I had bought an English translation of “Parthiban’s Kanavu”,a very famous Tamil historical novel sometime last year and promptly forgot about it.A few days back, i decided to read something different and picked up the book.I must say the book has opened several doors for me.For one,i realized that translations and transliterations cannot do complete justice to the original.The lushness of words and the original import gets lost in many ways.In the next one year ,i plan to teach myself to enjoy Tamil literature .And “Ponniyin selvan”(another very famous book by Kalki) is going to be my guinea pig !.It’s a huge body of work and has 6 bulky parts to it.But everyone who has read the book tells me that its a masterpiece that has to be read in the original language.
Coming back to Parthiban’s dream, the Tamil version was translated by a 15 year old girl,Nirupama Raghavan.Commendable effort,i must say.The translation is not lucious enough when it comes top the choice of words,but despite the simplistic writing,the plot keeps you immersed in it at all times.Ok,let me tell you more about what the book is all about…
Parthiban is a Chola king.His empire is heavily marginalized with the Pandiyas,Cheras and Pallavas pressing into his territory from all directions.Pallava ruler,Mamalla Narasimha Chakravarti is the most dominant king in the southern lands and makes all other rulers pay tax to him.Parthiban refuses to pay up and decides to go into a war against the Chakravarti ,knowing very well that his troops are nowhere comparable to the Pallava army.Before marching into the battle ground,Parthiban unveils his dream(Chola kingdom becoming the strongest in the region) to his son ,Vikraman.
Vikraman is but a boy at his stage ,but decides to make his father’s dream a reality. Parthiban goes into war and is killed.However,before he dies ,a Shivanadiyar(Shaivite devotee) promises to help Vikraman realise his father’s goal.The rest of the story is about how Vikraman realises Parthiban’s dream.He is aided in his quest by several people like Ponna,a boatman,his wife,Valli ,Siruthondar and the mystery Shivanadiyar.
Vikrama has a love interest as well-Kuntavi,who is the daughter of the Chakravarti.And a bunch of villains to foil Vikraman’s resolve.The main supense aspect is “supposed”to be the identity of Shivanadiyar.However,the narrative gives you enough clues early on to figure out who he is.So that is not exactly too surprising when at the end of 250 pages the Shivanadiyar reveals himself. I have no clue whether the subtelity got lost in the translation or whether Kalki’s work is liberal with the clues too.
Its a highly entertaining read that rarely sags and almost every page has something wild and racy happening.People who like stories of kings and conquests will definitely like this.I am a history junkie,so i am not really surprised that i liked the book despite the very ordinary language.But one can’t deny the fact that the abridged translation is neat and edited tautly.
I have also bought myself the blaft anthology of tamil pulp fiction and am super excited about reading it.. There is a whole world of popular writing in vernacular languages that i have never considered before and regret not having considered them before.My only brushes with translated writing has been a few Tagore novels and i wasn’t too impressed with the quality.And oh,please do share your recommendations on good translated books.
Wish me luck on my quest.I wish i had a Shivanadiyar like Vikraman had to guide me through my project.