|Author Sumeetha Manikandan|
Your translation of the evergreen Tamil epic is generating rave reviews. Your take on the need for translating vernacular epics and to which demographics do you think the works of translation cater the most and why?
I have been asked this question many times. Ponniyin Selvan has been translated so many times why would you want translate such a well-known novel?
Die-hard fans of this classic will not read anything other than the original and I can understand why. Much is lost in translation. Unlike the other historical novels that have been written in Tamil, Ponniyin Selvan stands apart basically because of Kalki Krishnamurthy’s language, passion for history and most important of all… humour. The thread of humour that runs all through the novel makes it all the more memorable for its readers. That’s another reason why it is so tough to translate. Epic characters like Vandiya Devan (hero and protagonist), professional spy Azhwarkadiyan (whose entry and dialogues never fails to elicit laughter), gutsy and brave boat girl Poonguzhali who braves the stormy seas, intelligent and witty Kundavai who valiantly tries to steer the Kingdom away from danger and seductive Nandini whose beauty is beyond our imagination.
Coming back to the question of why a translation is needed….
It is needed today because today’s generation has become a tad too lazy to read vernacular novels. They would rather read it in English and if they really like it, they might pick up the original. Another aspect of this is the fact that many youngsters of Tamil heritage who live abroad do not have the opportunity to learn the language. They might converse in it but they can’t read and write in Tamil.
A few months after I started publishing this translation I got a mail from an old gentleman in Mylapore who loved to read Ponniyin Selvan. He was asking my permission to share the links on Wattsapp and Messenger with his grandchildren in US because they didn’t know to read Tamil.
That’s why we need a translation. There is a huge cache of great historical novels written in Tamil by many popular authors. All of these novels need to be translated or else they might be lost of posterity.
About the Author
Sumeetha Manikandan is a top bestselling romance author whose novellas ‘Perfect Groom’ and ‘These Lines of Mehendi’ (which was published as a paperback novel called ‘Love Again’) have been on the top of Amazon India charts ever since its publication. A bookaholic, thinker, feminist and a daydreamer, she reads across genres and is a crazy fan of history, romance and science fiction novels.
An avid reader of historical novels, she has been translating Kalki Krishnamurthy’s classic Tamil novel Ponniyin Selvan for the past ten years and hopes to translate more of his novels to English.
Sumeetha is married to filmmaker K.S. Manikandan and lives with her nine-year- old daughter in Chennai.
Her book 'Ponni's Beloved: An English translation of Kalki Krishnamurthy's Ponniyin Selvan' is available at: