When the literary world is celebrating the 100th birth anniversary of famous Malayalam writer S K Pottekkatt, it should be remembered that most of his works have been translated into Tamil and the credit for that goes to translator Su Ra. These books have a large readership in the State and have even been mistaken by many to be the writer’s own work in Tamil.
Sankaran Kutty Pottekkatt, born in Kerala on March 14, 1913, made his entry into the literary world through short stories and poems. He has written 10 novels, 24 collections of short stories, three collections of poems, 18 travelogues, four plays and a couple of essay collections. His novels Oru Theruvinte Katha (The story of a street) and Oru Desathinte Katha (The story of a locale) fetched him the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award and Jnanpith Award respectively. It should be noted that his home town, Kozhikode, is the focus in both the novels.
Many of his stories revolve around love and most of his characters are wrought by fate. His narrations have descriptions of nature without any decorative words and many of his stories reflect magical realism. He made the writing of travelogues a literature form.
Subbiah Rajasekar, popularly known as Su Ra, is a noted translator who has translated about 50 of Pottekkatt’s books into Tamil. These include popular novels such as Naadan Premam as Gramathu Kaadhal, Vallikadevi as Eponymous and Prema Shiksha as Oru Kaadhal Kathai. Born in Munnar, he developed an interest to Malayalam literature through the Tamil translation of works such as Paathuthummaayude Aadu and Baalyakaala Sakhi, both penned by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. That led him to learn Malayam in order to read Malayalam literature directly.
In 2002 he started translating world literature into Tamil and published it in Iniya Udhayam, a monthly magazine entirely dedicated to publishing translated works. The contribution of Iniya Udhayam to the world of translated literature is very significant and it is the only monthly magazine in Tamil Nadu of its kind. Till date, Su Ra has translated over 115 works of world literature into Tamil through that magazine.
Speaking to City Express, Su Ra reminisces about his efforts to translate Malayalam literature into Tamil.
“My debut translation was Basheer’s Mathilukal and it got published in Manjari magazine. Publishing the translation of a whole novel in a magazine surprised many back then, but Basheer’s novels were of only 50 to 60 pages. Later the style came to be known as the Basheerian type of novel in Malayalam literature. Till 2000 the Tamil publishing industry was a little hesitatant to publish translated literatures. It was Pudhumaippithan Pathippagam, later renamed Sandhiya Pathippagam, that brought out my translation work for the first time in book form. Now most Tamil publishers are bringing out many translated works, not justfrom Malayalam but from other languages as well,” he said.
Asked about his views on the writings of Pottekkatt, he said, “There is a statue of Pottekkatt on S M Street in Kozhikode and this is enough for us to know his literary elegance. He made travelling monologue into travelling literature. Till date, no one has defeated him in that particular genre. He is a dictionary for young Malayalam writers. His sense of characterisation, his development of a plot and his undecorated narration are unique. He does not look for happenings separately to write a story. He brought his own experiences to both his fiction and travelogue work. There are no messages in his story. Rather, the message lies in the form of narration. To put it simply, Pottekkatt was a born writer,” Su Ra concluded.