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Girish Karnad

THE OXFORD INDIA RAMANUJAN
Edited by Molly Daniels-Ramanujan
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2004, pp. 1244, Rs. 875.00

VOLUME XXVIII NUMBER 4 April 2004

A.K.Ramanujan, the poet, was discovered by Oxford University Press. Jon Stallworthy, a considerable poet himself, who edited the now-defunct Oxford Poets Series for the London office, responded to the typescript of this unknown poet with enthusiasm. “Ramanujan is already a good poet,” he wrote, “and potentially a very good one” and praised his “fastidious accuracy”. The Striders went on to win the Poetry Book Society Recommendation in the UK. But OUP’s handling of the book in India was so ham-fisted that it was only when Penguin published his Speaking of Siva, translations from mediaeval Kannada, that Ramanujan began to attract attention. Later with The Interior Landscape and Poems of Love and War, translations from ancient Tamil, he opened up a body of extraordinarily rich poetry whose existence was unknown to the world outside until then. Inevitably, although he is one of our major poets in English, it is as a translator that he has gained worldwide reputation. But the poet is present in the translations, investing them with an elegance academic translations rarely possess. These poems have been set to music, interpreted by dancers and have inspired films. Two years ago when the London Underground decided to display poems from various cultures in their trains, they chose the following version of the poem by Cempulappeyanirar from The Interior Landscape : What could my mother be to yours? What kin is my father to yours anyway? And how did you and I meet ever? But in love our hearts are as red earth and pouring rain: mingled beyond parting.   An unusual accolade from a fellow academic—which Ramanujan found rather painful—came when Kamil Zvelebil, the Indologist from Netherlands, filched not just the title of his book ( Lord of Meeting Rivers) but an entire body of translations from Speaking of Siva and published them under his own name.   Now OUP has brought out The Oxford India RAMANUJAN, a compilation of his entire body of poems and translations, complete with the notes and introductions which did so much to explain the philosophical and religious traditions that gave birth to these works. It is a tribute, richly deserved and avidly awaited, to the memory of a great scholar-poet.   Molly Daniels-Ramanujan, who has edited the volume, has only added two new articles, an Introduction by herself explaining Ramanujan’s work and an interview with Ramanujan conducted by Chirantan Kulshreshtha.   The choice of ...


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