That is the relation of novel with human existence? Milan Kundera in The Art of the Novel says that ‘A novel examines not reality but existence. And existence is not what has occurred, existence is the realm of human possibilities, everything that man can become, everything he’s capable of. Novelists draw up the map of existence by discovering this or that human possibility.’ Take any work of Khalid Jawed, what one readily encounters is an acute focus on the exploration of characters’ inner life, their experience of being human and The Paradise of Food is no exception in this regard.
Ayesha Kidwai has already given us in English translation Anis Kidwai’s account of what happened immediately after Independence of India and the Partition—Azadi Ki Chhaon Mein (1974). Called In Freedom’s Shade (2011) in English translation, it not only marked Ayesha Kidwai’s debut as an impressive translator (she was already well-known as a brilliant scholar), it also ensured that her grandmother Anis Kidwai’s name and work would be known again to the world at large.
Even when read in English translation, the immediacy of experience yielded page after page in the novel, Hymns in Blood, is remarkable, especially so since it is the throbbing story of something cataclysmic that happened as long back as nearly seventy-five years ago in 1947, during Partition. Undoubtedly, this speaks for the power of the novel written originally by Nanak Singh, the master story teller in Punjabi; but also indeed, it demonstrates the translator’s skills of transporting the vibrancy of the experience from the writer’s robust Punjabi to an English that is endowed with an idiomatic cultural proximity to the original.
One of the best known Sanskrit classics, Narayana’s Hitopadesha is a fascinating collection of animal and human fables, augmented with polished verse epigrams and gnomic stanzas many of which have become proverbial. This satirical, often irreverent and sometime ribald text has been popular for centuries as a composition of worldly advice on matters ranging from state affairs to personal conduct.
The city of Calcutta, like a heaving Leviathan is forever pulsating with energy carousing in its veins. This timeless vitality has been captured in famous novels of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but the trend has continued into present times through a perceptible fascination with the dynamism between the place and its people.
Let me begin by saying right away that Mahanadi is a brilliant piece of novelistic work that combines anthropology, ethnography, history and fiction rolled into one. It is a significant addition to a growing number of new fiction in India that sees human lives and relationships as being inextricable from their surroundings. But one does not really care about fictional categories when confronted by a novel like Mahanadi.
Bhai, there are maybe three or four thousand thieves and robbers and murderers and rapists here, at most. But outside, there are millions…An honest man is safe here, outside, his life is hell.’ This is how a beggar, convicted for no reason in the novel Imaan, shudders at the thought of being released from prison, only to confront corruption, violence, sexual predation and killings outside.
Someone who has not read Joy Goswami, in the original Bengali or in translation, would have missed the seminal compositions of one of the world’s finest poets. It is a daunting task to translate Joy Goswami, and it is no less daunting to review the brilliant translation of his book. Since I had not read Goswami’s trilogy in the original, I approached the translation with an open mind. In fact, it is Sampurna who has introduced Joy Goswami to the western world.
With Salt of the Earth, Matira Manisha, the classic Odia novel of 1930 by Kalindi Charan Panigrahi, has seen its third English translation. The first translation (done by Leela Ray and Narendra Mishra) went straight for the jugular in its choice of the title, House Undivided. What this eclipsed was the novel’s rural and agrarian setting, so unmistakably captured in the Odia title, from which comes the author’s romantic-idealistic concern with the soil.
Published in 1990, Jagadish Mohanty’s Battles of Our Own offers a piercing portrait of the dying years of ‘Nehruvian socialism’ when the rot was practically, ‘out in the open’. Marked by an excessive government and bureaucratic control, failed labour movements, toothless trade unions, and widespread corruption, the late 1980s was a period of intense disillusionment with socialist ideologies and principles.
Over the last two decades, Indian Writing in English translation has emerged as a flourishing field that has seen a steady rise in the translation of fiction and other forms of creative writing in almost all Indian languages. While there is much to cheer about, what is missing is the study of critical discourses and literary traditions in regional languages in translation. Additionally, with translated works from different Indian languages included in universities’ curricula and a favoured area of research in literary studies, the scarcity of critical material in translation is urgently felt.
The publication of Girish Karnad’s aadatha aayushya, aptly translated as this life at play was a much-awaited event among Kannada reading public. The first two chapters published initially in a literary magazine and later serialized in a leading Kannada daily, had created tremendous expectations. When the book finally arrived in 2011, it was a rare feast not just for its richly textured narrative, but also for its language replete with local idioms soaked in Dharwad dialect which we rarely get to see in his plays.
And what is more generous than a window?’ So wondered Pat Schneider in her poem, ‘The Patience of Ordinary Things’. Indeed, for a certain unnamed special boy in an unnamed town, the generosity of a window in his parents’ room that overlooks the road is his daily act of joy, his succour, even nearly the entirety of his world.
When millennials are used to having the world’s knowledge at their fingertips, it is hard to imagine a time when people undertook arduous journeys to gather whatever little knowledge that they could. Uthamadanapuram Venkatasubbayyar Saminatha Iyer’s (commonly, U Ve Sa) writings give us a glimpse of that era and the life of a man who strived and sought to recover the palm leaf manuscripts of long-forgotten Tamil literatures without yielding to material and human impediments.
Riveting drama demands neither a large amphitheatre nor elaborate stage settings. It can happen in a nondescript village dotted with palmyra trees amidst which sits an old house, ‘huge and rambling, in near ruins’, inappropriately called Putham Veedu (New House). The cast is ready to hand…real people living their real lives within the limitations of societal norms.
S Rangarajan, who wrote under the allonym ‘Sujatha’, was the quintessential Renaissance man—an engineer with the public sector Bharat Electronics Limited and a key member of the team that invented the electronic voting machine; he was a literary phenomenon in Tamil, writing across genres from popular science, science fiction to thrillers, and romances, stage plays, essays and weekly columns in magazines.
Vappa means father and Umma means mother in the dialect used by Tamil-speaking Muslims. Here is a book filled with Vappas, Ummas, Moothummas (Grandmas), and Moothappas (Grandpas). The book Meeran’s Stories has eighteen short stories written by Sahitya Akademi award-winning Thoppil Mohamed Meeran (1944-2019). He won the award in 1997 for the novel Saivu Narkali (The Reclining Chair).
Aprolific writer, a respected journalist, connoisseur of arts, and a revolutionary, R Krishnamurthy, better known as Kalki, was a literary giant, whose body of work includes Alai Osai, and his famous trilogy, Parthiban Kanavu, Ponniyin Selvan and Sivakamiyin Sabatham. Kalki’s novels, written between 1941-54, belonged to a historical genre, a mix of drama, action, intrigue and passion. He chronicled social issues, where fact and fiction merged to provide the background for his stories.
Vaasanthi. Translated from the original Tamil by Sukanya Venkataraman, Gomathi Narayan and Vaasanthi
Fifteen short stories of Vaasanthi, originally written in Tamil over many years, have been translated by the author (1 story), Sukanya Venkataraman (11 stories) and Gomathi Narayananan (3 stories) in this collection. The dedication of this collection to Vaasanthi’s grandson who when young ‘asked a profound question/ “Are we real?”’ and the author’s answer to him, ‘We are. Because we feel’ sums up the spirit of all the stories in this collection.
The title Surya Vamsam, translating to ‘the family of the sun’, is a tribute to Sivasankari’s father, Suryanarayanan. ‘…overwhelming, exciting, thrilling, hurtful, shameful, moving, shocking and motivating’, and above all, ‘enlightening’ is how Sivasankari describes the many events and incidents in her life, and hopes that reading about them will bring ‘positive energy’ to her readers.