Good intentions in anthology-making are never good enough unless they are backed by a clear sense of direction, a balanced overview of the ground under survey, and—if it is an anthology of translations—an uncompromising stand on the quality of translations coupled with a precise awareness of the ‘other language’ audience and its standards.
V.I. Braginsky could as well have been describing Parveen Talha and her book of short stories, when he wrote in a review of Anna Suvorova’s Nostalgia po Laknau1 that ‘it is characteristic of her scholarly style to find a specific leitmotif to thread through each of her works and define the essence of discussion.
Gogu Shyamala paints a world in rural Andhra Pradesh where human lives are not separate from nature. They inhabit a vast space, feet planted in the ‘moist mud’ and faces touching in the sky. That these human lives are also segregated by society as ‘untouchable’ means that certain pleasures, such as ‘the scent of new rice’, the taste of jowar sap, the power to invoke the goddess, are theirs to enjoy; joys perhaps unknown to the upper castes.
This is a brilliant collection of stories,personally chosen by J. Devika, Associate Professor at CDS, Trivandrum, and Mini Krishnan, the well known editor particularly of translated works, at OUP. As a result, there is a quality of the unusual, the comic, the macabre and the holy, in an odd sense of equivalence.
Recently, in a talk given by Professor Nigel Leask at the University of Delhi on Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, he struck a comparison between Burns and Rabindranath Tagore. He mentioned how both appropriated Scottish ballads and folk music in their respective compositions and therefore, how both could be aptly titled ‘people’s poet’ or ‘poet of the soil’.