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Fragmented Memories Retrieved

Arshia Sattar

By A.K. Ramanujan Translated by Tonse K. Raju and Shourie-Daniels-Ramanjujan
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 330, Rs. 550.00


In the 13 years since AK Ramanujan died under anesthesia in Chicago in 1993, much of his unpublished writing has trickled down to a waiting readership posthumously. A stray article shows up in a book of essays or as an Introduction, previously scattered writings are pulled together and a volume of collected essays is published and so on. Ramanujan’s death was untimely for many reasons, not least because he left much undone and was clearly in the prime of his writing, scholarly as well as creative.   Details of Ramanujan’s public life are known well enough. A leading Indian poet who wrote in English and Kannada as well as a pathbreaking scholar and translator, he taught at the University of Chicago for the best part of thirty years. There, he tutored and mentored graduate students and younger scholars, many of whom are creating new directions in the study of South Asian literatures in universities all over the world. Ramanujan’s legacy is assured through his students, but it is always a thrill to hear again, the voice of the master, however mediated.   Oxford University Press appears to have a monopoly now on publishing Ramanujan’s writings (compiled and edited earlier by Vinay Dharwadker and now by Daniels-Ramanujan). Their latest addition to Ramanujan’s works is Poems and a Novella which brings out in English translation for the first time three collections of Kannada poems and an unfinished novella, also translated from the Kannada. Ironically, Ramanujan set such high standards for translation in his own work that we are now left to wonder at the quality of the translation of his writings translated by others. The credit for the translations in this volume is a bit scattered as the process seems to have involved several people (varying hugely in their knowledge of Kannada) and several stages. In the “Acknowledgements,” Shourie Daniels-Ramanujan thanks a number of people on behalf of a number of people. Whatever the complications and implications there, it is simply wonderful to have more of Ramanujan in English.   The volume is divided into two “books,” the first one for the three collections of poems and the second for the novella. There is also an enormous glossary with separate sections for each poem. It is detailed to the point of being annoying, telling us such things as “Bangalore: a south Indian city.” There is another problem with such an extensive glossary ...

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