden.


© Copyright 2000 - 2005 The Hindu



A writer's writer


NAKULAN KATHAIKAL: Nakulan; Kaavya, 16, Second Cross Street, Trustpuram, Kodambakkam, Chennai-600024. Rs. 175.

THIS COLLECTION comprises five novelettes, 32 short stories and two stories translated from English by Nakulan (1922-2007) spanning over three decades. Nakulan is known as a writer’s writer in the serious Tamil literary circle because of his experimental writings in poetry as well as fiction. Though his writings are considered experimental, they are readable and seem simple at first reading.

On going through these stories one can find that he has never compromised with the contemporary popular literary field till his last breath. He never went after the stereotyped plots to spin his work of art. Consciously avoiding the attractive storylines, he simply and straightforwardly narrates everyday events of his own life as an outsider without any commitments or justifications with minimum words. He never wilfully segregates the narrator, Naveenan or Nakulan, in his creative world. For instance, in “Yaathirai” (journey, novelette written in 1963) the life of the protagonist Naveenan is artistically narrated with humour as well as with a shadow of melancholy. Two peculiar stories with Nakulan’s seal are “Oru Theru Sonna Kathai” (story said by the street) and “Asuwatham Endru Oru Maram” (a tree named as Asuwatham). The first story about a street and shops where coffins are for sale will haunt the reader’s mind too as the author’s. The human mind’s strange working which leads to a state of mental imbalance comes out naturally through a disquieting portrait of a man in the second story.

On the whole, though no conscious effort is made to generalise personal experiences, these stories will give a higher valuable literary experience.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu



Fiction anthology


NALU PENNUNGAL: Thakazhi Sivasankarapillai; Rainbow Book Publishers, Chengannur, Kerala-689124. Rs.50.

THIS BOOK highlights eight stories of the famous Malayalam writer of yesteryear Thakazhi Sivasankarapillai all dealing with women. These stories written in the 1950s and 1960s have now come to limelight once again since Adoor Gopalakrishnan utilised his stories for his two recent films.

The first and the last stories are about spinsters in different circumstances. In the first story, Nitya Kanyaka, Kamakshi whose younger sister and brother got married remains a spinster throughout her life though she has an inner longing to get married. In the last story, Kanyaka, though Kumari is married to Narayanan she remains a spinster because he does not have any interest in her.

Chinnu Amma in the story named after her gets married but could not give birth to a child and never cares to sacrifice her chastity by surrendering herself to another man for a child.

Some of Thakazhi’s female characters are not only bold but also clever and calculative as Pankiamma in the story Pankiamma. She is married to a man who has plenty of fertile land, but she allows another man who has cash to approach her leading the two to fight resulting in imprisonment to both men.

At last when these two men return from imprisonment united they see Pankiamma, who is the rightful owner of their property and money, living with her new husband and child.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu



Travelogue with a difference


ORU AFRICAN YATRA — Travelogue: Zacharia; DC Books, DC Kizhekemuri Edam, Good Shepherd Street, Kottayam-686001. Rs. 295.

THIS IS a different travelogue in which Zacharia interestingly narrates his travelling experience about the internal landscape of modern Africa with minute geographical details as well as historical background.

He has selected more or less the same route that Malayalam’s earlier famous travel writer S.K.Pottekkad travelled 52 years ago. S.K Pottekkad started his travel in the colonial period — 1949 from Africa’s East coast. But Zacharia starts his journey through the route map, which is re-plotted by colonialism. The selected places and sites have vision of true journalism as well as artistic awareness.

One can understand from this book the brighter face of modern Africa. Even today some may be ignorant of the fact that Africa is the nearest neighbour of Europe as Zacharia points out.

From the southern promontory of Spain the coast of Morocco in Africa through the Gibraltar sea path is less than 20 km. But the distance in between the minds of people of these two continents is infinite.

Zacharia went to Johannesburg and from there to Cape Town to reach the Cape of Good hope. His stay at Holy cross convent at Umtata, the birthplace of Mandela is interestingly narrated.

Every careful reader will enthusiastically inspire Zacharia’s ultimate travel experiences in Congo Caves in George Town, Outs Hoorn, Gandhi-Luthuli Peace Park, Durban, Pretoria, Okavango Delta, Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park, Victoria waterfalls, Mozambique, Nairobi, Kenya, source of Nile, Cairo and many other places.

He aptly quotes Pottekkad from his book to get the picture of Africa in the 1950s.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu



Of love and betrayal


APPAVIN KAADALI — Tamil Translation of Paarappurathu's Malayalam Novel: Translated by Sura; Saaru Prabha Publications, 106/4, Jani Jahan Khan Road, Royapettah, Chennai-600014. Rs. 25.

PARAPPURATHU IS one of the famous Malayalam novelists of yesteryears whose masterpieces Ara Naazhika Neram and Pani Theeratha Veedu were successfully made into movies. One can note his keen power of observation and effortless narrating power even in this short novel under review. Although Appavin Kaadhali (Lover of Father) is short, it mirrors the life of the farmers of a village in central Travancore of Kerala. Not only the major characters like Appa (Kaleekal Koon Kurup) and his Kaadali (lover-Gauri ) but also Sumathi, her husband Daamu, milkmaid Naaniyamma, Achutha Kurup and other characters are well pictured.

Manikuttan alias Raghavan Nair, son of Kaleekal Kurup is a caring family man who has a loving wife and two children and financially well off. The whole story unfolds through him. Their family life was not happy and peaceful.

At the same time their neighbour and relative Sumathi and her husband Daamu have a pleasant and peaceful family life though their income is poor. Manikuttan learns the lesson about happiness and prosperity from them. Parappurathu records in this novel the disintegration of one man's life after he becomes the unwilling recipient of rejection of love from his long-term mistress, though he has a wife and children. It is the outcome of betrayal leading to debts, disease, distress and finally to death. The simplicity of the narration is what makes the novel compelling. Sura's Tamil translation is satisfactory and readable.

© Copyright 2000 - 2005 The Hindu


On men and matters

IRANTHA KALAM PETRA UYIR — Collection of Essays by Sundara Ramaswamy: Kalachuvadu Pathippagam, 669, K.P. Road, Nagercoil-629001. Rs. 90.

THIS BOOK is a collection of essays, prefaces, reviews, tributes and even letters to editors by Sundara Ramaswamy who is well-known in the field of Tamil literature.

Most of the contents of this book are his responses and reactions on men and matters of current age (only exception is "Thiruvalluvar Ennum Nanpar"), particularly on literature.

Na. Pitchamurthi's art tradition and humanism, Pudhumaipithan's modern approach, the author's conversation with T.M.C.Regunathan on Pudhumaipithan and his tributes to him (Regunathan) after his demise and his stray thoughts on E.M.S., C.S.Chellappa, Naa.Govindarajan (Singapore), Mu.Thalayasingam (Sri Lanka), Kumar Murthy (Canada), R. Raveendran, are a few among the essays.

His views on education (introduction of a book contains his conversation with V.Vasanthi Devi, former Vice-Chancellor of Manonmaniam University), and Tamil language ("Tamil Vazhi Kalvi") also are dealt with in the essays.

The author's revisit to his ancestrol home in Kottayam after a long period and the growth of D.C.Books in Kottayam during the 25 years are narrated interestingly in two essays.

In one article he differs with Asokamitran on Tamil cinema and popular actors. In another piece he replies to Malan. Adoor Gopalakrishnan's new art film "Nizhal Koothu" is reviewed in one essay.

His reviews of the African novel "Things Fall Apart" (1958), Tamil translation "Chithaivukal" by N.K.Mahalingam, Kannada Dalit stories, Pavannan's Tamil translation work "Puthainda Kaatru" and his translation of Thakazhi's Malayalam novel "Thottiyude Makan" (Son of the scavanger) into Tamil are thought-provoking.

His view on writings for periodicals is noteworthy since he is not only a contributor but also was an editor of his own magazine.


© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu


Gender parity


PRANAYAM LAINGIKATHA ADHIKAARAM — Essays: Geetha; Pub. by Current Books, Thrissur-680001. Rs. 60.

THIS BOOK contains 12 essays dealing with the contemporary problems connected with gender relations. One may be curious to know about love, sex and power or authority between men and women living today from the point of view of a representative of women who has been affected by the domination of men over women through the ages. The author tries to establish that modernisation of the relationship between man and woman will be the prime cause of social progress in the future. She repeatedly questions the age-old set up of the family system in society where the male is supreme in each and every aspect of day-to-day life. She points out that the equality being preached nowadays by the feminists is mutually dependent and interconnected with the same concept taught by Marxism. He argues logically and forcefully to fight against male domination, the necessity of common kitchen and forsaking the ancient dress code prescribed to women.

Marriage and the dowry system, gender relationship in campus, male authority in language and mercy petitions of the rape culprits are few topics which are discussed in depth and in detail in this book.

Though they may seem harmless at first sight, many of the common practices in our social system are mischievous, teasing and torturing to women, according to the author. One hopes that this book will lead men to rethinking and self-introspection.

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu


Tagore's novel


KANNILE KARADU: Choker Baali (A Grain of Sand) by Rabindranath Tagore in Bengali, M. Bilina — Tr. in Malayalam; Mathrubhumi Books, Cherooty Road, Kozhikode-1. Rs. 135.

IN THIS novel, Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) masterly pictures the wavering mind of Mahendran oscillating between his obedient and faithful wife Asha and a young widow Vinodini who is charming and an intellectual, and has other pleasing qualities to attract him as well as his intimate boyhood friend Vihari.

The aesthetic surroundings and atmosphere of rural Bengal and Calcutta city in that period, and the changing seasons enhance romantic feelings in the main characters. Vihari is portrayed as an ideal character like Gora in Tagore's another maiden novel Gora. Though the novel is interestingly woven through misunderstandings and the missing of some important letters, at last after knowing the truth when Vihari expresses his willingness to marry Vinodini she prefers to worship him instead of marrying him.

Even after finishing the novel, the characters, situations and its atmosphere keep reverberating in the readers' mind.

M. Bilina's translation is fluent and natural, and capable of bringing the poetic beauty and diction of Tagore's original Bengali style to the target language — Malayalam.

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu



Modern Tamil poetry

PUTHU NANOORU — Collection of translated modern Tamil poems by various poets: Selected and translated by Atoor Ravi Varma; Current Books, Round West, Thrissur-680001. Rs. 135.

TAMIL, AS a classical language, has a long literary heritage. Anthologies of poems like Aka Nanooru (400 love poems), Pura Nanooru (400 war and other poems) by different poets are valuable contribution of ancient Tamils of the Sangam age (400 B.C.— 200 A.D.). Atoor Ravi Varma, a significant Malayalam poet of today, has compiled the book under review, whose title means 400 new Tamil poems, by various contemporary Tamil poets. Though the sparks of modernity began in the 19th Century from Ramalinga Swamigal (1823-74) and Gopalakrishna Bharathiar (1786-1881), Subramania Bharathi (1882-1921) initiated the free verse movement in Tamil. Bharathi's Kaatchi (scene), Sakthi (strength), Kaatru (the wind) and a few other poems are free from the excessive emotional fervour that one normally finds in his other compositions.

This book begins with Bharathi's Kaatru (in Malayalam Vaayu) and contains around 270 poems of 59 poets including 13 Sri Lankan Tamil poets.

Compared with the conventional poem in traditional metre, which has a fixed arrangement of syllables for a particular form of poetical rhythm, free verse in this book avoids juggling with words consciously, though some poems are difficult to understand at first reading. Most of them are on personal feelings and experiences and no conscious effort is made to generalise them. No detailed narration, lengthy description and reporting, but there are conflicting visions, powerful imagery and dramatic moments in a flash. Over-emphasising is rare; instead there is a soft style, entirely new diction and plenty of silence or pause.

Those who agree with the view that the merit of a poem depends on the experience than the meaning, preaching and message can enjoy the poems of Nakulan, C. Mony, and Vydeeswaran of yester-years and Samayavel, Jaya Bhaskaran, Kanimozhi, Rasul, Jayapalan, Salma Sukumaran and others of today.

Though it is difficult to compile an anthology representing each and every literary trend and group, poems of different literary genre as well as little groups are seen included in this book, especially known and unknown poets of today. Still, one may note the omission of Pudhumaipithan, Ku. Pa. Rajagopalan, Vallikkannan and T. S. Venugopal of the yester-years and entire Vanampaadi poets of contemporary period and a few others like Brahma Rajan.

Though traditional poetry with its rigid forms of prosody, style and subject matter declined during this period, quite a number of poets are also still there. Such poems are also not included in this book. However, this effort must be appreciated since after Puthukkuralkal (1962) (new voices) compiled by the late veteran Ci. Su. Chellappa no such serious attempt has been made even in Tamil to collect the different individual voices in one book like the collection under review.


© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu



Social novel

SIVAPPU DEEPANGAL: Tamil translation of Madhavikkutti's a Malayalam novel and a short story by Sura; Saaru Prabha Publications, 106/4, Jani Jahan Khan Road, Royapettah, Chennai-600014.

Rs. 30.

THIS BOOK is a Tamil translation of Malayalam writer Madhavikutti's novel "Rugmanikkoru Paavakutti" (Rugmani has one doll) and a short story "Neelakkadal" (blue sky). Though the novel deals with the red light areas of Mumbai, the author handles the theme artistically.

It unfolds the bitter truths through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl, Rugmani, who is bought from a poor woman Anasooya by exploiting her utter poverty and so the original Malayalam title is apt and appropriate. But the translator has changed it as "Sivappu Deepangal" meaning "Red lights", which cannot be justified in the strict literary sense.

Though the girl, at first expresses her hatred towards the inspector, later she does not hide her affection for him when he gifts her a doll. The short story "Neelakkadal" deals with the problems of the modern middle class woman.

Renuka Devi who takes to social service after getting voluntary retirement decides to visit Singapore to participate in an international conference.

The story unfolds her dilemmas and mental agony to liberate herself from her middle class morality and false prejudices. Sura's translation is spontaneous in bringing the poetic style from the Malayalam original.


© Copyright 2000 - 2005 The Hindu



Social novel


CHITTAMRUTHU: V. S. Khandekar in Marathi; Translated by Kaliath Damodaran in Malayalam; DC Books, DC Kizhakemuri Edam, Good Shepherd Street, Kottayam-686001. Rs. 85.

V. S. KHANDEKAR IS a familiar name in Malayalam, Tamil and other Indian languages. This book is a Malayalam translation of Khandekar’s Marathi novel Amruthavel (1968).

Differing from his earlier Gnanpith Award-winning philosophical novel Yayathi (1974), which has the background of the Mahabharatha, this is a social novel dealing with some of the bitter truths about modern men and women. In the course of the skilled weaving of the silk yarn of the inner and outer world of the individuals, Khandekar’s deep knowledge of not only India’s puranic-mythological characters like Savitri, Aswathama and his father Drona but also Shakespeare’s Hamlet, his mother and Hemingway’s Old man and sea has come out aesthetically. Though this novel is mainly centred round Nanda, her friend Vasunthara and Vasunthara’s husband Devadatta, one cannot overlook the other minor characters.

The novelist analyses how society brands people as good and bad without bothering about their other sides. Unknown circumstances and reasons prompted Devadatta as well as his parents to their “so called” misdeeds are uncovered gradually as in a film or stage play. Devadatta’s highly intellectual and philosophical dairy jottings, letters and Nanda’s responses and reactions towards them lead the storyline interestingly up to the end.

Kaliath Damodaran’s Malayalam translation keeps well the joy and spirit of the original Marathi.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu


Swedish poetry


URNGUNNAVARKKULLA KATHUKAL (Modern Swedish Poems): Tr. by Satchidanandan; D.C. Books, Kottayam-686012. Rs.100.

THIS IS a Malayalam translation of a collection of Swedish poems, a first in Malayalam. In this anthology 173 poems by 21 Swedish poets have been translated with a detailed introduction about Swedish poetry and brief notes on all the poets by Satchidanandan for which he deserves appreciation. It is known he has taken pains to visit Sweden for discussing the peculiar individual nature of the poems with most of the poets in person. That is why one can experience the exceptional calmness and beauty of these poems even in this translation.

Undisturbed observation, minute attention on men and matters, balanced imagination immersed in past memories and present landscapes, handling of meaningful images, moderate and cautious usage of words are common features of these poems. All but one (Werner Aspenstrom 1918-97) of these 21 poets are living, who represent four generations. Werner Aspenstrom’s poems deeply discover the glorious moments in between death and expectations.

Poems of Tomas Transtromer lead the readers to a parallel world of dreams and imaginations. But Agneta Pleijel searches the inner self through her poems. Theepetta Raani (Expired Queen) leads the reader to a mystical world of mythology and legend. The title poem Urangunnavarkkulla Kathukal (Letters to sleeping persons) by Marie Lundquist is a typical poem, which gives a kind of mystifying experience and restlessness to the reader’s mind.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu



About joint families


HOME: Manju Kapur in English; Translated by Jibu Jamal in Malayalam; DC Books, DC Kizhakemuri Edam, Good Shepherd Street, Kottayam-686001. Rs 165.

THE JOINT family system and the complex situations that arise from it have been forcefully brought out in many novels written in different regional languages of India. This Anglo-Indian novel originally written in English is also about home and joint family. Compared to men, women — especially Indian women — are not only more conversant with the happenings in a home but they also feel quite at home with them . And Manju Kapur deals with this topic expertly as well as interestingly in this novel. The story of three generations starting with a textile businessman, Banvari lal who migrated from Lahore to Delhi at the time of Partition with his wife, two sons and a daughter and built up his home through his hard work is portrayed meticulously in this novel. The family has a natural urge to develop its business and improve its financial position. Naturally men are in the forefront, although these days women are also in the field by compulsion or for some other reason. Despite living in the ultra modern city of Delhi , womenfolk are keen on upholding the rituals and religious practices. The Malayalam version is readable and the translator has succeeded in bringing out the flavour of the original.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu


Literary criticism


PROF.M.K.SANU-JEEVITHAVUM KRUTHIKALUM MAHATHWATHINTE SANKEERTHANAM: A. Aravindakshan; Green Books, Little Road, Ayyanthole, Thrissur-680003. Rs. 350.

M.K.SANU. A familiar figure as teacher, literary critic, progressive thinker, editor, social activist and orator, has earned a name in contemporary Malayalam literature for his deep, humanitarian, and positive approach. In this book, which is a study on the life and works of Sanu, Aravindakshan evaluates his 51 works that include critiques, reviews, biographies, collection of essays, commentaries and translations.

The first of the three parts deals with his family history, early life, and the environs that shaped and prepared him for his future role in the world of Malayalam literature. The second examines the different works of Sanu in such a way as to bring out his aesthetic and analytical approach to literary works and personalities. Although he introduces his own literary doctrines in his critical studies, he never allows them to overwhelm or cloud the creativity or aesthetics of the literary works being studied.

The biographies Sanu wrote — on eminent people such as Narayana Guru, Kumaran Asan, Basheer, K.C. Maman Mappilai, and Changanpuzha Krishna Pillai — are striking for the way they steered clear of controversies without sacrificing objectivity while seeking to ‘discover’ those personalities.

His commentaries on Ramayanam and Mahabharatham, and his Malayalam translations can be read with the same ease and enjoyment as his critical studies and biographies.

© Copyright 2000 - 2009 The Hindu



A classic of Indian literature


PATHER PANCHALI: Translation of Bibhoothibhooshan Bandyopadhaya�s Bengali novel by M.K.N.Potty; Pub. by Green Books, Little Road, Ayyanthole, Thrissur-680003. Rs. 180.

THOUGH PUBLISHED 70 years ago, Pather Panchali, a novel that came into limelight after it was made into a film by Satyajit Ray, still shines as a classic of Indian literature in the 20th century. It finds a place in �The guide to modern world literature.�

While depicting Apu�s childhood days, the everyday life of rural Bengal is artistically unfolded. Unforgettable is the way the struggle for existence of this poor Brahmin family, without losing its identity, is presented. The poetic beauty in the description of trees, flowers, birds, ponds and so on goes to enhance the joyful reading experience.

The story, for the most part, is woven around Nichinthipur village, from where the location shifts to Kasi and then to Kedargut. It�s all about ordinary people and their lives. One cannot but empathise with the poor, who endure the sufferings silently.

What is striking about the novel is its spontaneity. Nowhere has anything been introduced artificially to boost the story value. In translating it, Potti has done full justice to the original by retaining its poetic style and flavour.

� Copyright 2000 - 2009 The Hindu



Anthology in translation


MALGUDI DINANGAL — Translation of R.K.Narayan’s ‘Malgudi Days’: Translated by Roy Kuruvila; DC Books, DC Kizhakemuri Edam, Good Shepherd Street, Kottayam-686001. Rs. 140.

R. K. NARAYAN AND his masterpiece Malgudi Days are famous not only in India but the entire world. This book is a translation of that anthology of 32 stories made up of selections from his An Astrologer’s Day and Lawley Road and some new stories. They bring to life ordinary people of Malgudi (the fictional world of Narayan) in an interesting, humorous, and simple style.

Although the people whose tales are unfolded in the stories were ‘ordinary’, most of the central characters get into crisis or bizarre situations that are quite extraordinary. Eventually, of course, they learn to live with them or manage to pull themselves out in their own ways, but not, every time, the way the reader expects them to do.

Contradictions in human behaviour as depicted in stories such as ‘Vaiki Ethiya Vaartha’ (The missing mail), ‘Leelayude Changathi’ (Leela’s friend), and ‘Selvi’; confrontation with the self as well as other fellow beings as in ‘Joolcian’ (An astrologer’s day); and second opinion, even with a dog as in ‘Anthan Naaya’ (The blind dog) or with a snake as in ‘Nagan’ (Naga) — these are among his favourite themes. ‘Punnagavaraali’ (The snake song) is an exceptional story, which is woven with a mystical thread. In the last story ‘Emden,’ the life story of a man in his nineties, who yearns for one of his old mistresses, a dancer, and tries to meet her secretly with gifts is presented interestingly.

It is to the credit of Roy Kurivila that he has been successful in translating the salient features of the fluent style of the original.

© Copyright 2000 - 2009 The Hindu

A different travelogue


VELLI PANIMALAIYIN MEEDHU (Tamil): Translation of M. P. Veerendrakumar's ‘Haimavathabhuvil' by Sirpi Balasubramaniam; Kavitha Publications, P.B.No; 6123, 8, Masilamani Street, T. Nagar, Chennai-600017. Rs. 600.

The legendary Himalayas and the rivers originating from them have been an irresistible attraction for travellers from within India and abroad since ancient times. There are innumerable books recording the serenity and the ethereal beauty of this hallowed mountain range — for instance German philosopher Hermann Keyserling's The Travel diary of a Philosopher and Tapovana Swami's Himagiri Viharam (Malayalam). This book is a Tamil translation of another notable book in this genre, which transfuses the ennobling experience of the onlooker into the veins of the reader.

What set this book apart from the rest are: the delightful and detailed description of the mythological and historical background; the wealth of geographical information; the interesting stories drawn from the folklore linking the past and the present; and the author's personal accounts of his interaction with the common folk in the places he visited. It is to the author's credit that he has not allowed his devotional faith to stand in the way of highlighting the large-scale pollution and dumping of wastes taking place there, the severe damage caused to the eco-system as a consequence, and the harmful effects of globalisation. The tour, starting from Delhi, takes Veerendra Kumar and his team to holy places such as Rishikesh, Haridwar, Gangothri, Yamunothri, Kedarnath and Badrinath before terminating at Gandhiji's Anasakti Ashram in Kausani. While speaking about Karna Prayag, the author strikes the emotional chord by the way he narrates the story of Karna (of the Mahabharata).

While at the bathing ghat Har-Ki-Pauri at Haridwar, he recalls the story of Bhartruhari, elder brother of King Vikramaditya (6th century). Bhartruhari's famous works, Neeti Satakam, Srungara Satakam, and Vairagya Satakam are discussed in detail and with philosophical insight. Another brother, Vararuchi's marriage with a downtrodden girl, Panchami near the shores of river Nila (Bharata puzha) in Kerala is narrated interestingly, with a judicious mix of information about the archaeological sites linked to it. Similarly, Kangal, a place of mythological significance linked to the dance of Lord Siva, prompts the author to speak about Lord Nataraja at Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu) and the famous Siddha poet Tirumoolar and his classic work, Tirumandiram. Also, Agastyamuni near Thilvara, on the way to Kedarnath, inspires him to describe the Agastyakoodam hills in Kerala and Agastheeswaram Taluk in Tamil Nadu as well as the sage's mythological role in the origin of Tamil language. as the primogenitor of Tamil language.

Cultural harmony

The book has artistically interwoven the historical heritage and the mythological background, and translator Sirpi's poetic diction, while managing to retain the flavour of the original in Malayalam, makes for a pleasant reading experience. In a way, it should contribute to India's national integration and cultural harmony, as its very title Vellipanimalayin meedhu — taken from the renowned Tamil poet-patriot Subramania Bharati's Bharata Desam — eloquently testifies.

© Copyright 2000 - 2009 The Hindu


Vedic literature


VEDASANDESAM: V. K. Narayana Bhattathiri; Narayana Bhattathiri Smaraka Trust, 20/150, Dutt Saw Mill Road, P.O.Kallai, Kozhikode-673003. Rs. 80.

IN THIS book of 28 essays, the knotty and mystical thoughts of the Vedas are discussed by the author, who has liberally drawn upon from the commentaries of Sayanan, Aravinda, and Yaaskan and thus helped in taking the Vedic teachings to a wider audience.

Although the learned author strives to look at these ancient creative works in the light of modern theories of critical phenomena, his views and findings accord more with those of Aravinda than of western scholars. He has brought a lot of fresh thinking into his analysis, thanks to his streak of originality and logical approach.

What enhances the value of the publication is his attempt to connect the Vedic literature with such varied aspects of study like Sanskrit grammar, hymns, and synonyms of God. Particularly noteworthy is the essay on “Niruktham” by Yaaskan (who lived before 400 BC) and a commentary on Vedic ‘Nighandu' (glossary). ‘Ithihasa', the description of different seasons in the ‘Bhagavatha', the harmony that exists among the various Hindu philosophical works, and such other themes are dealt with in a thorough and masterly fashion.

© Copyright 2000 - 2009 The Hindu


Life of The Buddha

Neela Padmanabhan

BUDDHARPIRAN: Gowthama Neelambaran; Kavitha Publication, P.B.No; 6123, 8, Masilamani Street, Pondy Bazar, T. Nagar, Chennai-600017. Rs. 450.

GOWTHAMA BUDDHA'S life and philosophy have inspired many writers in most of the languages in the world to narrate and discuss elaborately about him from various angles. Tamil is no exception. In this book, Gowthama Neelambaran, a popular Tamil novelist, presents the story of the Buddha, in his own distinctive style, drawing from a huge volume of printed material on the mythological as well as historical aspects. He has also relied on the what foreign scholars like Sir John Williams and Indian leaders such as B.R. Ambedkar have said about the Buddha and his spiritual thought.

Discussing the question of the Buddha's enlightenment, Neelambaran argues that he attained jnana, not suddenly, but through constant practice and life-long search, which began from his childhood. The mythological story about the construction of Kapilavastu — the birth place of the Buddha in the forest where Sage Kapila's Ashrama was situated — is described dramatically, as narrated in Deerkka Nikayam, a classic in Pali.

Striking indeed is the narration of some of the major events in the Buddha's life. They include: the spiritual uplift of the downtrodden people; Buddha's lofty and persuasive argument in his interaction with the members of the Shakya Sangam; his timely intervention and fruitful mediation in the dispute between the Shakya and Koliya tribes over the sharing of the Rohini river waters; ; and above all his attainment of nirvana.

© Copyright 2000 - 2009 The Hindu