Karthikeyan Pugalendi
Proprietor, Vanavil Puthakalayam

How do the global audiences receive Indian literary stalwarts? Have you ever felt an author (Somebody like Asokamithran) would have sold better and reached wider audience if they wrote in English more directly?
For global audiences, Indian literary stalwarts essentially mean Indian writers in English. It is only now that the glass ceiling is cracking for writers of Indian languages. For example Kannada writer Vivek Shanbag’s Gachar Gochar has been published in the US first and received international attention. Perumal Murugna’s works are gaining international attention now. Asokamithran, unlike any other Tamil author, had the capacity to write English in the international idiom. He chose to write in Tamil probably because it was the language of dreams. Yes, he would have gained more readers in English, would have been more appreciated, less abused and received much more accolades.
Kannan Sundaram founded Kalachuvadu Pathippagam in 1995. He is also Editor and Publisher of Kalachuvadu, a monthly journal for culture, society and politics. He has been part of the International Visitor Programme to the US (2002) and of the Frankfurt Book Fair fellowship Programme (2007). He co-organised ‘Tamil Ini 2000′, a privately funded International Tamil conference on 20th century Tamil writing. Book Link catches up with this exceptional Tamil publisher. He is the publisher of the book Mathoruvhagan whose english translation One Part Woman won the Sahitya Akademi award this year.

What is the amount of effort that goes into translating a book from a foreign language other than English like Turkish in case of Orhan Pamuk?

A publisher should always strive to translate directly. Kalachuvadu has managed to translate directly from Chinese, Russian, French and Sinhalese. We will soon be translating directly from Spanish and Deutsch. Since translators from these languages are very few, we have difficulty in editing the translations. We have to trust the translator to do a good job and edit the Tamil text as far as possible. From languages like Turkish, Finnish or Catalan we are forced to translate through English. This is more acceptable for European languages but less so far languages like Turkish. We have had so much cultural links with Turkey that to translate directly will bring much more colour than through English which tends to secularise. So while translating Pamuk, we sought the help of a scholar of translations of Pamuk living in Istanbul. She could help the Tamil translator G Kuppusamy to reach out to the Turkish language a bit beyond the English translation.
You have been one of the very few publishers who take part in national and international book fairs. Please share with us - any of the myths you had or believed in hearsay was broken culturally or otherwise?
First myth to break would be ones sense of importance. As a Tamil publisher, I have to begin from the scratch at every meeting. I have to work with people who have never heard of Tamil and have very little interest in our books. Ten years down the line I feel I have moved from Zero to One. It is very difficult to make a mark without support of the government. Our State or Central governments have little interest in helping our books travel around the world.
Do children of Indian origin settled abroad attempt to read in their mother tongue?
Many Tamil children of Sri Lankan origin from families that have immigrated to the West, learn Tamil in weekend schools. Children in non-English speaking countries are more likely to retain the language since parents tend speak in Tamil at home in non-English speaking nations. Some European governments like Norway have a policy of encouraging immigrant children to learn their mother tongue. They appreciate that children are smarter if they know their mother tongue. But how many of them will grow up with an interest in reading books in Tamil or write in Tamil or translate from and to Tamil is a moot question. Even if this happens as exemptions it will be important. Children of economic immigrants from Tamil Nadu almost never retain their mother tongue.