My first thoughts on reading Apeetha in English is to wonder how a text considered difficult in terms of language in the original Tamil, reads with such an easy flow in English! The reverse is also usually true. Bharathiyar, who sounds poetically rich in Tamil becomes bland in English, most often. Padma Narayanan, who had already translated two stories of La. Sa. Raa (1916–2007) earlier, even while he was still alive, has translated this novella.
A.N.D. Haksar, formidable, versatile and prolific translator of Sanskrit texts, gives us a gentle and very sweet version of Arya Shura’s Jatakamala from the fourth century, overflowing with the Buddhist virtues of generosity and compassion towards all living creatures. The translation is a reprint and we must be grateful to Harper Collins for rescuing it from wherever it had been abandoned.
It never rains but it pours. This travelogue by an indigent Maharashtrian brahmin describing his travels and travails in North India during the turbulent years 1857-60 and encompassing in particular the events in Jhansi, first published in Marathi in 1907, has now been translated into English three times within the last four years.
Born in 1880 in the Pairaband village of Rangpur—not Rampur as the volume under review states (p. 269)—a district of eastern Bengal, Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain grew up within the confines of a large upper class Muslim family headed by an orthodox father. Rokeya and her sisters were denied, unlike their brothers, formal education, or any education for that matter. Not only that, even the informal speaking and learning of the Bangla language was heavily discouraged; the English language, needless to say, was completely out of their reach.
As one opens this book showcasing two novellas from Pakistan and flips through the first few pages of each, one has no doubt that this is first rate writing from South Asia. A couple of years ago, Salman Rushdie had bemoaned the paucity of writing from the Indian subcontinent in good English translation.