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Manisha Chaudhry

By Astrid Lindgren . Translated from Swedish into Hindi by Sanhya Rao and Metta Ottosson; By Kalki Krishnamurthy. Translated from Tamil into English by Nirupama Raghavan
Tulika, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, 2004, pp. 102; pp. 210, Rs. 50.00; Rs. 165.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 11 November 2005

It is not everyday I get a chance to review two books so widely separated by geography and content, one in Hindi translated from Swedish, another in English translated from Tamil. It was so much fun and willy nilly, I learnt so much that it strengthens the case for supporting translations from as many languages as possible. Nothing like literature to make you breathe the air from another time, another place. It is the next best thing to travelling in strange lands for a truly cross-cultural experience. Pippi, for example, opened up a whole new view of Sweden inside my head. Not knowing much about Swedish literature, or even Scandinavia in general I had a vague picture of Sweden as a highly orderly place full of women with ash blond hair. My fortuitous acquaintance with Pippi with her carrot coloured hair saved me from my lazy fate of swallowing media-fed images whole, with no chewing or regurgitation.   Speaking of regurgitation, my encounter with Pippi Lambemoze has left me with two distinct, contradictory emotions. Enormous love for Pippi, the independent girl who lives a fantastical life, daughter of a sea pirate who does not know the rules of polite society, she with a kind heart that knows no fear. Pippi’s character is truly magical. Her incredible adventures take you from her Swedish country neighbourhood to Argentina in a jiffy and your transition is so swift and light that you wish she would not stop. Even when she is taking the mickey out of society women at a polite tea party where they are criticizing their maidservants. She goes overboard so often, but so strong is her centre that she never topples into being merely ridiculous. Even as you laugh with Pippi you feel a tug at your heart-strings, because she remains vulnerable, so young and tender- hearted. Words are not enough to pay tribute to Astrid Lindgren’s genius that shines through across time and seeps into languages separated from the original by the proverbial seven seas.   Alas, the same cannot be said for the translation (which brings me to the other difficult emotion—frustration!). It is surprisingly full of problems. The language lacks the natural flow of Hindi in spite of the liberal use of colloquialisms. The sentence construction trips over foreign rules of grammar—whether Swedish or English, I don’t know. For a Hindi speaker sentences such ...

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