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Posts tagged ‘translation’

Mourning Gabo

April is really the cruelest month.

We mourned the best of our writers this April. On the 17th day of it, Gabo left this world forever, leaving us forlorn, heart-broken.

Yes, it’s Marquez indeed that I talk about, and I do not refer to those mourners across the global literary podiums. This grief is from the hearts and literary sensibilities of the tens of thousands of Marquez readers in Kerala, the coconutland, that tiny geographical strip at the southern tip of the Indian peninsula. Yes, the same place which produced the first ever democratically elected communist government in the world, fully literate, with excellent development indices, and which exports about ninety percent of its manpower to geographies across the globe.

If you didn’t know it, Gabo was actually an NRK, or non-resident Keralite, and he, in fact, introduced YOU to OUR style of writing. You know it as magical realism, a technique which was prevalent in Malayalam literature, much much before you read Gabo’s works in Spanish. Our resident ace wordsmith, the late O V Vijayan, built his legendary world of ‘Khasak’ (Legends of Khasak) about the same time Gabo created Macondo in Spanish.

That’s right, we heard you; very few of us read Spanish, so when Gabo’s words took the world by fire, Malayalam was the very first language in the world which received his translations, of course after the English version of the book in 1970. He was one of us, so much one of us, that they even said that ‘Marquez is ‘the best known Keralite writer in Latin America’ and the ‘first Malayalam author who has won the Nobel.

Look, he just happened to live elsewhere and speak a different tongue.  But we gave him what he so deserved back home, a cult status. We named our children Marquez or Markose as we spell it here, we christened our homes, eateries and even a magazine after Macondo. We gobbled up whatever he wrote, and the generation of writers that grew up after Gabo penned his first book really believed in magical realism. When he first fell ill, we held prayer meetings on streets, and sent over a get-well card through a messenger, right to Mexico City, yes, with a lovely bouquet of flowers.

Yes, it also mattered to us that Che Guevara and Castro were his soul mates; in fact, we have an entire garment business running on these two guys.

At the annual film fests (yes, we are renowned for that too), we pulled down doors to the cinema halls, when they screened films made from Gabo’s works. We saw one of these just last year, ‘No One Writes to the Colonel’. We discussed Gabo’s words threadbare when his biography came out and wrote dissertations on them like no other people in the world.

Yes, we have loved our Victor Hugo, Kafka, Sartre, Camus and the entire range of Russian Masters. But there has been nobody like you Gabo. And there will never be.


The Creature Comforts of An Upendranath Ashk Tale

Photo by Mimosa Shah

Photo by Mimosa Shah

There is something about winter on the subcontinent that feels a pittance to those of us living far beyond in the relative “tundra” of North America and Europe come December. In Upendranath Ashk’s Lucknow of the 1960s, it’s an urgent chill, a need evoked by multiple layers, face masks, gloves, and mufflers galore, a cold that could – if provoked – become the death of you. Scholar, artist, and writer Daisy Rockwell conjures all of these feelings in her translation of celebrated Hindi writer Ashk’s short story “Topiyan Aur Doctor” (Hats and Doctors”). Here is Mr. Goyal, a local representative for a newspaper in Lucknow, deep in his sartorial underpinnings and perhaps a middle-aged malaise:

And now that he had passed his fortieth year, he was beginning to wrap a scarf around his neck as well, just below his hat. If he felt a cold breeze on his ears when he was driving his motorcycle, his nose started dripping. He had to stop the motorcycle, wrap the scarf that was around his neck over his head and ears, tie it under his chin, put his hat back on and continue on his way.

Mr. Goyal attempts to lead a hatless life with less-than-satisfactory results, a circumstance that leads him to various homeopaths and their shabby waiting rooms. Using a tone that hovers between sarcastic and bemused, Ashk immerses the reader into a world steeped in hierarchy, customs, and costumes. Hats and Doctors, a translated  collection of Upendranath Ashk short stories, appeared in March 2013. This eponymous story was first published in the January 2013 edition of Caravan, which you can continue reading here.