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Changing Landscapes and Identities: New Tamil Writing

April 2015

april-2015-Priyantha-Udagedara-Super-Hybrid-V
Image: Priyantha Udagedara, "Super Hybrid V,” Watercolor on Paper, 30x38cm, 2013

Image: Priyantha Udagedara, “Super Hybrid V,” Watercolor on Paper, 30x38cm, 2013


​This month we present Tamil writing. The Tamil literary tradition of associating images with landscapes informs the fiction and poetry here, as writers locate their considerations of alienation, exile, and diaspora, and address how identities and customs change with both figurative and literal terrain. In tales from two masters, Sundara Ramaswamy’s retired bureaucrat bristles at a young man’s perceived slight, and Ashokamitran evokes Borges, Emily Dickinson, and Ambrose Bierce. The old collides with the new as Sukumaran and Kutti Revathi investigate cross-caste marriages, Appudurai Muttalingam finds a traditional community torn apart by war, and Imayam shows the true chasm between a distant son and his plaintive mother. Che Guevara turns up in both Dhamayanti’s look at a charismatic revolutionary and Perundevi’s challenge to a divinity. Dilip Kumar’s sly fable depicts an unlikely duel. In poetry from Sri Lanka, Aazhiyaal’s transposition of myth reverberates with the horrors of the long ethnic war, Thirumavalavan writes from a jarring snowscape, Malathi Maitri considers the exile’s endless road, Sharmila Sayeed moves between Sri Lanka and India, and Krishangini confronts free-floating terror. We thank our guest editor, Lakshmi Holmström, as well as Subashree Krishnaswamy for her assistance with the texts.

Changing Landscapes and Identities: An Introduction to Tamil Writing
By Lakshmi Holmström
So changing landscapes are also about changing identities.
Trespass
By Sundara Ramaswamy
It was not possible to think of the youth’s transgression as accidental.
Translated from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmström
A Mousy, Measly Tale
By Dilip Kumar
Though married, I practice celibacy very strictly.
Translated from Tamil by Padma Narayanan
Ayya’s Bicycle
By Sukumaran
“Ayya won’t come to school on his bicycle anymore from now on, it seems, da.”
Translated from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmström
Multilingual
A Mansion with Many Rooms
By Kutti Revathi
“As if you have to ask that low-caste boy’s permission in order to see your own mother!”
Translated from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmström
Two Minutes
By Ashokamitran
Someone had left the corpse on the bicycle.
Translated from Tamil by Padma Narayanan & Subashree Krishnaswamy
Truth and Lies
By Imayam
The only thing that I lack is a single letter from you.
Translated from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmström
Multilingual
Horoscopes
By Appadurai Muttulingam
The midwife took the risk of dragging me out by my foot and there I was!
Translated from Tamil by Padma Narayanan
Multilingual
Ploughing the Fields of Snow
By Thirumavalavan
You, Sun, are a wanderer in the arctic winter.
Translated from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmström
Three Dreams
By Sharmila Seyyid
Gardens caught up and drowning / in a vortex.
Translated from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmström
The Mother and the Goddess of Night
By Aazhiyaal
A snowstorm flings down / a million, million needles.
Translated from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmström
What Did Sriraman Say?
By Perundevi
The wretch was standing there / in a Che Guevara T-shirt and sunglasses—
Translated from Tamil by Padma Narayanan & Subashree Krishnaswamy
Multilingual
Fear
By Krishangini
Fear depends on the mind; / the mind depends on experience.
Translated from Tamil by Padma Narayanan & Subashree Krishnaswamy
Highway
By Malathi Maithri
Along the highways / of a refugee’s life / snapshots of childhood memories / hang:
Translated from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmström
Revolution Nathan
By Dhamayanthi
I thought just speaking to Nathan was like participating in a revolution.
Translated from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmström
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