THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Some of the finest Russian folk and fairy tales that have thrilled children for ages have found a new retelling in Malayalam. The poignant slant to the story is that the translations emerged from the author’s need for a break from the writing of an intense, semi-autobiographical novel on organ donation.
Translated by Ratheesh C Nair, the Honorary Consul of Russia in Thiruvananthapuram and director, Russian Cultural Centre, ‘Vassilisayum Mattu Russian Kathakalum’ (Vassilisa and Other Stories) contains tales like the ‘Beautiful Vassilisa,’ ‘Frog Princess,’ ‘Grandfather Frost’ and ‘Emelya and the Magic Pike.’
For Malayali children who grew up in the Soviet era, this volume provides a trip down the nostalgia lane. Back then, the beautifully illustrated Russian folktales were available in Kerala through the efforts of Progress Publishers, Moscow, and the Malayalam translations of Omana Gopalakrishnan and K Gopalakrishnan, the couple who translated nearly 200 books from the Russian.
‘Vassilisayum Mattu Russian Kathakalum,’ released here on Sunday, is jointly published by the Federal Agency for International Co-operation, Moscow, and the Cultural Department of the Russian Embassy in India. ‘’The original authors of these stories, if they existed, are unknown. Handed down verbally through the generations, these folktales and fairy tales were collected and published by Alexander Afanasyev,’’ Ratheesh said. For Ratheesh, the retelling was quite unplanned. Recuperating from a successful liver transplantation, he was in the midst of writing a semi-autobiographical novel which he has titled ‘Abnormally Normal.’
‘’I started reading the folk and fairy tales to escape the strain. Then it struck me; why not a new translation? The Russian government also is promoting them among the children in Russia as part of inculcating a love for nature and their culture.’’ he said.
Colourful Russian illustrations give added attraction to ‘Vassilisayum Mattu Russian Kathakalum.’ Talks are on with local publishers and the volume, though released on Sunday, is expected to hit the stands by next month. He is also planning to follow up with more translations of the Russian folktales.