Till a few years back I was reading literature mainly by Western authors. I never made a distinction of authors belonging to a particular geographical region. I read what was around me, what was easily accessible.
In my childhood, the school libraries were full of delicious books but all Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, Carolyn Keene, Arthur Conan Doyle. As I graduated to reading the classics, again I got hold of masters whose stories were of lands far from my own. I don’t regret reading them, in fact my life was the richer because of them but looking back, I wonder where were the Indian authors? The libraries certainly had very few of them; the bookstores even fewer.
In recent times, I saw people talking about reading indigenous literature, minority literature, translated works and at a point, I was proud of not making such distinctions. I read what catches my fancy; I don’t proscribe any genre or format (I still enjoy children’s books very much, but more on that in another blog post).
It’s only in the past couple of years that I have happened to appreciate books set in India, and even more importantly, books belonging to different regions of India and the joy of translated works. Right now I want to go on a reading spree picking books from all regions of India, but other books keep happening along the way.
I have been fortunate to read some real gems this year. And how do I know it’s this year? Thanks to Blogchatter’s TBR Challenge, I am much more organised and mindful of my reads.
Purists might argue that translation loses some part of the true essence of the book but frankly I am happy to get whatever it gives me. My world and understanding is richer for all the books I have read from different parts of the country, knowing their culture, mannerisms, unique names (I found so many in Teresa’s Man and Other Stories from Goa by Damodar Mauzo and translated from Konkani by Xavier Cota), places and turns of phrases that sometimes the English translations keep. Or mention in an afterword. I particularly remember the use, rather the omission of the word ‘re’ in the book Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar in Marathi, translated by Jerry Pinto to English, because Jerry felt that the intensity and intimacy of the word did not have an English equivalent. Considering that the book is about the emotional baggage of forbidden relationships, it makes the reader wonder how much more beautiful the prose must be in Marathi.
Another book, Meesha by S. Hareesh, originally in Malayalam and Moustache in English, translated by Jayasree Kalathil (here’s a wonderful session in which she converses with Jenny Bhatt on the bigger picture of translated works) gave me a glimpse into the oral storytelling traditions.
While a lot of people bemoaned that it did not have a linear narrative, nor a clear timeline, these very things fascinated me. Here was a story told for the sake of the story. It’s also a narrative that talks about the history, cultural traditions, the standing of women in the society and even social evils all entwined in the story of a mythical being with a huge moustache, a story that reached mythical proportions through the workers in the rice fields who sang of these things while harvesting. Isn’t that what happens in real life too? I have written about what I thought of the book here.
Tell me about a translated work you have read recently and that left a deep impact on you.
This post is part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.